Friday 23 March 2018

Kerry coast past depleted Limerick


DAMIAN LAWLOR, at the Gaelic Grounds

THROUGHOUT the past 10 years these neighbours have clashed six times in the Munster championship and on most of those occasions the air was filled with tension, drama and intrigue.

Last night at the Gaelic Grounds, with 6,800 in attendance, however, there was only apathy about the place as this weak Limerick side, a pale shadow of stubborn teams of old, toiled to keep up with their rivals, helped only by goals on the stroke of both half and full time.

Kerry's superiority lent a challenge match-like atmosphere to proceedings. The home team, short the services of John Galvin and Stephen Lucey, simply could not handle Jack O'Connor's outfit spearheaded by their captain Colm Cooper, who looks sharper than ever. Limerick will need more from marquee players like Ian Ryan in the qualifiers if they are to progress further.

But when Kerry regroup on Tuesday night they'll have to put their defence under the microscope because if they concede three goals again it could destroy their championship aspirations.

It has to be noted, though, that during the opening moments of the second half the Kerry forwards burst through at will with the posts at their mercy but chose to point each time when goals were clearly on the cards.

Even though the Shannonsiders pinched the opening score through Jim O'Donovan, for the next 20 minutes they were penned into their own half and lacked any imagination or penetration.

Each time a break came from a kick-out, Kerry's hungry half-forwards, Darran and Declan O'Sullivan and Donnach Walsh, gobbled up the ball and sped into attack with purpose. The results were dire for Limerick, whose full-back line struggled to keep up. Their number three Shane Gallagher had the onerous task of keeping tabs on Kieran Donaghy, but the Austin Stacks man was in fine playmaker form and almost every second ball that was sent into him resulted in a scoring opportunity.

After hitting points through Bryan Sheehan and Declan O'Sullivan, Darran O'Sullivan broke through to goal after 13 minutes. It was curtains then essentially. Sure enough, a flurry of points followed from Colm Cooper (3) and a brace from the in-form Darran O'Sullivan as the Kingdom led by 1-9 to 0-1.

Limerick had to do something. They summoned their number 10 Seanie Buckley back to sweep in front of the full-back line which lacked the mobility to deal with the incoming traffic.

But at this stage they were shell-shocked. Their half-forward line couldn't get into the game at all and their full-forwards were passengers. By half time Maurice Horan had made three changes with Jim O'Donovan, Eoin Joy (injured) and James Kelly all coming off. Finally, with the first half trudging to an end they finally pumped some life into their performance.

The ever-willing Buckley broke into attack and cut in from the left wing to sink a great goal past Brendan Kealy. Immediately, Ger Collins almost notched a second goal when Kealy fumbled possession second later but the ball crept over the bar. On the stroke of half time Johnny McCarthy broke from defence to make it 1-11 -- 1-4 at the interval. Limerick had at least taken the embarrassing look off the scoreboard.

But the second half was exhibition stuff for Kerry and they showed real sympathy at least three times after the resumption when opting for points instead of goals. Kerry hit five on the trot to extend their lead to 1-18 -- 1-6 but the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for Paul Galvin's first championship appearance of the year.

Galvin, along with Brian Dooher, is probably the hardest working player in Ireland but even he didn't have to break a sweat last night.

There was brief respite for Limerick when Tom Lee produced a fine run to set up the excellent Ger Collins for a goal to cut the lead to 13 points with 15 minutes left. Substitute Seamie O'Carroll nabbed their third soon after and yet these were only token scores for the home crowd.

Kerry will need to look at their defence now -- they leaked way too much last night considering the lack of pressure they were under. Their forwards, however, with Cooper and Donaghy pulling the strings, look to be in exceptionally dangerous form.

Scorers -- Kerry: C Cooper 0-7, Darran O'Sullivan 1-3, Declan O'Sullivan 0-4, B Sheehan (1 '45), K Donaghy, K O'Leary 0-2 each, P Galvin, BJ Keane, K Young, D Geaney, E Brosnan, D Bohan 0-1 each; Limerick: G Collins 1-4 (0-1f), S Buckley, S O'Carroll 1-0 each, J O'Donovan, J McCarthy, S Kelly (1f), S Gallagher, M Sheehan 0-1 each.

Kerry: B Kealy, S Enright, M O Se, T O'Sullivan, A O'Mahony, E Brosnan, K Young, A Maher, B Sheehan, Darran O'Sullivan, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh, C Cooper, K Donaghy, K O'Leary. Subs: P Galvin for Darran O'Sullivan (51), M Quirke for B Sheehan (57), D Bohan for A O'Mahony (57), BJ Keane for D Walsh (57), D Geaney for K O'Leary (60)

Limerick: B Scanlon, S Lavin, S Gallagher, M O'Riordan, P Ranahan, J McCarthy, B Fitzpatrick, T Lee, J O'Donovan, S Buckley, J Kelly, S Kelly, G Collins, J Cooke, I Ryan. Subs: E Joy for J O'Donovan (28), M Sheehan for E Joy (inj) (33), E O'Connor for J Kelly (35), J Riordan for B Fitzpatrick (45) S Kelly for S O'Carroll (57)

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

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