Sunday 25 February 2018

Kerry repel fightback by the Faithful

KERRY 2-13 OFFALY 0-16 KERRY gathered their first brace of Allianz National Football League points by defeating a rejuvenated Offaly side under floodlights at the Austin Stack Park last night.

The title holders had to survive a late Offaly onslaught and a spate of yellow cards.

Smarting from their defeat at the hands of Cork the previous week, Kerry made two changes for this contest with William Kirby replacing Michael Quirke at midfield while Paul Galvin replaced Noel Kennelly.

Offaly boss Kevin Kilmurray had an unchanged 15 on duty from the side that defeated Westmeath in their league opener.

Once again the dreaded yellow card was a major talking point when Galway referee Pat McGovern dismissed Tomás Ó Sé on the stroke of half-time for a trivial offence and issued three more in the second half.

Kerry moved well from the start in very testing conditions and this was always going to be a war of attrition rather than a classic encounter on a bitterly cold night in Tralee.

Offaly won the toss and elected to play against a very stiff wind but Kerry made a whirlwind stand with a goal after 15 seconds.

From the throw-in, Darragh Ó Sé was fouled and after he took a quick free Paddy Kelly found Ronan O'Connor who, in turn, placed the inrushing Eoin Brosnan to career through for a trademark goal.

Kelly added a point within a minute but Offaly responded well as they ran at Kerry and points from Niall MacNamee and two from the excellent John Reynolds, who was giving Tomás Ó Sé a torrid time, kept Offaly well in touch by the tenth minute.

Kerry responded with Paul Galvin and Seamus Moynihan playing key roles and when Colm Cooper was hauled down by Nigel Grennan in the 12th minute, Ronan O'Connor extended Kerry's lead to 1-2 to 0-3 but Neville Coughlan closed the gap to a point after 15 minutes.

Kerry were under pressure in key areas as Offaly were playing the more controlled football against a strong wind with John Keane and Ciaran McManus being key figures.

Kerry's play was littered with errors as they were losing the midfield battle but the switch of Kelly to the middle helped wrest the iniative back for the Kingdom.

However, the most significant Kerry change was the moving of Tomás Ó Sé to shadow Colm Quinn who was causing havoc as a third midfielder for Offaly.

The Kingdom quickly moved up a gear and a succession of sweeping moves saw them assume control as points followed from Kelly, Fitzmaurice, Tomás Ó Sé and Paul Galvin with Kerry camped in the Offaly half.

Moynihan and Tomás Ó Sé drove Kerry forward and a defence-splitting ball by Declan Quill found Paul Galvin free inside the Offaly cover in the 25th minute and he parted to Cooper who drilled the ball low past the keeper.

Kerry captain Ronan O'Connor added two frees, but, in a real body blow to the home side, Tomás Ó Sé received a yellow card for dissent after conceding a free and Tom O'Sullivan came on as Kerry led 2-8 to 0-5 at the interval.

With the gale at their backs in the second half, Offaly had Kerry under pressure from the very outset, but it was Kerry who had the first score inside a minute through Brosnan.

Offaly kicked their seventh wide when Coughlan missed a kickable free. Quill and Quinn swapped points but once Kerry lost Aidan O'Mahony and Offaly lost Karol Slattery the play became scrappy in the extreme.

Offaly began to eat into Kerry's lead with Colm Quinn kicking five frees and Niall MacNamee and Reynolds adding a couple more as the gap was reduced to six with just 13 minutes remaining.

An inspirational point by Marc Ó Sé steadied Kerry's nerves as Offaly added a string of frees from Quinn and MacNamee but Kerry held on.

SCORERS - Kerry : E Brosnan 1-1, C Cooper 1-0, R O'Connor 0-3 (3f), P Kelly 0-3, D Quill 0-2, M Ó Sé, T Ó Sé, E Fitzmaurice and P Galvin 0-1 each. Offaly: C Quinn 0-6 (6f), N McNamee 0-4 (2f), J Reynolds 0-3, N Coughlan, J Coughlan and P Kelleghan 0-1 each.

KERRY: D Murphy, M Ó Sé, A O'Mahony (L Hassett YC 51), M Lyons, T Ó Sé (T O'Sullivan YC 35), E Fitzmaurice, S Moynihan, D Ó Sé (B Sheehan ht), W Kirby, P Galvin (B Guiney YC 70), E Brosnan (D Doona), P Kelly, D Quill, R O'Connor, C Cooper.

OFFALY: C McNamara, N Grennan, C Evans, S Brady, B Mooney, J Keane, K Slattery (C Kiely YC 35), C McManus, A McNamee, N Coughlan (J Quinn), J Kenny (M Daly), J Reynolds, C Quinn, N McNamee, J Coughlan (P Kellaghan).

REFEREE: P McGovern (Galway)

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