Kerry show what might have been on night of exits
Kerry 3-25 Kildare 2-16
The management reign of Eamonn Fitzmaurice came to a surprise end in Killarney last night as he stepped down in the wake of Kerry's elimination from the All-Ireland football championship. His side ended up defeating Kildare comfortably after trailing by six points in the first half but Monaghan's win in Salthill left them outside the top two qualifying places in their group.
"I just had a chat with the players and I told them it is time for me to move on," he said. "I was telling players I have been in the job for six years. I've given it everything I have. I think there are very good foundations there for the future. I think a change of voice and a change of direction will be good. I also think by taking me out of the equation, it can remove some of the over-the-top negativity that was coming at the team, which I feel was unfair."
After six seasons it was the first time Fitzmaurice failed to get Kerry to the last four, paying the price for poor form in the match against Galway and in Monaghan to a lesser extent. Fitzmaurice's best season came in 2014 when he led Kerry to their last All-Ireland win. The current team is in full-blown transition, with seven debutants blooded in their opening championship game this year against Clare.
In the end none of last night's action, an entertaining and incident-filled match, mattered. Even the crowd that came to Killarney, most of them home supporters, knew that no matter how many scores Kerry piled on the exercise was futile. In Salthill, Monaghan were beating Galway, and Kerry were no longer authors of their own destiny.
They left the stage with another vintage show from David Clifford, who again belied his years with a top-scoring show of leadership. In all three group matches Clifford has played well against the tide, the mark of a great player. Last night he scored 2-6, 1-5 from play. One goal was from the penalty spot in the first half and the second gifted by a moment of carelessness on the part of Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan, but Clifford still shone when many of his comrades laboured.
And labour they did for long spells. Kildare led deservedly by six points, 1-12 to 1-6, with a remarkable five points from play coming from centre-forward Paul Cribbin with half an hour played. Cribbin added a consolation goal in second-half stoppage time. But the game swung away from Kildare when Neil Flynn was red-carded in the 32nd minute, the team's second red in as many matches, and from there Kerry took a grip and pulled well clear after half-time.
Flynn was dismissed after getting involved with Killian Young on the sideline, with the referee consulting a linesman before taking the decision. Afterwards, as he had done following the dismissal of Daniel Flynn in the Galway game, Kildare manager Cian O'Neill showed his frustration.
"I've watched it back seven or eight times," he said. "He fouled the player. The player went down. He stood over him. There might have been some form of minimal contact but there was definitely no strike, there was no knee, there was no box, there was nothing of the sort."
O'Neill was convinced it was a wrong decision. "It is just embarrassing when you see mistakes like that at this level. There was contact, it was definitely a yellow card because he came in late, but as I said, and I understand the rules quite well, definitely no striking. It's just a shocking decision from whomever had the ultimate call."
Trailing by four points at the interval, 1-12 to 1-8, Kerry took control after half-time to overpower Kildare, benefiting from the extra man. Kildare ended the match with 12 men, with Mick O'Grady red-carded in stoppage time and Paddy Brophy black-carded in same period when the visitors had used up their full allocation of substitutes.
Kieran Donaghy was unable to influence last night's game in spite of a rich supply of direct ball in the early stages, well marked by O'Grady, before eventually being moved out the field. By half-time he was one of two Kerry changes, James O'Donoghue coming on in his place and playing well, scoring a fine solo goal, and Kevin McCarthy replacing a struggling Young, who had been recalled after suspension.
Once again Kerry were thankful for Clifford. They were trailing 0-8 to 0-4 when he landed a badly needed point from play in the 20th minute and two minutes later scored from the penalty spot to leave the teams level, after Kevin Flynn took down David Moran.
When Kerry took the lead for the first time in the 26th minute of a tetchy match, Clifford scoring after a neat move, they looked to be ready to take over. But from there Kildare hit a purple patch. Flynn landed a '45' and in the 29th minute he was picked out by Chris Healy's pass and turned his man before lashing the ball to the Kerry net. A Flynn free and two more from Cribbin ended a run of 1-4 without reply.
Scorers - Kerry: D Clifford 2-6 (1-0 pen, 0-1 f); S O'Shea 0-5 (0-3 fs, 0-2 45s); J O'Donoghue 1-2; J Barry 0-3; M Burns, P Geaney (f) 0-2 each; K Donaghy, D Moran, S O'Brien, K McCarthy, T Morley 0-1 each. Kildare: P Cribbin 1-5; N Flynn 1-3 (0-2 fs); K Feely 0-3 (3fs); T Moolick, P Kelly, N Kelly, K Flynn, J Byrne 0-1.
Kerry: B Kelly; J Foley, P Crowley, T O'Sullivan; P Murphy, K Young, G White; D Moran, J Barry; M Burns, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; D Clifford, K Donaghy, P Geaney. Subs: K McCarthy for Young & J O'Donoghue for Donaghy (both h-t); D O'Sullivan for Burns (57); T Morley for Foley (58); A Maher for O'Shea (66); B Begley for White (inj 68).
Kildare: M Donnellan; P Kelly, M O'Grady, D Hyland; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Flynn; P Brophy, T Moolick; F Conway, P Cribbin, K Cribbin; N Flynn, K Feely, N Kelly. Subs: C Healy for K Cribbin (25); J Murray for Hyland (b/c 36); C McNally for Kelly (46); E Callaghan for Conway (50); F Dowling for Moolick (55); M Hyland for Kelly (61).
Referee: D O'Mahoney (Tipperary).
Sunday Indo Sport