Friday 15 December 2017

O'Donoghue hits top gear to drive Kerry into final

Munster SFC Semi-final: Kerry 1-18 Clare 1-12

Kerry’s Paul Geaney tries to escape the clutches of Clare’s Kevin Harnett. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry’s Paul Geaney tries to escape the clutches of Clare’s Kevin Harnett. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Páidí Ó Sé might have called it 'dirty petrol'. Kerry's first-half in Ennis was poor. They managed just two points from play with the wind and had a man sent off. They looked a million miles from the team that ended Dublin's two-year unbeaten run when they last played together.

At half-time they found themselves level and down to 14 men after Donnchadh Walsh was sent off. Clare would play with the wind in the second-half and maybe just a few home supporters started to think that 25 years on from their last championship win over Kerry, they could be about to repeat the trick.

Clare's Cathal O'Connor rises with Kerry's Jack Barry. Photo: Sportsfile
Clare's Cathal O'Connor rises with Kerry's Jack Barry. Photo: Sportsfile

However, Kerry moved through the gears and despite only finally shaking Clare off when Stephen O'Brien found the net after a brilliant run on 67 minutes, Eamonn Fitzmaurice's side never really looked like losing in the second-half.

Brilliant

Clare had their chances, however. They kicked the first two points after half-time and created a brilliant goal chance on 44 minutes. Jamie Malone hit the crossbar after a sweeping move and it proved to be a pivotal moment.

Kerry would tie the game up a minute later and take the lead shortly afterwards when James O'Donoghue curled over an excellent point with the outside of his boot.

Kerry's Peter Crowley keeps possession against Clare's Gary Brennan. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry's Peter Crowley keeps possession against Clare's Gary Brennan. Photo: Sportsfile

If anyone personified the change in Kerry at half-time it was O'Donoghue. The Legion man had miscued the first couple of balls that came his way and while he played his way into the game before half-time, he was brilliant in the second-half as he put his injury frustrations behind him to deliver a Man of the Match performance.

"Even just before the game, warming up in the hotel, I was delighted to be there, just knowing my body was in a good place," O'Donoghue said afterwards.

"Because obviously my football needs a lot of work and that's what the summer is there for. Once you get the body right, and get the head right, the football will come and I should be in a good place.

"I got tired in the second-half, you know. Championship pace, I haven't played a championship campaign in a long time, or league even really. I'll take that excuse today. I missed a free in front of the goal today when legs were just kind of heavy. So I've a lot of work to do. I'll do it, and I'll be fine."

Referee Pádraig Hughes shows Clare's Ciarán Russell a yellow card. Photo: Sportsfile
Referee Pádraig Hughes shows Clare's Ciarán Russell a yellow card. Photo: Sportsfile

Colm Collins saw his side play some good football at times and they raced into a 1-4 to 0-2 lead midway through the first-half, with David Tubridy converting a penalty after Walsh picked up the first of his yellow cards when fouling Keelan Sexton.

However, they wouldn't score for 18 minutes from there and Kerry took the lead for the first time in the game when Paul Geaney pointed a free in injury-time. Clare hit back through Ciaran Russell to ensure they'd go in tied at the break (1-5 to 0-8).

Collins admitted that his side had a great chance of upsetting the odds at the interval.

"I just said (at half-time) that this is an opportunity for us and (don't be) going out thinking that a breeze or a man down is going to win any match for you, because it won't," he reflected.

"A man down sometimes galvanises a team. The better teams can play with 14 men and so they proved.

Kerry's James O'Donoghue is challenged by Clare's Ciaran Russell. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry's James O'Donoghue is challenged by Clare's Ciaran Russell. Photo: Sportsfile

"Towards the end some of our decision-making wasn't what it should have been. Up to that I was very pleased with the way we played. I thought we played well up to then.

"We're extremely disappointed. It was a great opportunity and at the end of the day we didn't take it, for whatever reason. Credit to Kerry, they played very efficiently when they were down a man. They didn't let it impact on their team and their shot selection, especially in the second-half, was excellent. There was no shots from distance, that's why they are national league champions. Credit to them."

Kerry's bench made a significant impact with the introduction of Kieran Donaghy and Stephen O'Brien. They didn't put the issue beyond doubt until O'Brien's goal, but Paul Geaney hit the post with a punched effort not long before.

Fitzmaurice was most pleased with the resolve his side showed.

"I think the character the players showed was massive. We knew coming up, as I'm sure most people did, that we were going to have to do a lot of things right to win the game and we did, in the second-half in particular when our backs really were to the wall," he said.

"A lot of players stood up and did the simple things well and played a lot of good football and thankfully we came out the right side of it in the end."

It was also a day for Kerry to bookend the Brendan O'Sullivan saga. He played in the junior game and scored two points as they saw off Limerick.

"We parked it and moved on. There was enough talk about it and it was nice to be concentrating on the football today," said Fitzmaurice.

He also warned that Cork will be gunning for his side in the Munster final on July 2.

"It will be a great test again for us. Cork will be out of their minds to prove a point, particularly when it is the opening of the new stadium. Kerry v Cork always gets the juices flowing so we'll be looking forward to that."

Collins believes his side will be able to bounce back through the back door.

"They have an appetite for it. If you are an inter-county footballer that's where you want to be. Hopefully we will do that again now.

"The club football championship is back next weekend. They are all with their clubs this week, so they will pick it up again after that."

Scorers

Kerry: J O'Donoghue 0-9 (5f), P Geaney 0-4 (2f), S O'Brien 1-1, A Maher, S Enright M Geaney, B Sheehan (1f) 0-1 each.

Clare: D Tubridy 1-3 (1-0 pen), E Cleary 0-6 (4f), J Malone, G Brennan (1f), C Russell 0-1 each.

Kerry: B Kelly 7; F Fitzgerald 7, M Griffin 6, S Enright 7; P Crowley 8, T Morley 6, P Murphy 6; J Barry 7, A Maher 7; M Geaney 6, K McCarthy 6, D Walsh 6; BJ Keane 6, P Geaney 7, J O'Donoghue 8 Subs: S O'Brien 8 for Keane (HT), J Savage 7 for McCarthy (45), J Lyne 6 for M Geaney (56), K Donaghy 7 for Maher (61), B Sheehan for Barry (64), J Buckley for P Geaney (68).

Clare: Joe Hayes 6; D Ryan 7, K Hartnett 6, M McMahon 8; P Lillis 6, G Kelly 7, C Russell 6; G Brennan 8, C O'Connor 7; J Malone 6, S Collins 7, S Brennan 6; E Cleary 7, D Tubridy 7, K Sexton 7 Subs: C O'Dea 7 for Brennan (50), John Hayes 6 for Lillis (55), E Collins 6 for Harnett (66), G O'Brien for O'Connor (70)

Ref - P Hughes (Armagh)

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