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O'Donoghue the two-goal hero for Kingdom

MIKE O'Donoghue was the two-goal hero as Kerry landed a first All-Ireland U21 football crown since 1998 at Semple Stadium last night.

O'Donoghue netted in both halves as the Kingdom ended a ten-year wait for glory at this grade with a comfortable win against outclassed Kildare in Thurles.

Both of O'Sullivan's goals were created by his half-forward colleague Kieran O'Leary, who put in a tireless shift throughout.

Kerry will now hope that members of this successful team can make the step up to the senior ranks as players of the calibre of Mike McCarthy, Tom O'Sullivan, Tomás ó Sé, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Noel Kennelly and Mike Frank Russell were successful graduates from the 1998 vintage.

Kildare, chasing just their second U21 crown and first since 1965, opened brightly and led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 12 minutes but after O'Sullivan struck his opening goal in the 15th minute, Kerry never looked back.

Seán Geaney's charges peaked at just the right time and after flattering to deceive throughout this campaign, Kerry produced their best performance of the season to clinch a 10th U21 crown in total, drawing level with Munster rivals Cork on top of the roll of honour.

O'Sullivan's opening goal handed Kerry a 1-2 to 0-3 advantage and with their tails up, the Kingdom moved five points clear as Paul O'Connor, Paddy Curran and inspirational midfielder David Moran popped over unanswered scores.

Kildare were clearly rattled but a fine point from play, supplied by midfielder Mark Waters five minutes before half-time, ended a 17-minute scoring drought. Alan Smith and O'Flaherty, with his third point of the half, narrowed the half-time deficit to just two points, 1-5 to 0-6 in favour of the Kingdom.

Geaney's charges moved quickly into gear after half-time with three successive points, two from Paul O'Connor and an inspirational effort from Moran, before Kildare corner forward Gavin Smullen replied with his side's opening point of the half.

In truth, Kildare were always struggling to remain in contention and O'Sullivan's second goal, banged home 12 minutes after half-time, was the killer score as Kerry moved 2-8 to 0-7 in front.

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Scorers -- Kerry: M O'Donoghue 2-0, P O'Connor 0-5 (3f), D Moran & P Curran 0-2 each, K O'Leary 0-1f, J Buckley & T Walsh 0-1 each. Kildare: E O'Flaherty 0-5 (1f), A Smith 0-2f, M Waters, G Smullen, J Fogarty and M O'Sullivan 0-1 each.

Kerry: T Mac An tSaoir; C O'Mahoney, M Moloney, S Enright; Aidan O'Sullivan, K Young, G Duffy; D Moran, Alan O'Sullivan; K O'Leary, J Buckley, M O'Donoghue; P Curran, T Walsh, P O'Connor. Subs: K Brennan for Duffy (h-t), E Hickson for Aidan O'Sullivan (53), B Looney for Buckley (57), J Doolan for Walsh (60), E O'Neill for O'Donoghue (62).

Kildare: N McConnell; C Brophy, D Brennan, S Murphy; J Browne, G White, T Byrne; M Waters, N Higgins; D White, E O'Flaherty, K Kelly; S Fahey, A Smith, G Smullen. Subs: N Clinch for Brophy (h-t), J Fogarty for Kelly (35), J Cocoman for Whyte (42), M O'Sullivan for Fahey (49).

Ref: M Duffy (Sligo)

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