Wednesday 21 February 2018

Rossies reality check as O'Sullivan leads ruthless Kerry rout

Kerry 3-15 Roscommon 0-14

Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly punches the ball clear under pressure from Diarmuid Murtagh of Roscommon, and supported by Shane Enright. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly punches the ball clear under pressure from Diarmuid Murtagh of Roscommon, and supported by Shane Enright. Photo: Sportsfile
Darran O’Sullivan spins around Roscommon’s Sean McDermott on his way to scoring Kerry’s third goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Murphy, Kerry, in action against Geoffrey Claffey, Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile
David Moran, Kerry, stretches for possession ahead of Donie Shine, Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The game was almost out on its feet when Roscommon's Diarmuid Murtagh chased a ball out towards the corner where the Cusack and Davin Stands meet.

It should have been his to gather but, just as he was about to gather, Aidan O'Mahony scrambled past him like a gust of wind and cleared the danger. In the overall scheme of things it didn't amount to much but it said everything - about O'Mahony himself and about Kerry's current state of mind especially.

O'Mahony will be 36 later this year but his appetite appears insatiable. Collectively you could say the same about his team. It was a sixth successive win to take them to a first League final for seven years. More importantly it puts them on collision course with Dublin.

Rather than leave it until the end of the year Kerry are keen to address their recent Croke Park failures against Dublin as quickly as they can. That particular boil needs to be lanced, hence the urgency of recent weeks.

You can over-estimate the importance of a League final but this one can't be diluted from a Kerry perspective. Given the form they have arrived at it, it has 'must win' written all over it.


They were ruthless here when they had to be, three first-half goals a mixture of enterprise and bad Roscommon mistakes.

It was a harsh lesson for Roscommon who lit up Division 1 with some delightful attacking play, their victory in Killarney being the genesis of a four-match winning streak.

But Kerry in February is a different proposition, as they found out very early on in this semi-final. And Croke Park is just a different place to play football than what they were accustomed to in their regulation games.

Roscommon joint-manager Fergie O'Donnell suggested afterwards that a touch of stage fright may have been at play and that was hard to argue with.

Players with decent campaigns behind them made basic mistakes in possession, those too ponderous on the ball were swallowed up quickly.

The gap in fitness, so evident in Killarney, had closed. It's hard to recall a Kerry team in recent years moving with such athleticism at this stage of the season.

Marc Ó Sé, soon to be 36 too, is market leader in that regard. But right through the team there are players finding the top of their form.

Darran O'Sullivan has had a couple of peripheral years but he is central to everything there, having a hand in all three goals. Colm Cooper oozed class in possession and, like O'Sullivan, appears to have found a groove. But Dublin will be his ultimate barometer.

David Moran dominated midfield for a long time before being withdrawn, Kieran Donaghy was less conspicuous than he has been in recent games but still put in a good shift. Paul Murphy's lease to the half-forward line looks like it will be extended, his industry capped off by two fine points.

Kerry led by 14 points, 3-11 to 0-6, at one stage early in the second half, the erosion of that lead thereafter little more than window-dressing for Roscommon. They got some traction, claiming nine of Kerry's 17 second-half kickouts, including four in a row. But they couldn't capitalise where it really counts, eight second-half wides doubling their first-half tally.

After a progressive campaign this will be reality check as to how far they really have to travel. But their primary ambition - to survive in Division 1 - has been achieved and this is the only bad beating they have taken.

That they had possession turned over for the first two Kerry goals will grate. Ó Sé got a hand in to break up an attack in the 13th minute for Cooper's goal, the pace of movement through Moran, O'Sullivan and Stephen O'Brien really catching Roscommon off guard. O'Brien might have delivered to Cooper earlier but even from a tighter angle the finish was sublime for a 1-3 to 0-2 lead.

A great dummy and shot off the outside of his right boot by Ó Sé stretched the lead and when Johnny Buckley, who soon after retired through injury, and O'Sullivan added points, it was patently obvious where this game was headed.

Ciaran Murtagh did grab Roscommon's first point from play and Fintan Cregg found his range from a free but that breathing space was shortlived. On 28 minutes Cregg was hit hard by O'Sullivan, coughed up possession and when Moran swung in a left-footed delivery Donnchadh Walsh had a height advantage on Seanie McDermott which he exploited on top of a generous allowance of steps as he shook off his marker and popped a shot past Geoffrey Claffey.

McDermott was in trouble again for the third goal in added time, misreading Bryan Sheehan's free to let O'Sullivan in behind him. Claffey emerged to close down the space and took O'Sullivan down but as play rolled on the Kerry attacker liberated himself sufficiently to get a shot away. Claffey avoided a black card, referee Paudie Hughes perhaps keen not to rub it in as a 3-8 to 0-5 interval lead was established.

Kerry kept their foot to the floor early in the second half with three points, the pick of them O'Sullivan's exchange with Peter Crowley for his third of the day.

Neil Collins, who got up to score two points, David Murray and Niall McInerney held their nerve best in the face of a potential onslaught but Kerry took the foot off the gas in the last quarter.

Scorers - Kerry: C Cooper 1-5 (0-5fs), D O'Sullivan 1-4, D Walsh 1-0, P Murphy 0-2, J Buckley, M O Se, B O'Sullivan, BJ Keane all 0-1 each. Roscommon: C Murtagh (3fs), D Murtagh (3fs) 0-4 each, N Collins 0-2, S McDermott, C Devaney, G Claffey (45), D Shine ('45') 0-1 each.

Kerry - B Kelly 7; M O Se 8, M Griffin 7, S Enright 8; P Crowley 7, A O'Mahony 7, F Fitzgerald 6; K Donaghy 7, D Moran 8; J Buckley 6, P Murphy 7, D Walsh 7; D O'Sullivan 9, C Cooper 8, S O'Brien 6. Subs: B Sheehan 7 for Buckley (19), K Young 6 for Fitzgerald (46), A Fitzgerald 5 for O'Brien (48), BJ Keane 7 for Walsh, B O'Sullivan 7 for Moran (57), P O'Connor for Crowley (62).

Roscommon - G Claffey 6; S McDermott 6, N Collins 7, N McInerney 6; D Murray 7, S Purcell 6, S Mullooly 5; N Daly 6, C Shine 5; F Cregg 5, C Murtagh 7, C Devaney 6; D Murtagh 6, S Kilbride 5, C Cregg 6. Subs: D Shine 7 for Shine (ht), R Stack 6 for Purcell (ht), D Keenan 6 for Mullooly (46), R Daly 5 for Devaney (55), N Kilroy 6 for Cregg (55), J McDermott for N Daly (66).

Ref - P Hughes (Armagh).

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