Sublime Cooper buries Galway
Allianz Football League Div 1
It was a contrasting tale of two Kerrymen at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney yesterday.
While the superlatives that follow Kerry skipper Colm Cooper were rolled out once more -- and rightly so as he tallied 0-8 in his county's expected victory over a low-in-confidence Galway -- one Kerryman didn't celebrate his native county's second win of the spring campaign.
But that's because Galway boss, and Kerryman, Tomas O Flatharta has his own worries, namely trying to resurrect the fortunes of the Tribesmen, who have lost all four games in the league to date. They never looked like halting that slide against a Cooper-inspired Kerry.
With the Dr Crokes ace swinging over four points in each half (six of which were from play), his one-man show meant that this mediocre match will last in the memory that bit longer, and it was a performance that brought a smile to the face of Kerry manager Jack O'Connor.
"We'd like to put him into cold storage if we could for a couple of months," laughed O'Connor, who has earmarked survival in the top division as his team's immediate priority.
"Colm is a confidence player who is enjoying his football at the moment and he is enjoying leading the lads. He has achieved everything in the game and being captain is massive for him. He doesn't need any extra incentive but if being captain adds that, then it's great for us."
But while the garden looks a lot rosier for O'Connor, especially with Tom O'Sullivan and Declan O'Sullivan being introduced in the second half, as well as Paul Galvin making an appearance on the bench, the troubles for O Flatharta and Galway worsen.
Lacking belief, they never possessed the firepower to trouble a new-look Kerry rearguard, and despite a strong period in the second half, that first win of the season remains elusive for Galway.
"It's going to take a bit of time to get things working again," O Flatharta admitted afterwards.
"We are down a lot of quality players at the moment as well but we are not using that as an excuse today. There is an awful lot of work to do. It's going to take a bit of time. It's not going to happen in a day or two.
"The players are working very hard in training but the games aren't working out for us at the moment. We just have to keep the show on the road. We have to keep improving every day. Hopefully things will start turning around for us."
Based on this eight-point loss to a Kerry side that lacked its usual stardust and won easing up in the end, there is a long road ahead for Galway. There are some positives, though, with the new-look midfield pairing of Joe Bergin and Finian Hanley full of potential, while full-back Colin Forde, centre-back Gary Sice, as well as forwards Owen Concannon and Cormac Bane, showed well.
That alone was never going to be enough against a Kerry side that led 0-8 to 0-3 at the break, shrugging off a tight opening quarter to pull away.
Though the game was level three times in the first 13 minutes -- Bryan Sheehan, Cooper and Donnchadh Walsh for Kerry, with Sice, Bane and Concannon replying for the visitors -- Kerry pulled away in the second quarter, rattling off 0-5 without reply, including a stunning Cooper effort when he took charge of a floundering Kerry attack to caress the ball over the bar from distance. Typically sublime Cooper.
Continuing on their roll, Kerry stretched the lead to 0-11 to 0-3 early in the second half, thanks to a memorable Cooper combo in a one-minute spell -- scoring the first with his right foot, the second with his left -- followed by another Sheehan free.
But then a mini Galway revival, thanks in part to Kerry losing focus for a period, allowed the Connacht side to score four without reply -- three from Concannon and a bending beauty from Bane -- while Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy had to save well from a low Concannon effort. Suddenly the unlikeliest of comebacks, at 0-11 to 0-7, was a distant possibility.
That was until Cooper got the ball midway through the second half, benefitting from a trademark Kieran Donaghy catch. Cooper jinked right, then left, before coming back again to dink the ball over the bar for the score of the game. It signalled his side's renaissance.
A bustling Tomas O Se score, another Cooper point, a Donaghy pile-driver, when a goal was on, and the rarity that is a Seamus Scanlon effort saw Kerry ease to victory in a match that lacked intensity and pace.
But that won't bother O'Connor too much, as he has many positives to take from the match, including an impressive performance by newcomer Shane Enright in defence. It's O Flatharta that has a lot to ponder, and a lot of hard work to get through in the months ahead.
Man of the match: Colm Cooper (Kerry)
Scorers -- Kerry: C Cooper 0-8 (2f), B Sheehan 0-3 (3f), D Walsh 0-2, K Donaghy, T O Se, S Scanlon 0-1 each. Galway: O Concannon 0-4 (3f), C Bane 0-2, G Sice, J Bergin 0-1 each.
Kerry -- B Kealy 6; S Enright 8, K Young 7, B McGuire 6; T O Se 6, E Brosnan 6, A O'Mahony 7; S Scanlon 6, D Moran 6; Darran O'Sullivan 7, B Sheehan 7, D Walsh 7; C Cooper 9, K Donaghy 6, K O'Leary 6. Subs: T O'Sullivan 6 for B McGuire (53), Declan O'Sullivan 6 for B Sheehan (53), A Maher 6 for D Moran (53), G O'Driscoll 6 for Darran O'Sullivan (63), D Geaney 6 for K O'Leary (64).
Galway -- A Faherty 6; N Coyne 6, C Forde 7, A Burke 6; G O'Donnell 6, G Sice 7, K Brady 6; F Hanley 7, J Bergin 7; P Conroy 6, O Concannon 7, E Hoare 6; C Bane 7, C de Paor 6, D Cummins 6. Subs: J Duane 6 for N Coyne (15), F Breathnach 7 for D Cummins (h-t), M Clancy 6 for C De Paor (43), D Blake 6 for E Hoare (52), G Higgins 6 for G O'Donnell (58).
Ref -- M Condon (Waterford).