Kerry hurling continues to climb in stature. Just weeks after winning promotion to Division 1B of the National Hurling League, the Kingdom ended a sequence of Christy Ring Cup final defeats with a comfortable win over Derry at Croke Park yesterday.
Shane Nolan smacked in the only goal of the game in the first half, on his way to a 1-8 tally, enough to puncture the fading hopes of a Derry side appearing in the final for the first time.
The clever movement of the Kerrymen created the openings for Michael O'Leary, Shane Nolan and Keith Carmody to shoot them ahead at the Hill 16 end.
The Oak Leafers were labouring to get into the game, but skipper Ruairi Convery's accuracy from placed balls kept them well in contention, just two adrift by the 22nd minute.
However, with Nolan and John Egan covering ground and Darren Dineen and Keith Carmody solid at the back, they stepped up the tempo, easing into a double-scores lead, 0-8 to 0-4, with a Daniel Collins score.
And in the 30th minute, they struck for a goal, Nolan gathering possession on the left before spinning past his marker and beating Daryl McDermott with a crisp finish.
Paddy Henry and Convery, with his fifth, pulled back scores from frees, but Derry had it all to do, turning around at the break trailing by 1-10 to 0-8.
Nolan and Henry traded frees, and the Ulster men were still searching for that spark. Nolan's accuracy pushed Kerry's lead out to six points going into the final 15 minutes, but the second half was 22 minutes old before it produced a point from play, off the stick of Kingdom wing-back Keith Carmody.
Patrick Kelly steered over a couple of long-range efforts as Kerry turned the screw and Derry's only score from play of the second half came from substitute Jonathan O'Dwyer.
Scorers - Kerry: S Nolan 1-8 (0-7f), K Carmody, M O'Leary 0-3 each, P Kelly, C Harty 0-2 each, D Collins, J Egan 0-1 each. Derry: R Convery 0-5 (5f), P Henry 0-4 (4f), L Hinphey, J O'Dwyer, A Grant 0-1 each.
Kerry: S Murphy; R Horgan, P Costelloe, B Murphy; D Collins, D Dineen, K Carmody; J Griffin, P Kelly; M O'Leary, S Nolan, C Harty; M Boyle, P Boyle, J Egan. Subs: J O'Neill for P Boyle (43), D Butler for O'Leary (50), S Weir for M Boyle (57), J Flaherty for Harty (62), D Fitzell for Dineen (68).
Derry: D McDermott; M Warnock, C Quinn, S McCullagh; L Hinphey, C McSorley, K Hinphey; S McGuigan, B Quigley; P McCloskey, P Cleary, P Henry; A Kelly, R Convery, A Grant. Subs: N Ferris for McCloskey (5), D Flanagan for Quigley (31), J O'Dwyer for Cleary (39), R McCloskey for McSorley (57), M Conway for Grant.
Referee: J Keane (Galway)
Sunday Indo Sport