Kerry shaken, but still pull clear from Galway

Kerry 1-21 Galway 1-16

After the deluge that hit Croke Park last Saturday evening, Kerry were the ones sitting up proud, but clearly shaken, on the liferafts.

Noah could bring two of everything onto his Ark, but at this advanced stage of the championship, no such luxury exists – though defeat in this epic All-Ireland football quarter-final leaves Galway far from ravaged.

When they finally arrived home from a capital city gripped by a monsoon-inspired gridlock, the Tribesmen and their loyal supporters could reflect on many positive aspects of their performance, even if they could not really quibble with either the defeat or the five-point margin.

They went toe-to-toe with Kerry in a wonderful game of football, opened up a two-point lead midway through the second-half, and flirted with victory when Joe Bergin placed Michael Meehan for two goal chances.

Both were saved by Kerry keeper Diarmuid Murphy and had the effect of pricking Kerry into an almost frightening response of six unanswered points.

Liam Sammon has something to build on, even if there are no guarantees he can add the necessary new players to compete for a full 70 minutes at this level. He will feel that if he had the likes of Seán Armstrong, Nicky Joyce, and Damien Dunleavy at his disposal, then it would have given him some real options in the second half. Those men were not available due to injury and that weakened his hand considerably.

Kerry too learnt much and their lack of a dominant full-back is a major problem. Meehan first gave full-back Marc O Se as bad a beating as he is ever likely to get, plundering 0-3 from play.

When he was beaten by Meehan the Kerry fans had the dispiriting sight of Tom O’Sullivan switching to the full-back slot. It was O’Sullivan’s roasting by Michael Cussen, preceded by a run of unconvincing displays at No 3, that inspired the redeployment of Marc O Se as a full-back in the first place.

That change brought no improvement and O’Sullivan seemed to be spooked by the rampant Meehan who gave a fabulous display all through the tie.

In the second half, a half-fit Joe Bergin, playing his first game since rupturing his Achilles tendon four months ago, came in to visit still more havoc. A perceptive delivery from Padraig Joyce caused chaos in the Kerry rearguard.

Murphy came off his line with no apparent purpose. O Se was redundant as Bergin got his fist to the ball and flashed it to the net. It put Galway 1-11 to 1-10 ahead and there was the brief prospect of a shock.

Kerry called on familiar agencies to play their way out of trouble: solid play by Dara O Se and his home-grown new midfield partner Tomas; strong running by Declan O’Sullivan and Eoin Brosnan; reliable kicking from placed balls and open play by Bryan Sheehan; and commanding forward play by Colm Cooper and, to a lesser extent, Kieran Donaghy.

Darren O’Sullivan brought his all-action game off the bench to score one point and steal possession for another.

As Tomas O Se observed afterwards, Kerry have the coolness not to panic when things are not going their way, though it would have been an interesting test case to see how they would have coped if Meehan had taken one, or both, of his goal chances.

“It is down to the experience. We knew if we hung in there, we’d have chances. Thankfully the lads took all the chances they got,” said O Se, though he conceded it was “looking hairy enough” during the height of the Bergin bombardment.

Kieran Donaghy was more subdued than usual – and was well marshalled by the outstanding Finian Hanley, who got good support from the improving Gary Sice.

Kerry may very well go on to win the 2008 All Ireland, and if they do, this joust with Galway will have been a big factor in their achieving that objective.

As Liam Sammon pointed out after the game: “Kerry were brilliant today, and that’s what you’d expect from a team going for three-in-a-row.”

His team must lick their wounds, assess where their weaknesses are, learn from this defeat, and plan for next season.

Scorers: Galway: M Meehan 0-10 (5f ), J Bergin 1-0, M Clancy 0-1, C Bane 0-1, P Joyce 0-1, G Bradshaw 0-1, M Lydon 0-1, N Coleman 0-1.

Galway: P Doherty; G Bradshaw, F Hanley, D Burke; N Coyne, D Blake, G Sice; B Cullinane, P Conroy; C Bane, P Joyce, M Lydon; M Clancy, M Meehan, F Breathnach. Subs: N Coleman for Clancy, 30; K Fitzgerald for D Burke, h-t; J Bergin for Conroy, 40; Clancy for Bane 61; D Meehan for Blake, 66; A Burke for Cullinane, 71.

Scorers: Kerry: B Sheehan 0-7 (5f ); Declan O’Sullivan 0-4, T Walsh 0-3, D Walsh 1-0; C Cooper 0-3 (1f ), A O’Mahony 0-1, D O Se 0-1, Darren O’Sullivan 0-1, K Donaghy 0-1.

Kerry: D Murphy; P Reidy, M O Se, T O’Sullivan; T O Se, A O'Mahony, K Young; D O Se, S Scanlon; D Walsh, D O’Sullivan, B Sheehan; C Cooper, K Donaghy, T Walsh. Subs: T Griffin for Reidy, 46; E Brosnan for D Walsh, 49, D Bohane for Scanlon, 52, Darren O'Sullivan for T Walsh, 61, K O'Leary for Donaghy, 70.

Referee: J McQuillan, Cavan.

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