HomeFootballKerry claim 85th Munster SFC title after entertaining tussle with battling Clare

Kerry claim 85th Munster SFC title after entertaining tussle with battling Clare


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In the end Kerry had seven points to spare – just about enough breathing space for champions retaining their title – but Clare kept them honest and worked them hard to the end of a contest that was worthy of the occasion.

Twelve months ago the final between the counties in Limerick was dead at half-time, with Kerry 3-8 to 0-7 ahead and out of sight. No such thing at a well-appointed Cusack Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon that drew 12,059 to Ennis perhaps as much out of curiosity as anything else.

Kerry seldom looked in danger of losing this game, but when Ikem Ugweru burst through and goaled in the 63rd minute to bring Clare back to within five points, 1-12 to 0-20, a Munster Championship long on life-support suddenly sat up in the bed. Could they? Would they?

In the end they didn’t, but Clare gave it as good as might have been expected. The Banner won’t welcome any ‘moral victory’ talk after this one, but they halved the margin of defeat from 14 points in 2023 to seven here, so there must be something in that.

David Clifford of Kerry kicks a point despite the efforts of Ronan Lanigan of Clare during the Munster SFC final at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Kerry must ponder too: have Clare improved that much or have the champions gone back?

As Jack O’Connor might say, there’s good kicking in 23 points, but it will be a concern that Shane Murphy was the harder worked goalkeeper, and bar one save for Stephen Ryan, the Clare goal was seldom under huge threat.

There was much to admire in Clare’s performance all though, and especially in the first half, from the discipline of the defence to the defiance of their attack to take Kerry on.

Manus Doherty and Ugweru drew the short straws to pick up David and Paudie Clifford respectively, but the Éire Óg Ennis club mates did as well as might have been expected.

Paudie did mine two points and set up David for his only score from play in the first-half, but by and large Clare curtailed the Kerry attack, at least enough to keep themselves in the game at half time.

Twelve months ago Clare trailed by 10 at the turnaround, the game already gone from them.

That the Banner didn’t concede a goal in the opening period here was critical, and bar that one save by Ryan from Joe O’Connor in the seventh minute when the Kerry midfielder was played through by Sean O’Shea for a close-range shot, Kerry didn’t create a whole lot in terms of goal chances.

Indeed, the closest we got to a first half goal was at the other end when Darragh Bohannon released Dermot Coughlan on another burst through the Kerry defence, and his sweetly-struck shot needed Shane Murphy’s diving intervention to push the ball away.

After 18 minutes Gavin Murray’s points made it 0-3 apiece, but then Kerry did what Kerry do: they kicked four points in as many minutes from Paudie Clifford (2), David Clifford and Sean O’Shea and the fear was that Clare might collapse. No such worry.

With Coughlan determined to run hard at Kerry, and Emmet McMahon in fine form from free kicks, Clare hung in there, and even though O’Shea and Brian Ó Beaglaíoch converted important scores for Kerry, the game was very much a going concern at half time, Kerry ahead 0-11 to 0-7.

Straight from the restart Darragh Bohannon burst through and drew a strong save from Murphy when the Shannon Gaels really should have goaled, and by the 45th minute, when Jason Foley pointed for Kerry, the gap was out to seven, 0-16 to 0-9, and the sense was that the game was spiralling away from Clare.

If Kerry were lacking that killer instinct in front of goals they were happy to pick off their points, Tom O’Sullivan coming forward for his customary score, and Tony Brosnan justifying his selection with three from play.

When the goal came it was Clare and Ugweru who provided it, and it gave the underdogs a smidgeon of hope. At the end Clare were still hunting goals, but Kerry were gathering and clearing to safety, and they saw it out from there with little fuss.

Kerry almost grabbed a late goal when Barry Dan O’Sullivan slapped the ball off the crossbar from O’Shea’s assist, but Kerry captain Paudie Clifford was clearing his throat for his acceptance speech by then.

So Kerry bag title no.85 and move on to try and fry bigger fish. Clare move forward too. Kerry host Monaghan in the All-Ireland Group Stage in a fortnight while Clare are back in Ennis to play Cork.

Scorers – Kerry: S O’Shea 0-9 (5f, 1 ‘45’ ), D Clifford 0-4 (1f, 1m), T Brosnan 0-3, P Clifford 0-2, J Foley 0-1, T O’Sullivan 0-1, B O Beaglaíoch 0-1, D Moynihan 0-1, P Geaney 0-1. Clare: E McMahon 0-5 (4f), I Ugweru 1-0, A Griffin 0-2, C Downes 0-2 (1f, 1 ‘45’), D Coughlan 0-1, G Murray 0-1, D Walsh 0-1, M McInerney 0-1.

Clare: Stephen Ryan, Manus Doherty, Cillian Brennan, Ronan Lanigan, Alan Sweeney, Cillian Rouine, Ikem Ugweru, Darragh Bohannon, Brian McNamara, Daniel Walsh, Dermot Coughlan, Gavin Murray, Emmet McMahon, Aaron Griffin, Ciarán Downes. Subs: Joe McGann for Murray (temp, 15-17), Joe McGann for Murray (54), Micheal Garry for Sweeney (57), Cormac Murray for Downes (61), Mark McInerney for Coughlan (67), Darren Nagle for Ugweru (74).

Kerry: Shane Murphy, Paul Murphy, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan, Brian Ó Beaglaíoch, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White, Diarmuid O’Connor, Joe O’Connor, Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford, Cillian Burke, Tony Brosnan, David Clifford, Seán O’Shea. Subs: Mike Breen for White (temp, 50-ft), Paul Geaney for Moynihan (57), Stephen O’Brien for Burke (57), Barry Dan O’Sullivan for J O’Connor (59), Dylan Casey for Ó Beaglaíoch (63), Killian Spillane for Brosnan (67).

Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford).

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