HomeFootballKerry claim their 85th Munster crown after rewarding and entertaining tussle with...

Kerry claim their 85th Munster crown after rewarding and entertaining tussle with determined Clare


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The game with the Banner probably exceeded expectations for quality and excitement, the Kingdom getting a proper test from the home side

Clare 1-13

Kerry 0-23

Honestly, Jack O’Connor couldn’t have asked for much more than we he got there: a proper game of football, a proper test, and a proper occasion in which to deliver the Kingdom’s 85th Munster title.

Cusack Park certainly lived up to its billing as a tricky place for the Kingdom to travel (delivering a raucous atmosphere), and this Clare team, well, they exceeded expectations to give O’Connor’s charges quite a bit to think about.

Of course, the green and gold came up with all the right answers, but there was a healthy dose of defiance and a distinct lack of deference from Tralee native Mark Fitzgerald’s charges.

The Banner, they came to play and they kept on playing right to the last, buoyed no doubt by the 62nd minute goal by the lion-hearted Ikem Ugweru. Even if Kerry were always likely to run out victorious, this was just what they wanted.

Players had to be at their best. Jason Foley, just back from injury, had to keep his head about him as the Banner bombed on and even subs like Paul Geaney and Barry ‘Dan’ O’Sullivan (who nearly manufactured an injury-time goal of their own) still had work to do once introduced.

Grist to the mill for the Kingdom and their manager. Equally, though, there’s plenty for Clare boss Mark Fitzgerald to take from the game.

Indeed, he’ll have reason to feel that they might have made it a bit more difficult still on Kerry had they nabbed either one or two goal-scoring chances either side of half-time, the one after half-time for Brian McNamara a more genuine chance than the first we felt.

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered much in the grand scheme of things – winning Munster finals is mother’s milk to the green and gold after all – even so we do feel that had Dermot Coughlan popped over the ball on 34 minutes instead of going for goal it could have made at least a bit of a difference.

Instead his shot, somewhat speculative and too far out to truly trouble Shane Murphy, was saved and, what could have been a two-point half-time deficit ended up doubling to four come the shrill blast of Fergal Kelly’s whistle.

Other than that Clare had done more right than wrong in the first half, they approached the game the right way, caused Kerry trouble where they could and were plenty competitive.

It wasn’t just a backs-to-the-wall strategy either from Mark Fitzgerald’s men, although it was plenty cagey for the opening ten to fifteen minutes at the end of which Kerry held a single-point advantage.

Still Clare, in the wake of a point by Gavin Murray on seventeen minutes, would have been more than satisfied to be level at three points each. Gradually, though, Kerry began to find a bit more space.

Paudie Clifford, who’d been harassed incessantly by the dogged Ugwere, began to find a little more space and with his first point of the afternoon (assist Joe O’Connor) seemed to grow in confidence.

Clifford’s opening score was the first of four in succession for Kerry, with the captain involved in three of them, scoring two and assisting another for his little brother, David.

That left it 0-3 to 0-7, but if anyone imagined that would lead to the Kingdom kicking on it didn’t quite happen. The Banner digging in, digging deep, with Coughlan to the fore.

Kerry were still four in front on the half hour mark in the wake of a Seán O’Shea free, 0-6 to 0-10. Clare had it back to three thanks to Ciarán Downes firing over a brilliant free from an acute angle, deflected home by the upright before Coughlan’s effort at goal.

Pretty much directly from that Kerry went up the other end for a score by Brian Ó Beaglaoich (assist Tony Brosnan) to leave it 0-7 to 0-11 at the break. Advantage Kerry.

McNamara’s shot at goal fifteen seconds into the second half, saved by Murphy, was another pivotal moment one felt and, while the subsequent ‘45 was pointed by Ciarán Downes, Kerry were always in command from there. Incipient crisis averted.

At the end of the third quarter the visitors were six points clear, 0-10 to 0-16, and coming up on the hour mark had stretched their advantage out to nine points with scores from Tony Brosnan, Dara Moynihan and Seán O’Shea, 0-11 to 0-20.

A point for Clare’s Daniel Walsh, followed shortly by Ugweru’s goal briefly threatened to challenge the Kingdom’s hegemony. Kerry, however, rallied to outscore Clare three points to one to the finish (including eight minutes of injury time, thanks to a nasty looking injury to Gavin White), and probably should have had the ball in the net themselves only for O’Sullivan’s effort to canon off the cross bar.

Seven points, then, the margin at the finish. A nice day’s work for the green and gold with five of six starting forwards on the score-sheet, with the excellent Brian Ó Beaglaoich and the aforementioned Foley back from injury.

Top of the heap in Munster, top seeds for their All Ireland group phase group, that’ll do nicely.

CLARE: Stephen Ryan, Manus Doherty, Cillian Brennan, Ronan Lanigan, Alan Sweeney, Cillian Rouine, Ikem Ugweru (1-0), Darragh Bohannon, Brian McNamara, Daniel Walsh (0-1), Dermot Coughlan (0-1), Gavin Murray (0-1), Emmet McMahon (0-5, 4f), Aaron Griffin (0-2), Ciarán Downes (0-2, 1f, 1 ‘45) Subs: Joe McGann for G Murray, 53, Micheál Garry for A Sweeney, 56, Cormac Murray for C Downes, 60, Mark McInerney (0-1) for D Coughlan, 66, Darren Nagle for I Ugweru, 70(+4) Temp: Joe McGann for G Murray, 15-16

KERRY: Shane Murphy, Paul Murphy, Jason Foley (0-1), Tom O’Sullivan (0-1), Brian Ó Beaglaoich (0-1), Tadhg Morley, Gavin White, Diarmuid O’Connor, Joe O’Connor, Dara Moynihan (0-1), Paudie Clifford (0-2), Cillian Burke, Tony Brosnan (0-3), David Clifford (0-4, 1m), Seán O’Shea (0-9, 5f, 1 ‘45) Subs: Paul Geaney (0-1) for D Moynihan, 57, Stephen O’Brien for C Burke, 57, Barry ‘Dan’ O’Sullivan for J O’Connor, 58, Dylan Casey for B Ó Beaglaoich, 61, Killian Spillane for T Brosnan, 66 Temp: Mike Breen for G White (inj), 49,

REFEREE: Fergal Kelly (Longford)

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