National League

Kerry reach first League Final since 2009

April 12th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

Kerry turned in a powerful display to crush Roscommon and continue their excellent league form and their rewards is a much awaited final meeting with the all-conquering Dublin machine next Sunday week, Kerry's first Alliance Football League final  since 2009. That year they completed the double also adding the All-Ireland crown and the way they are going about their business this year there is no doubt that everyone in the Kerry camp have similar intentions for the year ahead.

The game was well and truly over by half time as Roscommon returned to the dressing room trailing, 3-8 to 0-5. Stephen o Brien set up Colm Cooper beautifully with a great run and precise hand pass and the Crokes man finished to the net as only he can. Cool, precise, deadly, with a perfectly placed shot.  Kerry were mixing their forward play with great effect, short patient passing, lovely kick passing and long probing high balls into the Roscommon square. And it was from two of these high deliveries that the other two goals came. Donnacha Walsh fielding high, might have been whistled for over holding but the Cromane man such a pivotal figure in this side finished  expertly to the net, 28 min gone.

Daren o Sullivan has been in magnificent form in this league and his goal just before half time last Sunday encapsulated for me just how sharp and fit the Glenbeigh/Glencar man is. That long high ball once again into the square, Roscommon corner back Sean McDermott misjudged the flight, Darren judged it perfectly, turned inside his man collected the ball, was pulled to ground by the goalkeeper but the Kerryman reacted instinctively, he was back on his feet in the blink of an eye to goal with his right leg, he is normally left legged. It all happened in the space of five seconds, might have looked easy but for me it showed all the skill, natural ability and razor sharp reactions of a great Kerry forward.  Nine Kerry players got their name on the scoring sheet, another reason for Eamon Fitzmaurice to be pleased.

David Moran and Kieran Donaghy dominated midfield and the only worrying aspect of this huge win was the fact that Roscommon took over completely in the closing stages. Of course by this time Kerry had introduced five subs, changed the rhythm of the play, and probably took their foot off the pedal but it goes without saying that to repeat this against Dublin would be football suicide. So a whole lot will be learned against the Dubs. They are the bench mark; they have a huge wealth of talent, (but also have Kerry), unbeaten in twenty two matches, playing at home, masters of the Kingdom in recent league and championship.  Win, lose or draw nothing short of a highly creditable performance will satisfy Kerry players and supporters.

That is the bottom line because performance will prepare for the championship and its only championship that matters, not league. But what has come shining through most of all for me about this group of players and side line generals in the recent victories wins over Down, Donegal, Mayo Monaghan, Cork and Roscommon is the settled spirit, collective goal and sheer determination expressed by their massive work rate to avenge last year's disappointing loss in the final to Dublin.  And they are certainly on course to do exactly that.

The young men of Kerry and Cork served up an enthralling Munster under 21 final in Austin Stack Park last Thursday and at the end of a superb hour Jack o Connors lads can consider themselves most unfortunate not to have at least earned a draw, because they richly deserved it. However at the end of the evening the stark reality was that Cork had registered a sixth straight win over Kerry at this level and it was the Cork goals that decided the issue. Yes indeed it's an old saying, "goals win matches" and when you concede three in this Munster competition the record proves that it has so far been impossible for the team who concedes to win.

The last time three goals were shipped by Kerry at under 21 was 1997 and Cork also won that final by a point and on three other occasions the team conceding the three goals lost, with one exception. That was a drawn semi-final final of 1971.  It simply must be acknowledged that the Kerry management and players did a superb job in the face of great adversity. They were plagued by injury from the word go and with players spread as far away as Dublin, Limerick and Cork  must have been a majour headache for the side-line men. 

The two Cork goals against the wind in the first half left us trailing by six points and the omens looked real bad, however to their eternal credit the manner in which the players battled back to go ahead, then fall behind again to another goal and again rally draw level with the game almost up was unbelievable and showed tremendous guts and character far beyond the years of this promising bunch of young Kerry lads. But of course you would expect nothing less from a team prepared by Jack o Conner.  Nonetheless the manner in which Cork responded to Kerry's scores and Cian Dorgan's superb winning point from far out on the right wing two minutes into injury time was an indication of just how good this Rebel side is.   

Yes Cork were very wasteful from frees and play, but so were Kerry who had ample opportunities to raise more flags but the one defining moment in the game, the incident which probably cost Kerry victory despite everything else was the brilliant goal line clearance by Kieran Histon to deny Kerry's Dara Roche what appeared to me to be a certain goal. This happened in the 50th minute and goal here would I firmly believe send Jack o Connors men surging to victory. 

As I mentioned the three goals decided the outcome and maybe if Kerry had played with an extra defender, two instead of one, in front of the full back line, the gaps which allowed Cork race through the centre might have been closed down. All speculation of course, but with twelve of Kerry starting fifteen young enough next years it is evident Jack is building for the future.  It was a magnificent game of underage football and the future for Kerry with these hugely talented young players and an exemplary dedicated management team behind them is in my opinion never brighter. The under 21 losing sequence will end next year.

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