Allianz Football League Roinn 1
Kerry 1-12 0-12 Roscommon
Allianz FL D1: Clifford's goal earns Kerry victory
Allianz Football League Division One
Kerry 1-12 Roscommon 0-12
By Paul Brennan at Austin Stack Park
Kerry maintained their perfect home record to see off the sticky challenge of Roscommon by three points in Tralee to remain on track for a successful League title defence, even though this game – for both teams – was first and foremost about getting the win to steer them away from the relegation battle that will be fought out in the final round next weekend.
To that end, Kerry’s need was greater: a loss would have left them stuck on four points with a tough trip to Galway next weekend with no guarantee that a win in Salthill would save them from the drop. As it is now, a win for Kerry against Galway might be good enough – others results permitting – to send the defending champions back to the league final.
Roscommon, meanwhile, remain on six points and might well need to get at least a draw and a point out of Donegal in the final round to be sure of playing Division One football next year.
Kerry, who had Gavin White returning to action for the first time since the All-Ireland final last July, started brilliantly and raced into a 1-2 to no score lead after six minutes, points from Dara Moynihan and Donal O’Sullivan either side of Clifford’s goal, brilliantly finished from Tony Brosnan’s sublime pass.
O’Sullivan’s second point put Kerry six ahead after 10 minutes and one feared for Roscommon at that stage, before former Kerry footballer Conor Cox converted a 20-metre free to get Roscommon off the mark in the 12th minute.
Kerry, at that stage, were doing all the best running, passing and shooting, as evidenced by their fourth point started by White, set up by Donal O’Sullivan and finished off by Brosnan.
Diarmuid Murtagh converted a Roscommon free, but the attacks from the visitors were too infrequent and too incisive, as Brosnan and Sean O’Shea (free) extended Kerry’s lead to 1-6 to 0-2 by the 27th minute.
But just as it seemed the hosts were having it all their own way, Roscommon hit them for three unanswered scores from the Murtagh brothers and Cox from an advanced mark to make it 1-6 to 0-5 just after the half hour mark. A David Clifford sent Kerry to the break 1-7 to 0-5 ahead.
Roscommon scored the first three points of the second half, from Daire Cregg and two from Cox, and when Graham O’Sullivan was black carded in the 45th minute Roscommon had more than reason to hope of winning just their second ever league game on Kerry soil.
However, Kerry outscored the visitors by two points to one while O’Sullivan was in the sin bin, and further scores from Sean O’Shea (free) and David Clifford put Kerry five ahead, 1-11 to 0-9.
Roscommon substitute Donie Smith converted two frees for the visitors as they pushed hard to salvage something from the contest, and Kerry put themselves under unnecessary pressure in the last couple of minutes when Tadhg Morley was black carded.
Still, Kerry held on for a win that puts them back in the top half of the table, for now, and eyeing a possible league final, unlike Roscommon who will be more concerned with staying out of the relegation zone now rather than considering the league final they might have done after the opening three rounds.
Scorers for Kerry: David Clifford 1-2 (1f), Seán O’Shea 0-2 (2f), Tony Brosnan 0-2, Dónal O’Sullivan 0-2, Tom O’Sullivan 0-1, Paudie Clifford 0-1, Dara Moynihan (0-1), Killian Spillane 0-1
Scorers for Roscommon: Conor Cox 0-6 (4f, 1m), Diarmuid Murtagh 0-2 (2f), Donie Smith 0-2 (2f) Ciaran Murtagh 0-1, Daire Cregg 0-1
Kerry: Shane Ryan, Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White, Jack Barry, Barry Dan O’Sullivan, Dara Moynihan, Seán O’Shea, Paudie Clifford, Tony Brosnan, David Clifford, Dónal O’Sullivan
Subs: Diarmuid O’Connor for B O’Sullivan (51), Killian Spillane for D O’Sullivan (55), Pa Warren for G White (64), Ruairi Murphy for D Moynihan (64), Paul Geaney for T Brosnan (68)
Roscommon: Conor Carroll, Conor Hussey, Brian Stack, David Murray, Niall Daly, Eoin McCormack, Robbie Dolan, Tadhg O’Rourke, Dylan Ruane, Ciaran Murtagh, Ciaran Lennon, Enda Smith, Daire Cregg, Diarmuid Murtagh, Conor Cox.
Subs: Keith Doyle for R Dolan (25), Richard Hughes for C Lennon (48), Ben O’Carroll for D Murtagh (48), Donie Smith for C Murtagh (60), Cian McKeon for D Ruane (64).
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).