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East Kerry's Darragh Roche celebrates at Austin Stack Park.
East Kerry's Darragh Roche celebrates at Austin Stack Park.

East Kerry retain title

Kerry Senior Football Championship Final

East Kerry 2-15 Mid Kerry 0-9

By Paul Brennan at Austin Stack Park

Sometimes one just has to wait for the magic to happen, as was the case in tonight’s Kerry SFC final when David Clifford’s – who else? – super strike of a goal unlocked a stubborn puzzle for East Kerry who retained their county title.

The second half was just four minutes old when Dara Moynihan got his pass under pressure to Clifford, who took possession some 25 metres from goal with no apparent danger for Mid Kerry. Two seconds later the ball was nestled in the net.

It was the defining score of this Kerry final, and it ensured East Kerry retained their county title with their most comfortable win of the championship.

The champions were strong favourites to make it back to back titles against a Mid Kerry district looking for its first county title since 2008. Clifford had missed the semi-final through suspension but the Kerry captain seemed intent on leaving a different sort of mark on the final. He left with a goal and three points from the play, the man of the match award, a second county medal, and the expectation that he will captain Kerry to an All-Ireland title before year end.

The first half in Tralee was a slow burner, never quite catching fire or igniting the 200 spectators allowed in.

Ronan Buckley kicked the game’s first score after just 30 seconds, and though the first period produced 16 points – and a plethora of missed opportunities by Mid Kerry – there was little by way of intensity on the pitch.

David Clifford kicked the first of three first half points from play to double the champions’ lead but scores from Ciaran Kennedy (free) and the very industrious Liam Carey kept Mid Kerry in touch.

The Clifford brothers needed watching – as did Gavan O’Grady and Darran O’Sullivan at the other end for Mid Kerry – but no player was really hurting the opposition.

In the 10th minute Kennedy popped an incisive pass into midfielder Ronan Murphy but Shane Ryan was out quickly to cut down the angles and Murphy’s weak shot dribbled wide. It was the half’s best goal chance.

Points from Clifford and his Kerry team mate Moynihan helped East Kerry to a 0-6 to 0-3 lead at the water break.

By half time the champions led by just two, 0-9 to 0-7, but there was a sense they were just waiting to pounce. Mid Kerry had created the majority of chances, but eight wides and a rattled post was a poor return for their endeavours, and at the interval there was a nagging sense they would rue those misses

Four minutes in and Clifford struck for his wonder goal to add to his growing cannon of such scores, and Mid Kerry were still clearly stunned from that when they allowed Paudie Clifford tee up Darragh Roche for a second goal just two minutes later. Eight points ahead now, 2-9 to 0-7, and the champions were cruising to the winning line.

Mid Kerry’s first score of the half didn’t come until the 56th minute, from their best player Carey, but the Bishop Moynihan Cup was already festooned in the red and white of the champions-elect. Twenty years ago the East Kerry district did a three-peat from 1997 to ’99 and on this showing a new team looked well equipped to complete a three-in-a-row of their own next year.

Scorers for East Kerry: D Clifford 1-4, D Roche 1-3 (1f, 1m), E Cronin 0-3 (1f), R Buckley 0-2, D Moynihan 0-2, B O’Donoghue 0-1

Scorers for Mid Kerry: L Carey 0-6 (4fs), D Roche 0-1, G O’Grady 0-1, C Kennedy 0-1f

East Kerry: Shane Ryan, Chris O’Donoghue, Jack Sherwood, Niall Donohue, Shane Cronin, Dan O’Donoghue, Paul Murphy, Mark Ryan, Ronan Buckley, Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford, Brendan O’Keeffe, David Clifford, Darragh Roche, Evan Cronin.

Subs: Mike Foley for B O’Keeffe (48), Dan O’Brien for M Ryan (48), Brian O’Donoghue for S Cronin (56), Jeff O’Donoghue for E Cronin (56), Padraig Doyle for D Moynihan (58).

Mid Kerry: Stephen Cahillane, Pa Kilkenny, Pa Wrenn, David Mangan, Peter Crowley, Mike Breen, Jack Brosnan, Colin McGillicuddy, Ronan Murphy, David Roche, Fiachra Clifford, Ciaran Kennedy, Gavan O’Grady, Liam Carey, Darran O’Sullivan.

Subs: Caolim Teahan for F Clifford (39), Jack O’Connor for C Kennedy (44), Cathal Moriarty for D O’Sullivan (49), Gavan Horan for J Brosnan (49), Sean O’Brien for D Roche (52).

Referee: Paul Hayes (Kerins O’Rahillys).