Kerry SFC Final: Clifford produces moment of magic
Kerry SFC Final
EAST KERRY 2-14 DR CROKES 1-7
By Paul Brennan at Austin Stack Park, Tralee
A piece of David Clifford magic - a 34th minute goal of individual brilliance - was instrumental in East Kerry ending a 20-year wait for the divisional team's eighth county championship title, and in the process they have ended reigning champions, Dr Crokes' bid for an eighth title this decade.
This final, which brought these neighbours and rivals from Killarney and surrounds over the road to Tralee, failed to deliver on the expectation of a cracking and close game, but only because East Kerry overpowered a Dr Crokes team that began to pay for the high mileage in several legs clocked up over the last decade.
There's little doubt that neutrals in the 8,254 attendance traveled to witness the mercurial talents of All Star David Clifford - and the Fossa man didn't disappoint in that regard - but it was a man of the match winning performance from his brother Paudie that did most to end East Kerry's long wait to get back on top.
Dr Crokes were going for an unprecedented eight titles in a single decade, but it turned out to be a crushing defeat that ends a glorious run for them, and there will be no Munster Club Championship to engage them now either, with that honour falling to Austin Stacks, the senior club champions, who face Nemo Rangers next week.
None of that will trouble East Kerry, who will savour a senior championship title that many felt was only a matter of time, given their dominance at underage level in the last few years.
East Kerry's intent was clear from the first whistle: they wouldn't be standing back from the champions, and it took Mike Foley just 20 seconds to kick them into the lead. Three minutes late Foley doubled his team's lead, with Paudie Clifford central to both scores, as East Kerry settled into their stride.
East Kerry were 0-3 to 0-0 ahead before Dr Crokes got off the mark through a brilliant angled point from Tony Brosnan, and moments later the same player kicked an identical point, albeit from the other side of the pitch, as the champions worked their way into the contest.
It took 14 minutes for David Clifford to draw the first pulse of excitement from the crowd, winning the ball between two defenders, having a think about a goal, and then flashing the ball over the bar to double East Kerry's lead.
Foley boomed over this third point, Mark O'Shea replied in kind for Crokes, and then Brosnan did his best David Clifford impersonation, winning a hard ball, working a little space, and dinking over a neat point.
All the time both teams hit a few poor wides, dropped a few shots short, enjoyed their share of possession at midfield, threatened a goal chance or two without ever testing either goalkeeper, but the game never suffered. Instead, there was enough good football and scores to keep everyone engaged.
The half finished with Clifford brothers and Evan Cronin kicking scores to make it 0-8 to 0-4 to East Kerry, before a Brosnan free brought the champions back to within three points at the interval.
The second half started with an early red card for East Kerry defender Pa Warren, quickly followed by Clifford's brilliantly taken goal, and when Crokes lost midfielder Mark O'Shea to a second yellow card in the 34th minute, Crokes challenge fell away.
The divisional team where already 1-11 to 0-6 ahead when David Clifford set up Darragh Roche for a second goal, and though Gavin White raised a green flag for Crokes in the 47th minute to make it 2-11 to 1-6, the champions were already a beaten docket.
Dr Crokes finished with 13 players after Mike Moloney's second booking, but East Kerry finished with the silverware, and they will party like it was 1999 - the last time they won this title - around Spa and Glenflesk and Fossa.
Scorers for East Kerry: D Clifford 1-3 (1f), D Roche 1-2 (0-1f), E Cronin 0-4, M Foley 0-3, P Clifford 0-1, P Doyle 0-1
Scorers for Dr Crokes: G White 1-1, T Brosnan 0-4 (1f), M O'Shea 0-1, K O'Leary 0-1
EAST KERRY: James Devane, Chris O'Donoghue, Jack Sherwood, Niall Donohue, Dan O'Donoghue, Pa Warren, Liam Kearney, Shane Cronin, Mike Foley, Ronan Buckley, Paudie Clifford, Brian O'Donoghue, David Clifford, Dara Roche, Evan Cronin. Subs:
Subs: David Spillane for B O'Donoghue (59), Padraig Doyle for M Foley (60+1), Darren Brosnan for S Cronin (60+2), Padraig De Brun for D Roche (60+2), Mike McCarthy for E Cronin (60+4), Eoin Fitzgerald for R Buckley (60+4)
DR CROKES: Shane Murphy, John Payne, Michael Moloney, Fionn Fitzgerald, David O'Leary, Gavin White, Brian Looney, Johnny Buckley, Mark O'Shea, Micheal Burns, Michael Potts, Gavin O'Shea, Tony Brosnan, Daithi Casey, Kieran O'Leary.
Subs: David Naughton for G O'Shea (41), Alan O'Sullivan for D O'Leary (46), Jack Griffin for B Looney (48), Paul Clarke for M Potts (56), Brendan Falvey for M Burns (62), Cillian O'Regan for J Payne (60+2).
REFEREE: Brendan Griffin (Clounmacon).