Joe McDonagh Cup: Kerry earn victory
Joe McDonagh Cup
KERRY 2-24 DOWN 1-21
By Paul Brennan at Austin Stack Park, Tralee
A glorious piece of skill and a goal from Shane Conway turned a competitive Joe McDonagh Cup contest in Kerry’s favour as the home side eventually shrugged off a dogged Down side by six points at a sun-splashed Austin Stack Park.
It was 11 points in Kerry’s favour when the sides met in the Alianz League seven weeks ago but the prize on offer this time was, arguably, bigger for both teams, with Kerry best placed to reach the McDonagh Cup final now if they can beat Meath in a fortnight.
Kerry could never quite shake off a resilient Down side as they had done in the League when they scored four second half goals, but Conway 58th minute green flag was enough to kill off a growing Down surge in the third quarter. The Mourne men had hit four unanswered points at that stage to cut an eight-point deficit to four, with Kerry desperate for a score at that stage to stop the rot.
Conway flicked Fionan Mackessey’s delivery down to himself on the turn to leave himself with an unobstructed run at Stephen Keith’s goal and there was only one outcome from there.
Kerry had led by six at the interval and thanks to a volley of three scores around the water break from Barry Mahony and the Boyle brothers, Mikey and Padraig, they looked good for the win as they led 1-20 to 1-12 after 49 minutes.
Down then hit points from Donal Hughes and subs Ryan McCusker and Oisin MacManus (two frees) to make it a four-point game before Conway turned the game back in Kerry’s favour.
The first 10 minutes of the game had seen Kerry race into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead before Down hit back with a Paul Sheehan point and a brilliantly taken goal from Pearse Og McCrickard to level the scores by the 12th minute.
The teams were still deadlocked at the water break, 1-4 to 0-7, with Mikey Boyle scoring his second and third points for the Kingdom, who were hurling with confidence and cohesion by now.
A couple of Conway scores, along with white flags from Shane Nolan and Padraig Boyle nudged Kerry into a 0-11 to 1-5 lead before Down midfielder Hughes raked over a fine score before setting up Sheehan for his first point from play.
It was 0-12 to 1-7 in the 31st minute when Kerry corner forward Cian Hussey collected the ball, slipped inside the Down cover and did well, under pressure, to slip the ball past Stephen Keith for a goal that put Kerry into a deserved five-point lead, which the extended to six, 1-14 to 1-8, by the interval.
Down play Meath next weekend with the Ulster men needing to win to keep their interest in the competition alive, before Kerry travel to Meath where a win should be enough to send them to the final.
Scorers for Kerry: S Conway 1-8 (0-4, 0-1 ‘65’), S Nolan 0-4 (1f), M Boyle 0-4, P Boyle 0-4, B O’Mahony 0-3, C Hussey 1-0, F O’Sullivan 0-1.
Scorers for Down: P Og McCrickard 1-3, P Sheehan 0-5 (4f), O MacManus 0-4 (all frees), D Hughes 0-2, D Sands 0-2, C Woods 0-1 (‘65’), E Sands 0-1, T Prenter 0-1, P Savage 0-1, R McCusker 0-1
KERRY: John B O’Halloran, James O’Connor, Evan Murphy, Eric Leen, Conor O’Keeffe, Fionan Mackessy, Jason Diggins, Paudie O’Connor, Shane Nolan, Mikey Boyle, Barry O’Mahony, Brendan O’Leary, Padraig Boyle, Shane Conway, Cian Hussey.
Subs: Tomas O’Connor for J O’Connor (23), Bryan Murphy for B O’Leary (66), Fionan O’Sullivan for M Boyle (70), Donal Hunt for C Hussey (70), Eoin Ross for E Leen (72)
DOWN: Stephen Keith, Conor Cassidy, Caolan Taggart, John McManus, Matt Conlon, Matt Woods, Liam Savage, Donal Hughes, Jordan Doran, Chris Egan, Paul Sheehan, Marc Fisher, Pearse Og McCrickard, Eoghan Sands, Daithai Sands.
Subs: Ryan McCusker for M Fisher (HT), Tim Prenter for J Doran (45), Phelim Savage for R McCusker (48), Oisin MacManus for P Sheehan (50), PJ Davidson for D Hughes (73).
REFEREE: Cathal McAllister (Cork).