National Football League: Kerry 1-13 Down 1-11
Kerry gained a modicum of revenge for last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Down with a narrow win in this full-blooded clash in Killarney.
However, Cork’s victory over Armagh means Kerry are headed to the Algarve for a training camp and not Croke Park to face Dublin.
Kerry’s win came at a price as veteran Kerry defender Tom O’Sullivan received a straight red in the 55th minute for a striking motion on Eoin McCartan and will miss Kerry’s Championship opener against Tipperary.
Kerry also lost Paul Galvin in the 16th minute with a hamstring strain, but his replacement Bryan Sheehan had a superb second half, kicking four points.
Down were disappointing up front where only Mark Poland and Martin Clarke looked dangerous and while Benny Coulter did score a late goal, he was well shackled by the outstanding Marc O’Se.
Kerry started as if they meant business with Anthony Maher and Eoin Brosnan teaming up well at midfield and with Kieran Donaghy fielding crucial ball.
Kerry powered four points clear inside the opening 10 minutes with Colm Cooper getting the opener after a clever Declan O’Sullivan through ball in the second minute. When Aidan O’Mahony was fouled going through, Cooper added the free and with Donnacha Walsh and Paul Galvin winning almost every break, Kerry looked to be in full control.
Walsh and Donaghy added points to leave Kerry leading 0-4 to 0-0 by the 10th minute.
Down slowly got into the game with Kalum King and Poland working hard and Poland opened the Down account in the 14th minute with a finely worked point.
That began a revival of sorts for Down and, thanks to points from Poland (2), Conor Maginn and James Colgan, they were level 0-5 - 0-5 by the 26th minute.
Kerry appeared to be in control as they retired 0-8 to 0-5 at half time and Down’s hopes of a second-half revival suffered a huge blow just three minutes after the resumption when Sheehan and Cooper combined worked an opportunity for Darran O’Sullivan to flick the ball to the roof of the Down net.
When Sheehan added a quick point to Kerry 1-9 to 0-6 clear it looked like the game was up for Down.
However Down kept plugging away and points from wing back Conor Garvey, Clarke and a free from Poland but Kerry were just too strong and potent up front.
Points from Declan and Darran O’Sullivan and two more from the trusty boot of Sheehan were enough to give Kerry victory. So despite O’Sullivan’s red card and Coulter’s late goal the large Kingdom following went home happy.
[John Monaghan\]However the news that Cork had come good against Armagh filtered the fifty miles across the county bounds so despite finishing level on ten points with their arch rivals, its Cork by virtue of that injury time win against Kerry who will contest the League final against Dublin.
Kerry will now head to the Algarve for a training game in two weeks so all is happy in the Kingdom if not very peaceful.
Kerry: B Kealy; S Enright, M O’Se, T O’Sullivan, K Young, A O’Mahony, E Brosnan, A Maher, D Walsh 0-1, Darran O’Sullivan (1-2), P Galvin, C Galvin, K Donaghy 0-1, Declan O’Sullivan (0-2) C Cooper 0-2 (0-1 free). Subs: B Sheehan (0-4 , 0-3 frees) for P Galvin (16), S Scanlon for A Maher (61) 0-1, A O’Connell for A O’Mahony ( 63), K O’Leary for D Walsh (66) B Maguire
Down: D Alder; G McCartan, D Gordon, B McArdle, C Garvey 0-1, K McKernan, D Rooney, J Colgan 0-1, K King, D Hughes, M Poland 0-5 (0-4 frees), C Maginn 0-1, P McComiskey, B Coulter 1-0, M Clarke 0-3 (0-1 free). Subs: A Carr for K King (29), D Rafferty for B McArdle (41), E McCartan for P McComiskey (47), C Laverty for C Maginn (52), R Sexton for M Poland (64)
Referee:R Hickey (Clare)