Kerry’s dominance over Clare in underage football continued at Austin Stack Park in Tralee on Wednesday evening, when the sides met in the opening round of the provincial championship.
The gap in standard was evident from an early stage and Kerry had secured their passage to the semi-final, where they will play Cork, long before the final whistle. The fact that Clare failed to score from play is an indication of the dominance enjoyed by the Kingdom side.
Clare have another chance, however and they now await the winners of the game between Limerick and Waterford, who also suffered first-round losses. Clare’s next outing will be on Wednesday, April 29.
The writing was on the wall for Clare from an early stage, as a slicker Kerry side created too many opportunities. The Banner defence was under a lot of pressure whereas, at the other end, the Kerry back-line dominated. Their full-back trio were particularly strong, while corner-forwards Stephen O’Sullivan and Conor Geaney caused huge problems for the visitors. They scored six points between them in the first-half, at the end of which the defending Munster and All-Ireland champions were 0-10 to 0-1 in front.
Clare’s only first-half score came from a 25m free from captain, Keelan Sexton, who had failed to find the target from two earlier attempts. Pierce Lillis, who started at full-back before moving to midfield in the early minutes, was Clare’s best player in the opening half but they struggled to break down a strong defence.
Kerry led 0-5 to 0-0 at the end of the first quarter and a further minute elapsed before Sexton had Clare’s only score of the half. From here it was all Kerry and Clare were a little fortunate not to be further behind when the half-time whistle sounded.
The Banner’s strategy of long kick-outs from goalkeeper Killian Roche did not help their cause, as the Kerry midfield and particularly their captain, Mark O’Connor, dominated the aerial contests.
Clare had the opening score of the second half, when Sexton landed a 45m free but Kerry continued to dominate throughout the field.
In addition to Colm Pyne, Conor O’Halloran, Niall McCarthy, Sexton and substitute Cillian Brennan tried hard.
Kerry: Billy Courtney; Darren Brosnan, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan; Gavin White, Mike Breen, Daniel O’Brien; Mark O’Connor, John Mark Foley; Brian O’Seannacháin, Bryan Sweeney, Sean O’Shea; Stephen O’Sullivan, Cormac Linnane, Conor Geaney.
Subs: Evan Cronin for Linnane, Dara O’Shea for Tom O’Sullivan, Graham O’Sullivan for White, Brandon Barrett for S O’Shea, Mike Foley for O’Seannacháin and Ronan Buckley for JM Foley.
Scorers: Conor Geaney (0-4), Stephen O’Sullivan (0-2), Cormac Linnane (0-2), Mark O’Connor, Bryan Sweeney, Billy Courtney, Evan Cronin, Gavin White and Michael Foley (0-1 each).
Clare: Killian Roche (Cooraclare); Kieran Killeen (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Pierce Lillis (Cooraclare), Niall McCarthy (Lissycasey); Colin Hehir (Miltown, St Joseph’s), Conor Downes (Naomh Eoin), Colm Pyne (Killimer); Sean O’Donoghue (Cooraclare), Killian Burke (Cooraclare); Pádraic McNamara (Kilmaley), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Conor O’Halloran (Éire Óg); Eoin Tubridy (Doonbeg), Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s), Cormac Murray (Miltown).
Subs: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad) for Burke (half-time), Nigel Murray (O’Curry’s) for McNamara (half-time), Jack Morrissey (Cooraclare) for Tubridy, David Foran (Killimer) for Pyne and Conor Tevlin (Naomh Eoin) for Sweeney.
Scorers: Keelan Sexton (0-2) and Killian Roche (0-1).
Referee: John Ryan, Cork.
By Seamus Hayes, sports editor