Clinical Clifford puts Mayo to the sword
Adam Moynihan reports from Croke Park, Dublin
National League: Division 1 Final
Kerry 3-19 Mayo 0-13
Another wondrous display by David Clifford helped Kerry to a surprisingly comprehensive victory over Mayo in today’s National League Division 1 final.
Clifford was simply sensational on the day, tormenting his marker Pádraig O’Hora and scoring six points and a classy goal the process.
For Mayo, the only real positive was the return of long-term injury concern Cillian O’Connor. The championship’s all-time leadings scorer received a warm Croke Park welcome when he was introduced as a substitute in the 56th minute but not even he could penetrate Kerry’s mean defensive unit.
In truth, Kerry were dominant all over the pitch as they retained their league title and secured a unique two-and-a-half-in-a-row.
Points by David Clifford, Stephen O’Brien and Adrian Spillane gave Kerry a 3-2 lead by the 10-minute mark but it could (and, perhaps, should) have been much more. Paudie Clifford failed to convert a goal chance in the 5th minute and then Tadhg Morley squared for David Clifford but the Mayo defence did enough to put him off.
Even so, scores by the Clifford brothers gave Kerry a three-point advantage, and points by James Carr and Jordan Flynn were cancelled out by Paul Geaney and Jack Barry to leave the scores at 0-7 to 0-4 with 20 minutes on the clock.
Kerry welcomed Gavin White back into the starting line-up and the incredibly pacy wing back cause the opposition all sorts of problems in that first half. White’s efforts were rewarded in the 24th minute when he bravely reached for Paul Geaney’s deflected shot and palmed home Kerry’s first goal of the game. He received a severe whack in the face for his troubles and had to leave the field, but thankfully he returned later in the half.
That goal put some daylight between the sides and The Kingdom never looked back. David Clifford launched over another beauty to make it a seven-point game and although Mayo went on a mini-run with points by Ryan O’Donoghue, James Carr and Conor Loftus, it was Kerry who finished the half in the ascendency.
David Clifford brushed aside the challenge of O’Hora to chalk up his fourth of the day and then goalkeeper Shane Ryan marched forward to send over a spectacular free from way out on the Cusack Stand sideline. Ryan’s point would prove to be the last of the period and Kerry went in six points to the good (1-10 to 0-7).
Despite some fine scores from Michael Plunkett and Ryan O’Donoghue (two), Mayo were unable to eat into Kerry’s lead in the third quarter. Paul Geaney (two) and a Paudie Clifford 45 kept The Kingdom ticking over and when things opened up for Dara Moynihan in the 49th minute, he made no mistake to widen the gap to seven.
Kerry were dealt a blow in the 51st minute when Diarmuid O’Connor received a black card and when O’Donoghue scored again, Mayo were dreaming of a comeback. It was the Kerry faithful who liked what they saw next, however, as their boys rattled off 1-5 without reply to put the outcome of this final beyond doubt.
First the younger Clifford fired over a superb point from a tricky angle, and then Adrian Spillane scored an excellent solo effort after he was picked out by his half forward line colleague Moynihan. Paul Geaney picked off another fine score in the 57th minute before the walking highlight reel, David Clifford, buried the opposition almost singlehandedly.
Clifford had O’Hora hanging off him and chatting into his ear all day but the Fossa superstar did his talking with ball in hand. After receiving a pass from Tony Brosnan, he breezed by his Mayo marker and popped over his sixth point. Then, in the 66th minute, he left O’Hora eating dust before dispatching a perfectly placed right-footed shot beyond the reach of Rory Byrne in the Mayo goal. The score now read 2-18 to 0-11 and Kerry had two hands on the cup.
Geaney added his fifth point and then, two minutes into stoppage time, Jason Foley sprinted 136 metres to gather a deflected shot and score Kerry’s third goal of the game. Foley was one of Kerry’s best performers throughout the league and speaking to the media after the game, Jack O’Connor noted that it was only fitting that the Ballydonogue man should round off the campaign in style.
Afterwards, stand-in captain and Man of the Match David Clifford and captain Joe O’Connor lifted the Division 1 cup together. Kerry supporters will be hoping that it’s not the last time the pair get their hands on silverware this season.
KERRY: S Ryan (0-1f); G O’Sullivan, J Foley (1-0), T O'Sullivan; G White (1-0), T Morley, B Ó Beaglaoich; D O’Connor, J Barry (0-1); D Moynihan (0-1), P Clifford (0-2, 1 ‘45), A Spillane (0-2); S O’Brien (0-1), D Clifford (1-6, 1f), P Geaney (0-5, 1f).
Subs: G Crowley for White (temp 27-32), T Brosnan for O’Brien (49), G Crowley for White (53), M Burns for Spillane (63), J O’Connor for Barry (67), J Savage for Moynihan (67).
MAYO: R Byrne; L Keegan, S Coen, P O’Hora; M Plunkett (0-2), R Brickenden, E Hession; J Flynn (0-1), M Ruane (0-1); C Loftus (0-1), A O’Shea, J Carney; J Carr (0-2), J Doherty, R O’Donoghue (0-5, 2f).
Subs: K McLoughlin for Carney (HT), C O’Shea for Flynn (47), A Orme for Doherty (50), C O’Connor for Carr (56), D McHale for Ruane (67).
Kingdom hoping to lay some old ghosts to rest at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
by Adam Moynihan
All-Ireland SFC Group 1
Cork v Kerry
Saturday at 3pm
Páirc Uí Chaoimh
I was one of the unlucky few to have been present at the last Cork-Kerry clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in November of 2020. It was a truly awful night.
The match was played behind closed doors which made for an eerie, unsettling atmosphere, and the rain came down harder than I ever remember seeing first-hand.
Unfortunately, Kerry came down hard too. Mark Keane’s last-ditch goal clinched an unexpected victory for the hosts and, just like that, Kerry’s year was over.
It always hurts when your team loses but that one completely floored us all. It was such a horrible way to lose a game and I felt so bad for the players as they trudged off the field, soaked to the bone and shaken to the core.
They got some form of payback the following year when they won by 21 in the Munster final, and again last year when they ran out 11-point winners in the semi-final. But something tells me that it would mean a lot more to return to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and do the business there.
It won’t be easy. The final scorelines in the last two games suggest that it was all one-way traffic but that simply wasn’t the case. In 2021, Cork led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the water break (remember those?) and they pushed Kerry hard 12 months ago too. There was nothing in that match right up until the 50th minute, at which point Kerry brought on David Moran and Paul Geaney and ultimately pulled away.
You can never really read too much into the McGrath Cup but Cork demolished Kerry in January. Their form since has been spotty but they did well to see off Louth last week, with the returning Brian Hurley (shoulder) kicking eight points in a two-point win. Hurley has proved to be a handful for Kerry full back Jason Foley in the past.
Significantly, John Cleary’s side are strong in a key area where Kerry struggled against Mayo: midfield. Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan scored 0-2 each in Navan (and the latter scored 2-4 in that aforementioned McGrath Cup game at the start of the year).
Jack O’Connor named his team last night with Adrian Spillane replacing Tony Brosnan and Paul Murphy coming in for Dylan Casey. Spillane will add some extra brawn and energy around the middle third. Going by the last outing, Kerry need it.
It is also worth noting that David Clifford has never really shot the lights out against Cork. He has been well minded by Maurice Shanley, Seán Meehan and Kevin Flahive in the past three championship meetings, with the retreating Seán Powter also getting stuck in when needed.
Flahive suffered a cruciate injury late in last year’s game but he could potentially be in line for a comeback tomorrow; he has been added to Cork’s 26 for the first time in over 12 months.
Meehan has been ruled out with a hamstring injury so Shanley may be asked to track the Footballer of the Year this time around.
Clifford was one of the few bright sparks against Mayo and he would love to bring that form to the Páirc on Saturday. With vital points on the line, there would be no better time to lay some ghosts to rest.
From a Kerry perspective, you would hope – and perhaps expect – that Clifford and his teammates can do exactly that and get the show back on the road.
1. Shane Ryan
2. Graham O’Sullivan
3. Jason Foley
4. Tom O’Sullivan
5. Paul Murphy
6. Tadhg Morley
7. Gavin White
8. Diarmuid O’Connor
9. Jack Barry
10. Dara Moynihan
11. Seánie O’Shea
12. Adrian Spillane
13. Paudie Clifford
14. David Clifford
15. Paul Geaney
Subs: S Murphy, T Brosnan, D Casey, BD O’Sullivan, R Murphy, M Burns, M Breen, S O’Brien, D O’Sullivan, C O’Donoghue, S O’Brien.
1. Micheál Aodh Martin
2. Maurice Shanley
3. Rory Maguire
4. Kevin O’Donovan
5. Luke Fahy
6. Daniel O’Mahony
7. Matty Taylor
8. Colm O’Callaghan
9. Ian Maguire
10. Brian O’Driscoll
11. Ruairí Deane
12. Killian O’Hanlon
13. Seán Powter
14. Brian Hurley
15. Chris Óg Jones
Subs: P Doyle, C Kiely, T Clancy, K Flahive, P Walsh, E McSweeney, B Murphy, J O’Rourke , M Cronin, S Sherlock, F Herlihy.
Is Killarney green or blue? Celtic and Athletic to face off in tonight’s league final
Kerry Premier A League Final
Killarney Celtic v Killarney Athletic
Tonight at 7.45pm
Mounthawk Park, Tralee
Killarney Celtic will be gunning for their fifth league title in a row tonight (Friday) when they take on crosstown rivals Killarney Athletic in Tralee.
Celtic have been the dominant force in Kerry soccer in recent times with Athletic playing second fiddle. This will be the third Premier A final in a row to be contested by the Killarney clubs; Celtic won the 2020 decider 4-0 and last year’s final ended in a 3-0 victory for the club from Derreen. (The 2020/21 season was scrapped due to the pandemic.)
Prior to that, Celtic defeated Castleisland in 2019 and Dingle Bay Rovers in 2018, both on a scoreline of 1-0.
Celtic and Athletic also met in the 2017 final. The Blues prevailed in that particular encounter to capture their first ever Premier A title.
As for this season, Neilus Hayes’ Hoops qualified for the final by virtue of their first-place finish in the Premier A. Despite losing key players – including attackers Ryan Kelliher, Stephen McCarthy and Trpimir Vrljicak – to the Kerry FC project, the Celts won 12 of their 14 matches and ended up with an imposing goal difference of +34.
Athletic were not far behind, however; Stuart Templeman’s team only lost one league game all season en route to 35 points – one behind Celtic and 11 clear of Castleisland in third.
Interestingly, both of Celtic’s losses came at the hands of Athletic. The Woodlawn outfit impressively beat the old enemy 3-2 and 0-1 over the course of the regular season.
Goals by Roko Rujevcan, Pedja Glumcevic and a 90th-minute winner by Brendan Moloney clinched that dramatic 3-2 win in October of last year. It was a result that signalled Athletic’s intentions for the rest of the season.
Rujevcan was also on the scoresheet when Athletic snatched a rare away win at Celtic Park on April 30.
Celtic’s imposing record in finals probably makes them slight favourites and in the likes of John McDonagh, Brendan Falvey, Wayne Sparling, Kevin O’Sullivan and Witness Odirile they have a potent mix of steel and skill.
But Athletic will take heart from their recent results in this fixture and they will be hoping that two of the stars from the 2017 team – Shane Doolan and Shane Lynch – can lead the current crop of players to glory.
Meanwhile, the Division 2B final between Killarney Athletic B and Atletico Ardfert that was also due to take place tonight has been cancelled. Athletic have received a walkover.
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