Kerry are up and running in the 2021 Championship after a professional 3-22 to 1-11 victory over Clare in Killarney.
The Kingdom will look to dampen any talk of All-Ireland titles after an efficient Saturday evening’s work, but they will be thrilled they have cleared the first hurdle. That was something they failed to do in 2020.
Overall, it was a thoroughly-professional display. While it lacked the fireworks of the drubbings when Galway and Tyrone came to town in recent weeks, it was every bit as composed from Peter Keane’s charges.
Kerry burst into an early lead. Sean O’Shea pointed within 15 seconds of throw-in, and the Kenmare star added three more to help his side establish a 0-5 to 0-0 lead.
The Banner looked to ask questions of their hosts’ defence, putting Darren O’Neill in on top of the square. However, they failed to get sufficient supply on top of the big man.
Clare eventually got off the mark in the 17th minute, as Emmet McMahon kicked a long-range score.
Three well-taken Eoin Cleary points dragged them back into the contest.
But, just when composure was needed, a lapse in Clare concentration was punished dearly. Conor Jordan’s hand-pass was intercepted by Paudie Clifford, who instantly picked out O’Shea with a beauty of a pass over the top. The centre-forward collected the ball and buried it past Stephen Ryan to make it 1-9 to 0-4.
The hosts tagged on two more points before the break to make it 1-11 to 0-5 at the halfway mark.
David Clifford and David Moran kept the scoreboard ticking over after the break, as Clare’s wide-count frustratingly increased. They pulled it back to eight at the water-break, but there was a sense Kerry had another gear.
The younger Clifford brother put 12 between the sides before a consolation goal from David Tubridy looked set to put some gloss on the scoreboard for the visitors.
However, the concession of that goal kicked Kerry back into life. Killian Spillane added three points from the bench, and Adrian Spillane played David Clifford in on goal. The Fossa star rattled the net.
Micheal Burns added another green flag in injury-time, as the Kingdom ran out 17-point victors.
Job done for Kerry. They will not get too far ahead of themselves, however. Their harsh lesson last November has taught them to take one step at a time. Next up is Tipperary in the Munster semi-final.
Kerry: Sean O’Shea (1-7, 0-3f), David Clifford (1-6, 0-3f), Micheal Burns (1-0), Killian Spillane (0-3), Paudie Clifford (0-2), Gavin White (0-2), David Moran (0-1), Paul Geaney (0-1).
Clare: Eoin Cleary (0-6, 0-2f), David Tubridy (1-1, 0-1f), Darragh Bohannan (0-2), Podge Collins (0-1), Emmet McMahon (0-1).
1. Kieran Fitzgibbon
2. Brian O Beaglaoích
3. Jason Foley
4. Tom O’Sullivan
5. Mike Breen
6. Gavin Crowley
7. Gavin White
8. David Moran
9. Diarmuid O’Connor
10. Stephen O’Brien
11. Sean O’Shea
12. Paul Geaney
14. Dara Moynihan
13. David Clifford
15. Paudie Clifford
Tadhg Morley for Tom O’Sullivan (53rd minute)
Killian Spillane for Dara Moynihan (53rd minute)
Tommy Walsh for Stephen O’Brien (56th minute)
Adrian Spillane for David Moran (58th minute)
Micheal Burns for David Clifford (68th minute)
1. Stephen Ryan
5. Cian O’Dea
2. Ciaran Russell
3. Cillian Brennan
21. Conor Jordan
6. Sean Collins
20. Conal O hAinifein
8. Darren O Neill
12. Darragh Bohannan
10. Pearse Lillis
11. Eoin Cleary
17. Podge Collins
13. Gavin Cooney
9. Cathal O’Connor
15. David Tubridy
Emmet McMahon for Cathal O’Connor (15th minute)
Cillian Rouine for Conal O hAinifein (17th minute)
Joe McGann for Podge Collins (half-time)
Daniel Walsh for Conor Jordan (44th minute)
Keelan Sexton for Gavin Cooney (49th minute)
Live GAA action continues next Saturday on Sky Sports, with a triple-header of hurling action; Galway vs Dublin, Kilkenny vs Wexford and Cork vs Limerick. Inside The Game continues at 8:30pm on Wednesday evening on Sky Sports Arena.
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