ANOTHER crucial David Clifford goal and power-packed performances from Dr Crokes duo Gavin White and Micheál Burns gave Kerry the edge in a tough, uncompromising and bruising battle with gritty Meath at Fitzgerald Stadium this afternoon.
Nobody ever expected it to be easy against the newly promoted outfit – and it wasn’t. The visitors set out their stall early on with a succession of crunching tackles that tested Kerry and even though they remain pointless in the NFL after this encounter, it certainly hasn’t been for the want of trying by Andy McEntee’s men.
It was a day that saw four players from Dr Crokes getting a piece of the action – it was almost five but time ran out for Mikey Potts as he waited on the sideline to be introduced – and Burns and White certainly made a real impact.
The trademark surges from deep by last year’s skipper tormented Meath and Burns was a revelation at wing forward, kicking three points and helping to set up several other opportunities.
Another card carrying member of the black and amber brigade, David Shaw, started in place of Spa’s Dara Moynihan and he also did well – kicking the opening score – while sharpshooter Tony Brosnan was introduced late in the second half although he finished the game alongside club and county team-mate Burns in the black card sin bin where two Meath players also sat out part of the game.
It wasn’t a great Kerry performance – far from it– but they were able to conjure up sufficient opportunities to break down the lock-tight Meath defence when the need arose.
A great start and a powerful 10-minute spell in the second half won this game for Kerry but, on a few occasions, they were cleaned out around the middle of the park as the visitors used their strength to good advantage and the Kerry defence still has major problems that need solving.
Kerry still look extremely vulnerable when opponents run at them through the middle and coach Donie Buckley needs to get back to the drawing board pretty lively if the gaps are to be plugged pre-championship.
Another fact that cannot be overlooked is that Brian Kelly – a late call-up for Shane Ryan between the posts – saved Kerry’s hide with two point-black saves to deny Donal Keogan and Thomas O’Reilly what looked certain goals. If Kelly hadn’t been on top of his game, tonight would be a very long one in Kerry
Before a disappointing attendance of just over 8,500 – the stand wasn’t even full – Kerry led 1-10 to 1-5 at half-time with David Clifford coolly slotting the ball to the net after great approach work involving Burns and Shaw, with Seanie O’Shea on target from frees and Shaw, Burns, Geaney and Clifford all adding points.
Kerry hit a purple patch in the second half when they played with great flair to punish Meath and although the visitors never gave up the chase and cut the gap to two at one stage – their second goal was notched by Bryan McMahon – scores from sub Dara Moynihan, his first cousin Micheál Burns, Seanie O’Shea and David Clifford earned two valuable points for Peter Keane’s side and that keeps them in contention for the latter stages of the campaign.
The final score was 1-19 to 2-13 in Kerry’s favour and, for GAA anoraks, this was Kerry’s first outing in their new alternative marine and lime jersey.
Kerry scorers: D Clifford 1-3 (0-1 free); S O’Shea 0-6 (frees); M Burns 0-3; D Shaw 0-2, P Geaney 0-2, D Moynihan 0-2; T Walsh 0-1.
KERRY: Brian Kelly, Graham O’Sullivan, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan, Paul Murphy, Shane Enright, Gavin White Liam Kearney, Jack Barry, Micheál Burns, Seanie O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien, David Shaw, David Clifford, Paul Geaney.
Subs: Dara Moynihan for Kearney; Tommy Walsh for Shaw; Tony Brosnan for O’Brien; Diarmuid O’Connor for Geaney.
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