By Mike Fitzpatrick
Paddy Kearney’s stormtroopers from the Kingdom have done it again.
Not content with defeating high-flying Tyrone in the quarterfinals, Kerry went one step further on Sunday and emerged victorious versus last year’s beaten finalists Stamford.
In an exciting first half of this senior football championship semi final, both sides looked seriously capable of pulling off the win.
Kieran Gallagher opened the scoring with a point for Stamford, but this was quickly equalled by Kerry forward Dave McCarthy’s effort over the bar. Stamford gained the upper hand and grabbed a two point cushion thanks to efforts from Mike Martin and Ted Steede, until a Bingo Driscoll point and a McCarthy goal gave Kerry the lead for the first time.
Gallagher and James Grennan pointed for Stamford to level things once more, and that’s when the excitement commenced. In the final ten minutes of the first half, the lead changed hands when following another Kerry point from McCarthy, Karl Slattery of the Connecticut side hit a goal to give his team a one point lead.
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Within a minute, the always vocal Stamford support showed their delight when Ted Steede grabbed another goal to move ahead of Kerry by four points. The Kingdom was in danger of being overthrown.
Kerry goalkeeper Robbie Dowd kept his side in the tie with a fantastic save from Mike Martin, and from his lengthy kickout, Kerry counterattacked and grabbed an equalizing goal thanks to John Crowley. A McCarthy point just on half time, gave Kerry a one point lead going into the break.
The second period was a completely different story. Whereas Kerry fought to the death, Stamford allowed themselves to slip further and further behind.
Points from Mike Carmody and Bingo Driscoll increased Kerry’s lead to three points, and a goal from Kerry substitute Seamus Harkan moved his side further into the lead. John Crowley added another goal past the despairing dive of Stamford’s John Wallace, and in one of Stamford’s rare forays forward, referee Tommy Fahey pointed to the penalty spot when Kieran Gallagher was fouled in the area. Stamford’s top scorer, Mike Martin, stepped up to hit the penalty kick but was denied by another fabulous save from on form Kerry keeper Robbie Dowd.
Justin O’Halloran hit a point for Stamford, but the wind had really been taken from their sails when points from Harkan, Crowley, Willie O’Donnell and John Sexton all registered for Kerry. Stamford keeper did well to knock a Harkan effort over the bar for a point, rather than a goal, right before Harkan was involved in a nasty incident which required his being carried off.
Another good save from Robbie Dowd finished off the second half action, and Kerry ran out victors by 13 points.
Facing Donegal in a championship final would normally be a daunting prospect, but one feels that this Kerry side have overcome any fears they have come across, and regardless of how next weeks game goes, they have done their county and supporters extremely proud.
Kerry: Robbie Dowd, Kenneth Leen, Paul Gallivan, Paul Dillon, Louis Holland, Kieran Driscoll, Peter Riney, Paddy O’Connor, Willie O’Donnell (0-1), Mike Carmody (0-1), John Sexton (0-1), Bingo Driscoll (0-3), Dave McCarthy (1-3), John Crowley (2-3), Paidi Mulvihill. Sub: Seamus Harkin (1-1), Kieran Cull
Stamford: John Wallace, Martin McDermott, Pat Coyne, Jim Lyons, Declan Curtin, Richie Purcell, Mark Comerford, James Grennan (0-1), Ronan Mooney, Niall Slattery, Karl Slattery (1-0), Justin O’Halloran (0-1), Mike Martin (0-1), Ted Steede (1-1), Kieran Gallagher (0-2). Subs: Fintan O’Shea, Brian Martin, John Cregan