By Frank Brady
This was supposed to be the match of the day, but it was more like the mismatch of the day as a fiery Kerry squad overran a rather weak Leitrim outfit Sunday at Gaelic Park.
Leitrim’s cause wasn’t helped by Sean McCague, Ireland’s GAA president, rendering their scoring ace, Alan McFadden, ineligible. However, it would have taken several McFaddens to halt this Kerry machine.
Leitrim started well, with Jim Donahoe firing over a good point as a result of clever approach play by Danny O’Sullivan and Larry Keenan. Leitrim quickly added another with a Tommy Gee free. Bingo O’Driscoll got Kerry on the beginning of their scoring spree with a point from a free after a foul on Niall Hourighan. Sub Myles O’Connell made his presence felt with a point after coming on for the injured David Hannify.
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Tommy Gee added one for Leitrim after Jim Donahoe was fouled. Then at the halfway stage in the first period a dazzling bit of weaving and give-and-go with Jamie and Bingo Driscoll ended with Dave McCarthy crashing in a great goal to put Kerry ahead by 1-2 to 0-3. Kerry were now in top gear as Leitrim were struggling in most sectors of the field, especially the middle which they had dominated throughout the season.
In another daring raid keeper Mike McGinley was forced to bring off a great save to deny Bingo. At the other end, his counterpart, Finbar Flood, did likewise to deny the crafty John Noonan after he was set up by Jim Donahoe. Then sub Myles O’Connor had a rather short stay as he and Leitrim defender Keith Murray were ejected for becoming unnecessarily physical with each other. Jim Donahoe ended the Leitrim drought with a good point, but Willie O’Donnell and Jamie replied for Kerry. Aiden Power finished out the scoring to leave Kerry ahead by 1-6 to 5 points at the break.
The second half began with Kerry going into overdrive as Leitrim were left behind. Perhaps the most telling statistic was the fact that Kerry scored 2-6 to Leitrim’s 3 points in this half. Kerry’s second goal from Bingo O’Driscoll 10 minutes into the half after good work from Dave McSweeney and Jamie Driscoll effectively ended the game as a contest as they led 2-10 to 6 points. A late goal from full forward Niall Hourighan was a fitting conclusion as he tormented the Leitrim rearguard throughout the hour. This was a gutsy top-shelf team performance from Kerry and I’m sure team manager and taskmaster Tom Canty will be very pleased. For Leitrim, whose unbeaten run came to an ignominious end, I’m sure this performance will be consigned to the bottom shelf of the bottom drawer and faded into oblivion as quick as possible.
Man of the match: Niall Hourighan.
Kerry: Finbar Flood, Derrick Riney, Paul Gallivan, Paul Dillon, Paddy O’Connor, Ronan O’Connor, Teddy O’Hailpin, Dave McSweeney, Dave Hannify, Seamus O’Sullivan, Jamie O’Driscoll (0-2), Bingo Driscoll (1-6), Dave McCarthy(1-1), Niall Hourighan (1-1), William O’Donnell (0-1). Sub: Myles O’Connell (0-1).
Leitrim: Mike McGinley, Keith Murray, John Walsh, Danny Downey, John Donahoe, Pa Murphy, Stephen Andrews, Larry Keenan (0-1), Kenny O’Connor, Danny O’Sullivan, Tommy Gee (0-3), Liam Coyle, John Noonan, Jim Donahoe (0-2), Aiden Power (0-1), subs Bobby Ryan, Derrick McMahon (0-1), Dave Williams.