The early exchanges were fairly even, with Leitrim first on the board via a Gary Doohan free at the three-minute mark. Kerry’s Dave McCarthy responded in kind three minutes later and it was level.
A competitive match seemed to be in the offing with both teams working hard. McCarthy nudged the Kingdom into the lead with a point from play, but Leitrim struck back with the first goal of the match.
Aiden Traynor was scorer, but clever defensive work by Doohan made the play as the corner forward’s tackle broke the loose ball into his path. With the challenge put to them, last year’s champions responded.
Center forward Danny Downey struck for a great goal with excellent combination work from Dave McSweeney and Stephen Flynn. Just minutes later it was Flynn who shook the Leitrim twines after New York county captain Pa Murphy put him through with a perfectly weighted pass.
After an exchange of frees between McCarthy and Doohan, Downey finished yet another outstanding Kerry passing combination with yet another Kerry goal.
Dave McSweeney was sparking much of the Kerry attack soaring high for several balls to win possession. Why this competition was played with just 13 players is unclear, when the championship remains at 15, but Kerry took full advantage with Stephen Flynn and Dave McCarthy cavorting in the comparatively open spaces, Kerry’s attack was giving the Leitrim rear guard fits.
After leading by 3-4 to 1-2 at the half, Kerry started fast via McSweeney. From referee Jimmy Naughton’s throw-in, McSweeney went highest and punched the ball about 30 yards to Barry Lynch. Lynch fed McCarthy and Kerry were off and running again.
Play had been physical from the start and now tempers were beginning to flare. While Kerry were picking up three points, all from McCarthy, Leitrim amassed three yellow cards. The last two went to Kieran Power, effectively earning him a red card.
With their fate sealed, Leitrim battled on earning a fine late goal from center back Kevin Fitzgerald, but it was purely cosmetic. The relative strengths of these two sides are difficult to judge with sanctioned players due to arrive for the championship. Kerry will surely add some talent, but the players on hand Sunday showed that Kerry will defend their title with gusto and style in 2005.
Man of the Match: Dave McCarthy
Kerry: Gary Kelly, Niall Corbett, Derek Riney, Collie Fearon (0-1), Sammy Finn, Barry Lynch, Dave McSweeney, Pa Murphy (0-1), Paudi Mulvihill, Danny Downey (2-0), Paddy O’Connell, Dave McCarthy (0-7, 4 frees), Stephen Flynn (1-1).
Leitrim: Kieran Potter, Kieran McKenna, John Walsh, Niall McGuire, Kevin Fitzgerald (1-0), Danny O’Sullivan, Aiden Power (0-1), Paul Murray (0-1), Kieran Power, Aiden Traynor (1-0), Seamus Ivors, Andy O’Connor, Gerry Doohan (0-2, 2 frees).