The early exchanges in this semifinal gave little indication of the blowout to come. After the Kingdom took a 0-2 to 0-0 lead on points from Stephen Flynn and Dave McCarthy, Leitrim were quick to respond with a brace of their own.
Kenny O’Connor, operating at full forward, got Leitrim on the board and Ned Hogan’s free was the leveler. Even when Kerry notched the next 0-3, a good match seemed likely. McCarthy, Don Murphy, and Bingo O’Driscoll from a free, were the marksmen as Kerry’s dangerous attack began to click.
More so than any other side in New York, Kerry take their chances when they are presented with them. Even on a day when O’Driscoll was less than his usual automatic self, Kerry posted an impressive total of 19 points.
Five of their starting six forwards entered the scoresheet, with the sixth, Dave McSweeney, effective as a third midfielder, and sub Willie O’Donnell pointing twice. Ned Hogan’s second free kept the match close at 0-5 to 0-3, but the rest of the first half was all Kerry.
Midfielders Don Golden and John Murphy began to get a grip on the match while the Kerry backs led by Pa Murphy and a rejuvenated Paddy O’Connor were turning away any and all Leitrim attacks.
Kerry full forward D.J. Fleming was shredding the Leitrim defense and with Dave McCarthy and Stephen Flynn continuing their season long good play, Leitrim were under pressure.
Kerry built their lead to 0-10 to 0-3 at the interval, the only negative for the Kingdom being the injury loss of Dermot Foley. Foley had to leave with what looked to be a serious injury to his hand or wrist when he was the victim of a reckless pull.
Seven points is a big hole to climb out of and Leitrim knew they needed a good start to make that climb. When Danny O’Sullivan got the second half started with a Leitrim point, the Connacht side were looking for a momentum turn.
Kerry, of course, had other ideas. Dave McCarthy’s 45-yard free was followed by a tremendous point from Fleming as the match began to swing Kerry’s way again. That swing was complete minutes later when Kieran Power was presented with a well-deserved red card for a dangerous tackle.
Many times we have seen teams struggle when playing with the extra man. Teams can be tentative when aggression would seem the logical response. Kerry had no such problems. Like a good boxer with his opponent weakened, Kerry went in for the knockout and delivered it. Six Kerry points on the trot took the place of a 10 count and put Kerry through to the final against the winner of Sunday’s Cavan versus Clare match.
Man of the match: D.J. Fleming
Kerry: Finbar Flood, Owen Lawlor, Derek Riney, Paddy O’Connor, Eanna Kavanagh, Pa Murphy, Collie Fearon, John Golden, Don Murphy (0-1), Dave McCarthy (0-4, 2 frees), Bingo O’Driscoll (0-3, 2 frees), Dermot Foley (0-1), Stephen Flynn (0-4), D.J. Fleming (0-4), Dave McSweeney. Subs: Willie O’Donnell (0-2), Paul Dillon, Dennis Carroll.
Leitrim: Gary Skully, Kevin Fitzgerald, James McFadden, John Walsh, Kieran Power, Dan O’Sullivan (0-1), Aiden Power, Darragh Phelan, Paul Murray, Tommy Gee (0-1), Andy O’Connor, Ned Hogan (0-4, 3 frees), Ken O’Connor (0-1), Shane McDermott. Subs: Gerry Doohan, Jim Donoghue.