By Mike Fitzpatrick
Kerry had already qualified for the playoffs before a ball was kicked in this senior football Div. II game, but no team likes to give up a 100 per cent record.
All credit therefore, must go to Bosco Walsh’s Sligo men who battled to give Kerry their first defeat of the season.
Earlier, in the junior football B division semi-final, Sligo defeated Stamford.
Going into this clash, the Kingdom had won their previous six games, and therefore were heavy favorites to clinch this one versus fourth placed Sligo. Bosco’s boys knew exactly what they had to do, and of the enormity of the task that lay in front of them.
Attacking from the first blow of the whistle, Sligo rattled in scores thanks to some wonderful play from Ciaran Whelan, Hugh Emerson and Brian Irwin, and a fine goal from New York forward Enda Henry.
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The Kerry team was clearly shaken and fought back immediately. Darren Reddy had yet another glowing performance for Paddy Kearney’s side, and along with Kieran Cull up front, proceeded to hit a number of efforts over the bar, and a three pointer from Cull brought the sides to within a point.
Further efforts from Bingo Driscoll, and a goal from Mike Carmody gave Kerry the slenderest of leads going into the break.
A stirring team talk from both coaches at half time obviously paid dividends, as we witnessed a second half which could really have gone either way.
Kerry proceeded to hammer in points from Cull and Bingo, but Sligo reacted in the best way possible, by shooting accurate efforts under the bar.
Noel Fitzgerald continued in the second half and hit another point for Sligo, and a fabulous soccer style goal from Steven Healy, where he dribbled past a bemused Kerry backline before slotting the ball in past Robbie Dowd to give his side a handsome lead.
This stunned the Kerry side a little, and gave Sligo a little more confidence to attack more. Mark Shanahan and Healy added to their sides second half tally and, despite a late Kerry resurgence, Sligo killed off the tie thanks to a late Enda Henry goal to give his team a hugely impressive eight point victory.
The draw for the semi finals of this division’s championship was made immediately afterwards, with Kerry drawing Longford, and Sligo pulling Offaly.
Kerry have already beaten Longford this season, but the rematch should be an interesting one. Longford will be out for blood. Kerry’s confidence should still be sky high despite this setback, winning six out of a possible seven games is no mean achievement, and they will certainly fancy their chances of making it to the final. Sligo will be slight favorites for their clash versus Offaly, but as we witnessed here in this match, the favorites don’t always win at Gaelic Park.
Kerry: Robbie Dowd, Niall Sugrue, Paul Gallivan, Paul Dillon, Louis Holland, Micheal Herlihy, Willie O’Donnell, Ciaran Driscoll, Mike Carmody (1-1), Darren Reddy (0-3), Bingo Driscoll (0-2), David McCarthy (0-1), John Sexton, Ciaran Cull (1-3). Sub Paddy Driscoll
Sligo: Dermot Fleming, John Cribben, Kieran Fleming, Shane Kearney, Mark Doyle, Mark Shanahan (0-1), Donal Cassidy, Ciaran Whelan (0-3), Enda Henry (2-2), Brian Irwin (0-2), Steven Healy (0-2), Noel Fitzgerald (0-4), Conor Healy (0-1), Hugh Emerson (0-1). Peter Brennan.