Allianz Football League Division One
Courtesy of GAA.ie
By Paul Brennan at Austin Stack Park
A resurgent Kerry team got their League title defence back on track with a hard-fought one-point win over Armagh in Tralee this evening, with the manner of the team’s response to last week’s mauling by Mayo as pleasing to manager Jack O’Connor as much as the two points secured.
O’Connor said the lack of energy and work-rate and tackling against Mayo a week earlier was unacceptable, but acknowledged the players brought all those qualities to bear on this arm-wrestle with Armagh, which was won by late scores from substitutes Tony Brosnan and Donal O’Sullivan.
Those scores had Armagh trailing by two points well beyond the signalled five minutes of additional time, but they still manufactured a late free with nothing less than a goal needed, though Rian O’Neill could only see his 20-metre free rise over the crossbar to half the deficit, much to Kerry’s relief.
It was a determined Kerry team that took to the field, bringing all the energy and intensity that they were missing against Mayo the previous Saturday, but they met an Armagh side that matched those qualities every bit and took the home side to the wire in front of a 11,603 crowd.
The teams were deadlocked at 0-6 apiece at the end of a cagey first half, with the visitors surely the happier side having sat back for much of the opening period, content to invite Kerry to try and pick their way through a massed defence.
That Kerry managed just four points from play, two more free close-range frees, and just one wide, said as much about Armagh’s disciplined and structured defending as it did about Kerry’s cutting edge in attack.
Those two Kerry frees were converted by David Clifford and Sean O’Shea, though it was some source of frustration that neither man – both making their first start of the season – could raise a flag from play, though Clifford still finished Kerry’s top scorer with four pointed frees on a night Kerry had nine scorers, including two late points from substitutes Tony Brosnan and Donal O’Sullivan that secured the win.
Kerry were first off the mark with a Clifford free in the fifth minute and they were 0-4 to 0-2 ahead after 15 minutes, with Armagh seemingly happy to choke up the Kerry forwards with that packed defence and then look to hit the home side on the counter-attack.
Points from Rian O’Neill (play and a free) and full back Aidan Forker brought Armagh level on the scoreboard at 0-5 apiece just after the half hour mark, with Barry O’Sullivan and Stefan Campbell adding a point each for their teams to make it 0-6 each at the break.
Early second half points from Greg McCabe and half time sub Conor Turbitt edged Armagh into a two-point lead, and it took until the 48th minute until Kerry were back on terms.
The teams were still level, 0-10 each, on the 70-minute mark – and both teams might have settled for a league point each at that stage – but Brosnan fired over the lead point for Kerry from near the sideline, and then Donal O’Sullivan fisted over Kerry’s 12th score four minutes later.
There was still time for that late Armagh chance, but O’Neill couldn’t keep his shot low enough to test a packed Kerry goal line, with Kerry leap-frogging the Orchard county on the Division One table, moving to four points and rekindling their chance of a successful title defence.
Scorers for Kerry: D Clifford 0-4 (4f), T Morley 0-1, P Murphy 0-1, B O’Sullivan 0-1, S O’Shea 0-1 (f), P Clifford 0-1 (f), D Roche 0-1, T Brosnan 0-1, D O’Sullivan 0-1
Scorers for Armagh: R O’Neill 0-4 (3f), J Og Burns 0-2, E Rafferty 0-1 (f), A Forker 0-1, G McCabe 0-1, S Campbell 0-1, C Turbitt 0-1
Kerry: Shane Ryan, Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan, Stefan Okunbor, Tadhg Morley, Paul Murphy, Jack Barry, Barry O’Sullivan, Dara Moynihan, Seán O’Shea, Adrian Spillane, Paudie Clifford, David Clifford, Darragh Roche.
Subs: Micheál Burns for A Spillane (47), Tony Brosnan for D Roche (50), Ruairi Murphy for P Clifford (63), Dónal O’Sullivan for D Moynihan (69).
Armagh: Ethan Rafferty, Paddy Burns, Aidan Forker, Greg McCabe, Conor O’Neill, Aaron McKay, Jarly Óg Burns; Ciaran Mackin, Callum Cumiskey, Andrew Murnin, Tiernan Kelly, Rian O’Neill, Stefan Campbell, Jason Duffy.
Subs: Joe McElroy for C O’Neill (temp, 22-), Conor Turbitt for T Kelly (HT), Ross McQuillan for S Campbell (55), Jemar Hall for C Cumiskey (63), Niall Grimley for C Macklin (73), Justin Kieran for A Forker (73).
Referee: James Molloy (Galway).