Result: Kerry 2-14 Cavan 0-11
The reigning New York County senior football champions will not give their title up without a battle. Kerry set down a marker with their first victory as they introduced a number of new players and didn’t miss a beat with what ended as a very easy win.
The winners had seven different scorers, with main man Gary O’Driscoll in midseason form while veteran Robbie Moran also had a very good contribution to the win.
Most pleasing to new Kerry manager Niall Moran must have been the form of Donegal native Ross Wherity, who was dynamic in his first outing.
Kerry dominated the first half when they finally settled after Cavan had jumped out into a 0-2 lead. The Breffni boys had the first after 20 seconds from the very lively Sean Dalton, the second a Richie Morgan free five minutes in.
When Kerry settled, they dominated with the intuitive play of Wherity, Dan Calihane and John Curran all essential contributors to the resurgence. O’Driscoll punched their first score, a goal after a four player move that had as its foundation a long solo run up the middle by Wherity, the former Donegal panelist.
Two points followed before sub Anthony Sweeney had their second three pointer 12 minutes in with a low drive to the net when Moran set him free in the middle of the danger zone.
Kerry had four further points to their total with O’Driscoll, the New York vice-captain, grabbing two as well as hitting the upright.
Cavan were clutching for straws, with the only highlights thus far the form of Dalton and Tommy Warburton who both had strong thrusts moving forward. Kerry sat on a 2-6 to 0-4 lead as the break arrived.
Cavan had a far better performance in the second half from a scoring standpoint. They lost the period 0-8 to 0-7, but as that reflects Kerry were able to reply to everything positive that Cavan generated.
Kerry extended the lead to open the stanza with scores from Wherity, a towering effort, and Moran before Harry Silke and Brian Thornton replied at the other end. Silke in fact should have had more but his screamer sailed over the lathe.
Kerry had three of the next four points, but a critical factor was now the deep play of Wherity who was back in his own half back line at times, a ploy that had huge dividends for the winners.
Conor Hogan and Ronan McGinley when he scampered forward added minors, but again Kerry were easily able to respond with Mike Jim Fitzgerald and Dan Calihane doing a lot of good work to negate advances by their opponents and also setting up attacks for the winners.
Wherity added his third point before he received his second yellow with just minutes left with a beautiful chip shot from distance, and Cavan replied with the last two scores from Morgan and McGinley again, but they just helped to close the margin to a more respectable level.
For Kerry, Conor Ryan did a good job filling in for Jer O’Sullivan. He had a number of balls that he gathered comfortably and released to his defenders. Conor McCormick was a quiet assassin as a defender and gave nothing away with a commanding performance.
Curran and McCarten showed flashes of what is to come, while Fitzgerald was commanding in the middle. A calming influence, he had Ross Wherity in his mist numerous times and both complemented each other continuously.
Wherity is the real deal, but it remains to be seen if he can upset Mayo on the big day. He did get involved with the ref for no real reason it seemed and received his two yellows deservedly but a little alarmingly if you are a manager.
Niall Farrell was a live wire, while O’Driscoll and Moran both shot the ball very well, with the New York vice-captain in top form.
Cavan will ask what now at the drawing board. A number of new players didn’t respond on day one, but it is only day one.
Ronan McGinley battled hard throughout and his scores were top notch. Tommy Warburton and Michael Hallissey both had strong points. The wing back in the first half Sean Dalton was very lively, showing for his own kickouts and also popping a couple of scores. Otherwise the forward line was far too quiet and missed Eoin Ward.
Cavan: 1 Gavin Joyce, 2 Ronan McGinley (0-2), 3 Ciaran Shields, 4 Alan Carolan, 5 Conor Hogan (0-1), 6 Liam Fleming, 7 Tommy Warburton, 8 Michael Hallissey, 9 Michael Reilly, 10 Fergal Ellis, 11 Brian Thorton (0-2), 12 Sean Dalton (0-2), 13 Richie Morgan (0-3), 14 Harry Silke (0-1), 15 Shane Hogan.
Kerry: 1 Conor Ryan, 2 Ronan McLoughlin, 3 Conor McCormick, 4 James Huvane, 5 Ger McCarton (0-1), 6 Kieran O’Connor, 7 John Curran, 8 Mike Fitzgerald, 9 Sean Kelly, 10 Dan Calihane, 11 Ross Wherity (0-3), 12 Niall Farrell (0-1), 13 Robbie Moran (0-4), 14 Gary O’Driscoll (1-3), 15 Donal Hartnett (0-1). Subs: Anthony Sweeney (1-1).
Man of the match: Ross Wherity (Kerry).
Referee: John Fitzpatrick.