Kerry made sure they did not have to entertain Cork in a playoff by overpowering Cavan in the second half of the last group game of the senior football championship. They now move on to face Donegal in the semifinal on September 22, while Cavan will have to regroup quickly with Leitrim on the horizon on Sunday. The final score was Kerry 3-16, Cavan 1-9.
The contest was never close after Kerry burst out the gate with a 2-2 salvo in the opening eight minutes, but a dominating final period when they outscored their opponents 1-8 to 0-3 made sure that no surprises would arrive.
Paul O'Donoghue was the star of the contest and he did not wait to get started, with the two goals in the opening minutes both coming from his boot.
He had the first five minutes in when Niall Farrell and Paul Atkinson linked to set him up. After a Robbie Moran score, the corner forward had his second when Gary O'Driscoll was involved. They were a dual thorn in the side of the Breffni lads as they constantly caused problems.
After an O'Donoghue point, Kevin Conlon opened the Cavan account with a free before Eoin Ward gave them life when he soloed through the heart of the defense before striking a low drive to the net.
After Kerry answered with a point Cavan had a second goal chance when Conor Cosgrove got a flick to a dropping ball in the square. Ger O'Sullivan was down sharply to stop the flick with Kieran O'Connor cleaning up the dangerous rebound.
Marty Carey and Conlon for Cavan swapped points with O'Driscoll, but things were going far smoother for the winners as Damien O'Connor, John Curran and Sean Kelly dominated in the half back line.
A three-point burst for Kerry extended their lead to 2-7 to 1-3 as they used quick inside passes to set up scoring opportunities. Cavan did have three of the final four points of the half but were expending a lot of energy to create chances.
One of their brightest forwards, Eoin Ward, was also down injured for a moment which was to prove a running theme.
Both sides had points in the opening six minutes of the second half, but that was to be the last bastion for Cavan. In the four minutes between the 11th and 15th minutes Kerry killed the contest off.
Mike Jim Fitzgerald, O'Donoghue, Atkinson and O'Donoghue again tallied points, then O'Connor stormed down the field to help the attack and took an O'Driscoll pass before firing to the net.
On the resulting kickout Cavan moved the ball quickly to the forward line with a long through ball going over the last line and falling perfectly for Richie Morgan. He carried forward before releasing a low drive that went agonizingly wide of the goalie's right post. It was to prove to be their last chance at redemption.
Three further Kerry points were added but more importantly, the staunch defending of Curran, the O'Connors and Ronan McLoughlin that kept the game in Kerry's hands. Cavan had two consolation scores at the death but they were purely cosmetic.
The Kingdom will be delighted with the form of Ger O'Sullivan. His save was timely and his kickouts both short and long were impressive. The defense was never really in trouble with Kieran O'Connor, Kelly, and the lively Curran all impressing. Fitzgerald came into the game in the second half while Paddy Kelly also started to show in the later stages, although his battle with Mike Reilly was a draw.
Gary O'Driscoll, Paul O'Donoghue and Paul Atkinson were all extremely dangerous. The two-headed monster of the O's will be very hard to defend on this form moving forward.
Cavan will need to regroup quickly. Marty Carey, Sean Kelly and the battling Reilly all had positive moments, while Eoin Ward was having a marked effect dropping deep but was a loss when he had to go off injured.
Kerry: 1 Ger Sullivan, 2 Ronan McLoughlin, 3 Kieran O'Connor (1-0), 4 James Huvane, 5 Sean Kelly, 6 Damien O'Connor, 7 John Curran, 8 Mike Jim Fitzpatrick (0-1), 9 Paddy Kelly, 10 Niall Farrell (0-1), 11 Gary O'Driscoll (0-5), 12 Keith Quinn (0-1), 13 Paul Atkinson (0-2), 14 Robbie Moran (0-1), 15 Paul O'Donoghue (2-5).
Cavan: 1 Gavin Joyce, 2 Ronan McGinley, 3 Mike O'Regan, 4 Mike Holahan, 5 Dan King, 6 Ciaran Shields, 7 Marty Carey, 8 Sean Kelly, 9 Mike Reilly, 10 Conor Cosgrove, 11 Eoin Ward, 12 Kevin Conlon, 13 Richie Morgan, 14 Eamonn McEvoy, 15 James Connolly.
Man of the match: Paul O'Donoghue (Kerry).
Referee: Alan Hearty.
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?