If Jerry Seinfeld had the show in New York about nothing, then this was the game in New York about nothing.
Both of these sides are in the senior football semifinals next week. Both couldn’t change who they are due to play, and both went about their business with the least amount of chances for a silly red card, an injury or anything that would influence their team list for next Sunday’s games.
Kerry will meet Monaghan as the one seed versus four and will start, I would adjudge, as 1/5 favorites while Leitrim will play Cork in the second semi which is a pick em for the betting man.
Leitrim ran out one point winners in this encounter by jumping into a six point lead at the break and sustaining it, just about, at the end. Granted Kerry did score the last 1-2 with the goal a rebound that took a while to fathom who got to it first.
Leitrim had a 0-2 to 0-1 lead after seven minutes when Seanie Furlong got the touch to a dropping Mike Jim Fitzgerald’s long ball to just about force it to the net for their first lead. Robbie Moran added to it with a point, but then Shane Moran had a three pointer at the other end with a looping drive that deceived all and snuck under the crossbar for a fortunate goal.
James Mitchell swapped Damien Moran and Paddy Kelly with 12 minutes gone, and it almost immediately started to pay dividends. Both were on the score sheet with points that cancelled out scores from Furlong, a free, and Moran for Kerry.
Shane Moran made it a 1-5 to 1-4 before Furlong tied it up for the third time with a lovely score from play when Niall Farrell was involved in the buildup.
It was still level with seven minutes left in the half when Leitrim exploded. Shane Moran had a running point from play which was followed by a goal of the season contender from big Brian O’Connor. He soloed directly down the middle and crashed a bullet in the top left corner with keeper Ross Wherity powerless.
Both Morans added to the total with scores to give the side a 2-8 to 1-5 interval lead.
Kerry had one of their best periods of the game in the opening minutes of the second half. It was the Furlong and PJ Banville show as the Wexford native had now arrived off the bench.
Both sides had two points to open the half before Farrell was pulled down for a penalty as he tried to round his marker and head for goal. Banville made no mistake as he calmly stroked his shot to the left corner.
When Furlong added a point from a free the Leitrim lead was down to two, 2-10 to 2-8. Mitchell’s side reacted strong with the defense putting the harness on the Kerry attack for an extended period. Mike Creegan in his second game and Gallagher all had pivotal roles, while the forward line added four points to their total to stretch the lead to six.
Three of the four scores were gems, with O’Connor driving on the run from distance, Nicky Joyce turning back the clock with a score while falling back due to a late tackle and Eoghan Carew lofting a 50 yard free over off the turf.
Huvane and Joyce again swapped frees and Leitrim were still ahead by six with six minutes left. One last swell of heroics for Kerry yielded 1-2 with a Wherity shot, (he was out the field for the second half) coming back off the cross bar and Furlong finishing the rebound to the net. It came with seconds remaining, however, and Leitrim had survived the game about nothing.
The Morans, Brian O’Connor, Paddy Kelly and Eoghan Carew all look playoff ready, and they will give Cork a lot to think about in the next four days.
For Kerry, McCarten, Fitzgerald, Moran and Furlong all performed well. Banville in a cameo also was prominent.
Leitrim: 1 Connor Skeffington, 2 Mike Creegan, 3 Nathan Breen, 4 Lonan Maguire, 5 Cian Maher, 6 Ronan Gallagher, 7 Ronan O’Flaherty, 8 Brian O’Connor (1-1), 9 Damien Moran (0-3), 10 Keith Quinn, 11 Shane Moran (1-5), 12 Ciaran Brennan, 13 Nicky Joyce (0-3), 14 Paddy Kelly (0-1), 15 Eoghan Carew (0-2). Subs: Andy Gray, Brian Fahey.
Kerry: 1 Ross Wherity (0-1), 2 Ronan McLoughlin, 3 Kieran O’Connor, 4 James Huvane (0-1), 5 Sean Kelly, 6 Anthony Sweeney, 7 Ger McCarten, 8 Mike Fitzgerald, 9 Colm Kehoe, 10 Keelan Hickey, 11 Niall Farrell, 12 Dan Cahalane, 13 Robbie Moran (0-2), 14 Sean Furlong (2-4), 15 Gary O’Driscoll (0-1). Subs: PJ Banville (1-2), John Curran.
Man of the match: Shane Moran (Leitrim).
Referee: Peter McCormack .