Kerry are back in the New York senior final going for two in a row after a victory that, while it took a while to close out, was never in question.
Changing a four point interval lead into a 15 point winning margin tells the tale of their dominance that can be found in the brilliant play of PJ Banville, Ross Wherity and Sean Furlong.
Another leading factor was the loss through injury of Monaghan’s Kevin Smith late in the first half; he was having a brilliant opening and was leading his side by example. On his enforced retirement, his effect and influence was never replaced.
Kerry opened with a point from Wherity after 90 seconds, and they followed with a Furlong score moments later. Gary White had Monaghan’s opener after a long run, but Kerry answered with two of the next three from Banville and Gary O’Driscoll and were already dictating play. The forwards were moving well with the center line of Banville and Furlong particularly impressive.
Monaghan had two James Connolly scores in response, but it was to be one of their few highlights of the afternoon. With 13 minutes on the clock, Kerry threw the first dagger. It came when a long ball from Furlong dropped in the square and Wherity got the important touch to redirect to the net. Granted keeper Alan Hearty complained vociferously on the legality of the score, but it was to give the Kingdom a three point lead.
Both sides added a point to their total in the next 13 minutes with the defenses dominating. Smith was constantly showing for Monaghan as a link man, tackler and leader, and his effect was infectious. They were believing.
Kerry did have four wides and added a Banville score with three minutes left in the half, but they were being made to fight. It was in the last moments that Monaghan lost Smith which was to prove devastating. We wish him well in his recovery from what appeared to be an ankle injury.
With Kerry holding a 1-6 to 0-5 lead the second half opened and the game closed. Points from Furlong, Robbie Moran, Banville and then a Furlong goal when he reacted impressively to a Wherity dropping ball increased the lead to 10 and the half was just 3:45 old.
It stopped at that time for close to 20 minutes when Ger McCarten was injured and had to be stretched off; we wish him a speedy recovery. The game was over as a contest despite the best efforts of Monaghan.
Paul Lambe joined the attack with a point, but Jer O’Sullivan stopped a Paul McArdle low shot to quell an attack and again Kerry attacked. Six of the next eight scores were Kerrygold, with the first a Furlong goal after a raging full field move that involved half the side.
Willie Mulhall had a brace in the mix as he arrived off the bench. Indeed such was the amount of subs that were introduced, they had trouble removing players in time and the ref’s attention was brought to the fact that at one juncture 16 Kerry men were on the field. Had enough to beat 15 at a time says you!! Order was restored and Monaghan saved some face with points from O’Callaghan and Caulfield to close out the tie.
Kerry will go into the county final as favorites based on this display. Huvane, McLoughlin, Sweeney and O’Connor were all impressive at the back. The number six is a quality player with great distribution skills.
After Smith’s enforced retirement Mike Jim Fitzgerald came alive in the middle. Niall Farrell did a lot of good ball carrying and created a number of chances. Banville, Furlong and Wherity are all match winners in their own right.
Manager Niall Moran will have his hands full in selecting his starting lineout in the final as he has seven quality starters vying for six slots, as Willie Mulhall did his chances no harm at all on his introduction.
For Monaghan the gulf between intermediate and senior was plain to see. Lambe, Farhan, White and McArdle tried hard, and Smith was excellent.
There was a moment of silence prior to the start of the game for Kerry corner back Conor McCormack’s father who passed away over the weekend in Ireland. May he rest in peace.
Monaghan: 1 Alan Hearty, 2 Paul Lambe (0-1), 3 Mike O’Regan, 4 Fergal Malone, 5 Paul Farhan, 6 Sean Kelly, 7 Fergal McPhillips, 8 Kevin Connolly, 9 Kevin Smith, 10 Gary White (0-2), 11 Liam Deane, 12 Emmitt Caulfield (0-2), 13 Paul McArdle (0-1), 14 James Connolly (0-3), 15 Ross McKenna. Subs: Caoimhe O’Callaghan (0-1), Bonnie Duffy, Brendan Finn, Dave Harvey.
Kerry: 1 Ross Wherity (0-1), 2 Ronan McLoughlin, 3 Kieran O’Connor, 4 James Huvane, 5 Ger McCarten, 6 Anthony Sweeney, 7 John Curran, 8 Mike Fitzgerald, 9 Colm Kehoe, 10 Niall Farrell, 11 PJ Banville (0-5), 13 Robbie Moran (0-2), 14 Sean Furlong (2-2), 15 Gary O’Driscoll (0-3). Subs: Sean Kelly, Willie Mulhall (0-2), Paul Kelly.
Man of the match: PJ Banville (Kerry).
Referee: Sean Jones.