The huge difference in the senior football contest on Sunday’s Gaelic Park card was the speed at which the teams moved the ball into their forwards.
Kerry did it quickly and converted the frees they received when fouled. Cavan didn’t, which resulted in a full forward line that was starved of possession. Despite a furious Cavan comeback attempt, Kerry was able to easily hold on to their four point lead from the half and take the win.
The sides swapped four points in the opening of the first half. Frees accounted for the first three, two by Kevin Smith for Cavan, a Kevin Walsh special off the ground for Kerry. Tomo Smith had the fourth after he was introduced for an injured Dermie Foley.
The free takers Walsh and Smith again matched each other but as the half wound down, Kerry had a huge break. The ball was worked to the left side of the half forward line. They won a free and worked the ball quickly. Alan O’Donoghue chipped a perfect ball into the path of Walsh, and as the Cavan keeper advanced the wing forward flicked it to the empty net.
O’Donoghue followed with a point from play with a tremendous drive and Kerry had a four point interval lead, 1-4 to 0-3.
Kerry added to their lead with three of the first four points of the second half. Ross Donovan had a pair both from wide on the right side and from distance. Barry McGinn scored the Cavan reply when he was set free by Paddy McCullough who went on a long solo run before slotting over.
Cavan made an attempt at a comeback, and it started with a goal chance. The ball was worked into the right corner where it looked to be lost. Kevin Smith salvaged it and then set a speculative shot across the goal. Paddy Smith got a touch to it to send it goal wards, but Shane Clifford reacted brilliantly to stop it reaching its destination.
Stephen Harold did add to their total when he was at the end of a six-player move, and this was followed by a Kevin Smith free. It meant it was again a four point Kerry lead, 1-7 to 0-6.
With 10 minutes left on the clock Cavan had a glorious chance to get even closer. Brian McCarthy was set free on the 50. He soloed hard on goal and as he approached the 14 he released a thunderbolt. It went screaming wide, however, and was a huge let off for Kerry.
Kevin Smith had a wide but so did Walsh at the other end before Walshie pointed a free for what was a very easy free, indeed a forwards foul.
Kerry was made to sweat as the final seven minutes arrived. A long ball from Harold found Kevin Smith behind the full back line. Smith, who was now stationed at full forward, flicked to Gearoid McCarthy, but his shot was brilliantly saved by Clifford. The rebound fell to Smith, however, and he drove the rolling ball to the net.
Cavan attacked again, but timely clearances saved Kerry and they were able to move forward and kick a pair of clinching points to again put four between the sides as the final whistle sounded.
Kerry had quite a few heroes in the win. Shane Clifford made a couple of very important stops. Dermot Lyng, Eoghan O’Mahoney and Niall Corbett all had good moments at the back. Ambrose O’Donovan had a huge contribution in the middle, while Kevin Walsh, Ross Donovan, who had his best display in a while, and Alan O’Donavan all excelled.
Cavan have their second loss of the year, one on the field, one in the courtroom. Paul Lambe was lost to injury which was huge, although his replacement Ronan Fitzsimmons did well. Kevin Cardin and Denis McCarthy were the best of the backs. Paddy McCullough the best of the midfielders.
Justin O’Halloran covered a lot of ground while Kevin Smith did a lot of work. The two McCarthys did not get half enough of ball and thus were far too silent.
Cavan: 1 Maurice Power, 2 Paul Lambe, 3 Alan Carolan, 4 Kieran Martin, 5 Ronan McGinley, 6 Kevin Cardin, 7 Denis McCarthy, 8 Stephen Harold (0-1), 9 Paddy McCullough, 10 Barry McGinn (0-1), 11 Kevin Smith (1-4), 12 Paddy Smith, 13 Brian McCarthy, 14 Justin O’Halloran, 15 Gearoid McCarthy. Subs: Ronan Fitzsimons.
Kerry: 1 Shane Clifford, 2 Darren Courtney, 3 Paul McGill, 4 Anthony Glacken, 5 Dermot Lyng, 6 Eoghan O’Mahoney, 7 Niall Corbett, 8 Mike Jim Fitzgerald, 9 Ambrose O’Donovan, 10 Kevin Walsh (1-4), 11 Ross Donovan (0-3), 12 Vinnie Gavin, 13 Alan O’Donoghue (0-2), 14 Dermie Foley, 15 Darren Moore. Sub: Paddy Smith (0-1), Brian O’Connor.
Man of the match: Ambrose O’Donovan (Kerry).
Referee: Dean O’Connor.