Munster SFC Final: Kerry cruise to emphatic victory:
Munster Senior Football Championship Final
Kerry 5-14 Clare 0-15
By Stephen Barry, TUS Gaelic Grounds
David and Paudie Clifford led Kerry to their third consecutive Munster SFC crown on an occasion tinged with tragedy a day after the passing of their mother Ellen.
Captain David lifted the Munster Cup to mark the Kingdom’s 84th provincial title after accumulating a personal tally of 2-6, with Paudie setting up one of those goals and adding another of his own.
Seán O’Shea accepted the man of the match award on David’s behalf after the full-time whistle.
Both players were warmly applauded by the 12,499 crowd when their names were announced in the team to start, with a minute’s silence observed before throw-in for the woman who would’ve taken great joy from seeing her sons win All-Irelands for county and club in the past year.
The highlight of the day arrived in the 32nd minute when the brothers combined for Kerry’s third goal. It was a moment of sibling telepathy, with Paudie pointing where he wanted his brother to run and David beating the keeper to the lofted pass.
The gap was 12 by the mark, 3-8 to 0-5, and game over.
Kerry advance into Group 1 of the All-Ireland series, where they will welcome Mayo to Killarney in a fortnight’s time before facing Cork (away) and the Leinster final runners-up (neutral venue).
Their only worry arising from this result was full-back Jason Foley limping off in the final minute.
Clare go into Group 4, where they will meet Donegal (home), Monaghan (away), and the Ulster champions (neutral venue).
Dylan Casey came in for the injured Paul Murphy and was handed the tough task of marking Eoin Cleary on his first Championship start. He did most of his early work heading towards the opposition goal, however.
He fisted their opening point and was Kerry’s nearest man to the target, swooping into the full-forward position, to set up their first goal in the 15th minute. Tony Brosnan played the give-and-go and applied the dummy-hop finish.
Four minutes later, Kerry had another. Wonderful kick passes over and back from Brosnan and Paul Geaney (who assisted 1-3 in the opening half) crafted the opening for Dara Moynihan to capitalise.
Clare, in their first final since 2012, had to wait 24 minutes for their first score from play, via the dangerous yet isolated Keelan Sexton, but the Banner were kicking away the match with misdirected passes and shots.
It was Ciarán Russell’s turnover that was clinically punished by the Clifford clan for Kerry’s third.
David could’ve had another in the opening minutes but Jerome Henry didn’t allow the advantage as he slotted to the net, while Paudie prevented Clare’s best chance with a penalty-box interception.
A Stephen Ryan free and Emmet McMahon closed to gap to 10, 3-8 to 0-7, at the halfway mark.
Ronan Lanigan came on as part of a half-time double sub and he had Clare’s first goal chance soon after, set up by Russell, but Shane Ryan saved his punched effort.
He made an even more impressive save when one-on-one with Pádraic Collins in the 43rd minute. By then, Kerry already had their fourth goal.
Another David Clifford reverse run caught out Clare full-back Cillian Brennan. Tom O’Sullivan supplied the pass and Clifford rifled to the far corner.
In the 44th minute, they had their fifth. It came from a Casey turnover, Diarmuid O’Connor switched defence to attack, and Seán O’Shea teed up Paudie Clifford who slipped the ball inside the near post.
It was 5-9 to 0-8 by this juncture and all that remained to be decided was the margin of victory.
It ended up at 14, with captain Cleary adding four points in defeat, while Geaney and O’Shea completed the set of six Kerry forwards making it onto the scoresheet.
Scorers for Kerry: David Clifford 2-6 (0-4f); Dara Moynihan, Tony Brosnan 1-1 each; Paudie Clifford 1-0; Seán O’Shea 0-2 (1 45); Dylan Casey, Gavin White, Paul Geaney, Killian Spillane 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: Eoin Cleary 0-6 (4f); Emmet McMahon 0-4 (2f); Stephen Ryan (2f), Keelan Sexton 0-2; Ciarán Russell 0-1.
Kerry: Shane Ryan; Tom O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Dylan Casey; Graham O’Sullivan, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White; Diarmuid O’Connor, Jack Barry; Dara Moynihan, Seán O’Shea, Paudie Clifford; Tony Brosnan, David Clifford, Paul Geaney.
Subs: Killian Spillane for Geaney (51), Brian Ó Beaglaioch for T O’Sullivan (51), Stephen O’Brien for Moynihan (51), Barry Dan O’Sullivan for Barry (60), Mike Breen for G O’Sullivan (60).
Clare: Stephen Ryan; Cillian Rouine, Cillian Brennan, Manus Doherty; Ciarán Russell, Jamie Malone, Daniel Walsh; Cathal O’Connor, Darren O’Neill; Pearse Lillis, Emmet McMahon, Dermot Coughlan; Eoin Cleary, Keelan Sexton, Pádraic Collins.
Subs: Ronan Lanigan for Doherty (HT), Brian McNamara for O’Connor (h-t), Gavin Cooney for Coughlan (48), Ikem Ugwueru for O’Neill (59), Cian O’Dea for Collins (59).
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo).