Shane Stapleton reflects on the Division 1 National Football League clash between Galway and Kerry at Pearse Stadium.
Galway 1-13 Kerry 0-14
BY SHANE STAPLETON
Given their wizardry in the 2021 All-Ireland SFC final, we would have been forgiven for expecting another stellar shootout between Shane Walsh and David Clifford.
Since then, the two maestros have claimed senior and junior All-Ireland club titles respectively, and perhaps it was too much to expect them to continue producing.
Galway won the game and will contest the league final against Mayo, the Kingdom will bide their time before striding into the Munster final, and their fireworks may be kept for later in the season.
Damien Comer made a welcome return at Pearse Stadium, though you might aks in what other sport — other than rugby, perhaps — you might see a player’s leg so heavily bandaged and being allowed into action. An odd sight, and the cautionary wrapping suggests there may have been some risk to his appearance.
Still, the bull of the Galway attack got through it unscathed, while an own goal from Kerry’s Shane Murphy, Walsh frees, and myriad other scorers helped get the job done for the hosts.
Much of what we saw from Kerry in the first half hinted at persistent issues from throughout the league campaign.
David Clifford hit two wides early doors, spilled a simple bouncing ball, and then directed a handpass to nobody — once more begging the question if he has been returned to the side too soon after extended club duty.
Nevertheless, he created four scoring chances, with one inside handpass to Tom O’Sullivan almost setting up a goal — albeit the defender couldn’t quite get to the ball at the first time of asking.
Galway had a great goal chance in the opening minute when Johnny Heaney shot low, but netminder Murphy was equal to it.
Walsh converted a free that he had won, John Daly slapped over another, while Matthew Tierney began to make an impact.
Paudie Clifford got on the end of a long kickout on ten minutes, played the ball to Tony Brosnan, who stood up a defender before playing a kick pass into space for his teammate to get onto.
Clifford drew a save from Bernard Power, and Galway got out of jail.
Tierney caught a high ball minutes later and was crowded out as he looked to slot the ball home, before Paudie Clifford and O’Sullivan hit points for Kerry.
The teams traded scores for Galway to lead 0-7 to 0-5 before an error allowed Galway score the opening goal.
A dropping shot from Paul Conroy gave goalkeeper Murphy an opportunity to collect on his goalline, but he collided with the frame of the goal and spilled into his own net.
Gavin White and a David Clifford free brought Kerry back to within three — 1-7 to 0-7 — at the interval and a couple of Sean O’Shea scores pared the deficit back to one on 38 minutes.
Cathal Sweeney and Comer found the range for the Tribe to reestablish daylight, with Kerry’s continuing paucity in front of goal ultimately costing them.
Paudie Clifford was blocked down by Conroy when he unleashed a goalbound shot on 46 minutes, and then later on O’Shea was denied by Power with just three points between the sides.
Jack O’Connnor, of course, has bigger fish to fry but losing is a habit he will not want his team learning.
Padraic Joyce was delighted with how his side closed the game out and felt a “couple of good young lads have proved they can play at this level”, which bodes well ahead of their Connacht campaign.