A below-par Kerry side secured their place in the Munster Football Final with an unimpressive 1-15 to 0-10 win over a determined Limerick team in Killarney this afternoon. Although the reigning champions enjoyed a comfortable victory by the end of this intriguing encounter, at one stage in the second half they led by a mere three points from their less illustrious opponents.
The All-Ireland winners took a while to get going and led by just two points after the first fifteen minutes of the game. Their opening score came after three minutes through corner-forward John Crowley, and they should have had a goal minutes later only Limerick keeper Alan Kitson made a magnificent save to deny Mike Frank Russell, who was particularly impressive this afternoon.
The sides were level a few minutes later when centre-back Stephen Lucey, one of Limerick's Under-21 stars from last year's campaign, put the ball between the posts from 40-yards. However, Russell put Kerry back on top with points in the 12th and 14th minutes but Limerick continued to battle hard and reduced the gap through Michael Reidy.
However, Kerry suddenly burst into life and it looked as if the champions would run away with this tie before it even reached half-time. Dara Ó Cinnéide, Russell and Maurice Fitzgerald added to Kerry's tally to give them a 0-07 to 0-02 lead. But a gritty Limerick team were not going to give up that easily and corner forward Colm Hickey and midfielder John Quane reduced the gap to three points before Kerry extended their lead with points from Dara Ó Sé and a Fitzgerald free just before the interval.
After the break, matters remained finely balanced with Kerry leading by just 0-11 to 0-08 fifteen minutes into the second period after Limerick hit back with points from all over the pitch, including half-back Conor Mullane and full-back Diarmuid Sheedy. However, Kerry made several changes to their team, bringing off Donal Daly and Fitzgerald, who scored 0-3, and minutes later, the subsitutions proved incisive when the All-Ireland champions scored the only goal of the game. Mike Frank Russell made a blistering run in from the wing to blast the ball past Kitson and signal the start of Kerry's period of dominance.
Points followed from Noel Kennelly, Crowley, Russell and substitute William Kirby to ensure Kerry will have the opportunity to defend their Munster title against either Cork or Clare.
Filed by Amanda Fennelly