Goals from John Crowley and Eoin Brosnan (1-03) in either half helped Kerry to a predictable 2-10 to 0-09 win over Clare in their Munster SFC first round clash at Cusack Park. Left full-forward Mike Frank Russell was in impressive form, and his run of four scores from the eighth to the 28 minutes proved one of the bright sparks in a stop-start performance.
Clare, but for some wayward shooting, might have run them closer. However, a Munster semi-final against neighbours Cork is sure to sharpen green-and-gold minds. Odran O'Dwyer put the Banner men into the lead after two-and-a-half minutes - for the only time in the game. Brosnan combined well with Crowley, who hit the back of the Clare net two minutes later to edge Kerry in front.
Russell claimed his first of two frees on seven minutes and had Kerry 1-04 to 0-01 in front before namesake Denis Russell pulled one back for Clare on the half-hour from 30 metres following five wides.
Denis Russell added another in injury-time, left-footed from an acute angle, but that only served to awaken Kerry from their slumber. with Colin Cooper and Brosnan quickly tapping the visitors into a six-point half-time lead.
By then, Michael Meade had to be called in to replace referee Gerry Kinneavy who had been injured following a tenth minute collision between the Roscommon official and a number of players. The stricken whistle blower required five stitches to his head wound, but he returned to his duties in the second half.
Mike Frank Russell pinged over his fifth points two minutes after the restart, but Clare sparked a little revival in their fortunes as David and Denis Russell grabbed two points in as many minutes.
They were scoreless for the next 12 minutes as Colin Mullan was next to raise a white flag in the 55th minute for the Banner. Kerry's Russell and Brosnan (0-02) had added three more points by that stage. Then, following a mix-up in the Clare rearguard, forward Brosnan claimed a fortunate second goal on 57 minutes.
Clare did score the final three points with Evan Talty, Mullan and Michael O'Dwyer scoring on 60, 67 and 69 minutes, but the spoils were Kerry's.
Former All-star and current Kerry selector Ger O'Keeffe knows bigger challenges lie ahead. "It was far from convincing from us," he explained, "but it was one of those days, maybe we were a bit flat from the league campaign. With Clare, we knew we had to be careful.
"They played defensively and were difficult to break down but it was just about getting through for us today."
Scorers - Clare: Denis Russell 0-03, C Mullan 0-02, O O'Dwyer, M O'Dwyer, E Talty, David Russell 0-01 each. Kerry: E Brosnan 1-03, MF Russell 0-06, J Crowley 1-00, C Cooper 0-01.
Clare: D O'Brien; P Gallagher, C Whelan, K Dilleen; N Griffin, B Considine, R Slattery; David Russell, D O'Sullivan; G Quinlan, Denis Russell, O O'Dwyer; C Mullan, E Coughlan, S O'Meara.
Kerry: D Murphy; T O’Sullivan, M McCarthy, A O’Mahony; T Ó Sé, E Fitzmaurice, S Moynihan; D Ó Sé, W Kirby; P Galvin, D O’Sullivan, E Brosnan; C Cooper, J Crowley, MF Russell.
Filed by Aidan O'Doherty