Kerry were comfortable 1-17 to 1-11 winners over Derry today in Croke Park as they booked their place in the Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Fooball Championship final.
It looked like Derry might provide a sterner challenge to Kerry when an Enda Muldoon goal had, at least until the end of the first half, sparked Mickey Moran’s men into life. Indeed, the Oak Leaf men only trailed the favourites by a point at the break – 0-8 to 1-4.
However, Derry’s over-reliance on Muldoon and Paddy Bradley up front soon began to tell and the movement, passing and finishing of Colm Cooper and substitute Mike Frank Russell gradually saw the Kingdom pull away on the scoreboard.
A late Declan O’Sullivan goal put the result beyond doubt, although Derry did manage some late consolation points from Paddy Bradley, Conleth Gilligan and Fergal Doherty to put a more respectable appearance on their score.
For most of the game, however, Kerry had looked much better than their six-point winning margin might suggest, making them favourites to beat Mayo in next month’s decider.
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor, though, will be hoping that Darragh Ó Sé will be available for that September 26 final. Ó Sé was replaced by Russell in the 22nd minute after suffering an ankle injury.
Scores from Darragh Ó Sé, Dara Ó Cinnéide (0-01 –f) and Colm 'Gooch' Cooper (0-02) had pushed Kerry into a 0-04 to 0-01 lead after the first ten minutes - Derry's score coming from the boot of Paddy Bradley.
Although Kerry were in the lead, they were missing a lot of chances – Ó Cinnéide missed a very kickable free-kick in the fifth minute, then a gilt-edged goal chance was missed when Declan O'Sullivan failed to collect what seemed like a very catchable high ball.
This profligacy would come back to haunt them in the 14th minute when Muldoon picked up the ball in front of the Kerry goal. The ball was slapped out of his hands but not collected by the Kerry backs so Muldoon picked it up again and, with his back still to goal, was spun around by Marc Ó Sé and pushed in the direction of goal before drilling the ball home.
Paddy Bradley then stepped up to shoot over two points to give Derry the lead.
Further misery was heaped on Kerry when Darragh Ó Sé limped off the pitch having injured his ankle in a collision with Johnny McBride.
The Kingdom were not out, though. Gooch Cooper stepped up to kick a point for Kerry before Paddy Bradley cancelled it out for the Ulster side. Then another Gooch point was followed by scores by William Kirby, Tomás Ó Sé and Paul Galvin putting the Kingdom back in the ascendancy on a scoreline of 0-08 to 1-04 as the teams went in at half-time.
Kerry came out in the second half intent on putting Derry away. And they did so with clinical precision. After a bad miss from Paul Galvin, Eoin Brosnan split the posts for his first score. The miss/score pattern was repeated minutes later when Russell's hands let him down in front of goal before Tomás Ó'Sé pointed, leaving the score standing at 0-10 to 1-04.
Points from Russell, Dara Ó Cinnéide, Russell again and Gooch Cooper put them ahead by six points with Derry nowhere near the side that had Kerry on the ropes in the first half.
During that period of Kerry scores, Derry had made all five of their allowed substitutions and Paddy Bradley had missed two kickable frees in the space of a minute. With morale low and Derry kicking increasingly desperate long balls, Kerry looked to have the game won well before the end.
It wasn't until the 58th minute that Paul McFlynn pointed Derry's first score of the second half.
Kerry were still very much in charge. Gooch had shaken off an earlier injury to receive the ball and bear down on goal before his drilled shot ricocheted off the bar and over for a point.
A Paddy Bradley free for the Ulster men was followed by brilliant scores from Gooch and Kerry sub Paddy Kelly. Then the Munster men got a goal they hardly needed when Declan O'Sullivan practically wrestled his way along the endline before tapping the ball in with two men hanging from him.
Most Derry fans had left the ground and therefore missed Derry's final flourish in the closing minutes as Conleth Gilligan (0-02), Paddy Bradley, Fergal Doherty all pointed to at least reduce Kerry's victory margin.
Earlier, Kerry also advanced to the minor decider, beating Laois on a 1-10 to 1-8 scoreline.
Filed by Barry J Whyte