Kerry 1-15 Clare 0-12
Kerry were forced to endure a nervy finish before eventually seeing off the challenge of Clare in this Munster SFC semi-final.
Clare boss Colm Collins rang the changes for this tie with captain Gary Brennan deployed at centre-forward while Sean O’Donoghue was placed at midfield and Darragh Bohannon given the full-forward duties.
Kerry owned the first half and even though they led 1-09 to 0-03 at the short-whistle, they really should have been further clear.
Three goal chances had been missed before James O’Donoghue sent a bullet to the bottom corner after 33 minutes, a score that sent Kerry 1-08 to 0-02 ahead.
Heavy rain in Ennis led to slippy conditions with handling errors rife, but the Kingdom adapted best to race 0-03 to 0-00 in front inside the opening ten minutes.
David Moran opened the scoring before Kerry almost got in for a green flag, but a scrambling O’hAinifein denied Stephen O’Brien as he cleared off the line.
That trend repeated itself when Paul Geaney slotted Kerry’s second and moments later Sean O’Shea saw his effort cannon back off the post with David Clifford reacting quickest to split the posts.
Geaney tried his luck from a tight angle but saw his effort clip the post before going wide. Peter Keane’s charges lost David Moran to a black card after 16 minutes, and the home side got off the mark from a David Tubridy free.
The reprieve was short-lived as Kerry responded with four unanswered scores as two frees from Sean O’Shea along with scores from Diarmuid O’Connor and Clifford moved them into a commanding position with 30 minutes gone.
Clare badly needed scores and got one when Gary Brennan found David Tubridy, and he offloaded to Eoin Cleary to cut the gap back to six. Kerry responded as Clifford fed O’Donoghue and the captain rifled home to finally rattle the net with a goal that was a long time coming.
Another almost followed as Geaney was denied but O’Donoghue struck the rebound first time to add another point to the tally. David Tubridy ended the first half scoring with a curling effort from the left wing, but as they headed to the warmth of the dressing room, Kerry were well in control.
It stayed that way in the second period with Sean O’Shea landing three more frees with the sole reply coming from the boot of Eoin Cleary as Kerry moved 1-12 to 0-04 ahead. Adrian Spillane and Cathal O’Connor traded scores, with Kerry losing James O’Donoghue to injury after 51 minutes.
Micheal Burns was on target for Kerry either side of two Cleary frees as Clare kept nibbling at the lead, and with ten minutes to go, Kerry led by 1-14 to 0-08.
Tubridy added a point of real quality to close that gap further, and Kerry were reduced to 14 men when Mark Griffin picked up a second yellow with five minutes to go.
Jamie Malone took Clare’s tally into double digits with a tidy finish, but a lengthy stoppage ensued after an accidental collision between Sean O’Shea and Kevin Harnett saw the Clare defender stretchered off and 11 minutes of additional time announced.
When the action resumed it was Clare who struck first as Malone split the posts once more, and Kerry were put under further pressure when Tommy Walsh was black carded for a body check on Cian O’Dea meaning they would finish with 13 men.
Jason Foley raided from corner back to fist a point to end a long scoreless spell for the Kingdom with Eoin Cleary cancelling it out almost immediately.
The Banner applied late pressure in search of a green flag but it never came as Kerry held out to march on to another provincial decider.
Kerry: Shane Ryan; Jason Foley (0-1), Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan; Gavin Crowley, Jack Sherwood, Shane Enright; David Moran (0-1), Adrian Spillane (0-1); Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Sean O’Shea (0-5, 5f), Stephen O’Brien; David Clifford (0-3, 1f), Paul Geaney (0-1), James O’Donoghue (1-1) (c).
Subs: Mark Griffin for Moran (black card), Gavin White for Sherwood, Micheal Burns (0-1) for O’Brien, Robert Wharton for Crowley, Tommy Walsh for O’Donoghue (inj), Jonathan Lyne for O’Shea (inj),
Clare: Stephen Ryan; Gordon Kelly, Cillian Brennan, Kevin Harnett; Sean Collins, Aaron Fitzgerald, Conal O’hAinifein; Cathal O’Connor (0-1), Sean O’Donoghue; Jamie Malone (0-3), Gary Brennan (c), Eoin Cleary (0-5, 3f); Cian O’Dea, Darragh Bohannon, David Tubridy (0-3, 1f).
Subs: Gavin Cooney for Bohannon, Dean Ryan for O’hAinifein (black card), Kieran Malone for O’Donoghue, Eoghan Collins for Collins, Cormac Murray for Cillian Brennan, Alan Sweeney for Harnett
Referee: James Molloy (Galway).