A battling Banner side took the game to the visitors in the first half but ultimately Kerry’s patience and resolve saw them through to another Munster final against Cork.A battling Banner side tookthe game to the visitors in the first half but ultimately Kerry’s patience and resolve saw them through to another Munster final against Cork.

Munster Senior Football Championship Semi FinalKerry 1-18 Clare 1-12

For the 5,786 paying spectators in Cusack Park, this was a very entertaining contest with Clare getting off to a powerful start.They also had a few costly wides  at the start of each half, before Kerry surged ahead in the middle of the second half. Hopes were high of a solid showing by this Clare side but James O’Donoghue’s return to form did it for the Kingdom as Clare failed to really curb the Legion club player.

After David Tubridy’s opening score Clare cuold have gone five clear in the opening ten minutes but spurned at least three good opportunities.  Tubridy had been set up by team captain Gary Brennan before Keelan Sexton added a pointed free but O’Donoghue and his powerful support act  Paul Geaney kept Kerry in touch.

David Tubridy (Doonbeg) sends Brian Kelly the wrong way from the penalty spot. 

Kerry’s huge travelling support outnumbered the home crowd by around by 2 to 1, for the most part the visitors were respectfully silent for much of the opening half as Clare set out their stall against Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side. While it wasn’t an ill-disciplined game, match referee Padraig Hughes still seen fit to issue 12 yellow cards to eleven different players, while Donnchadh Walsh was sent to the line when he collected two. Walsh picked up the first card when he bundled over Keelan Sexton for a penalty. David Tubridy sent goalkeeper Brian Kelly the wrong way to surge Clare five points clear.

Rather than piling on further scores to heap pressure on Kerry, Clare’s challenge stuttered ast the same time that James O’Donoghue got into gear. He struck for a brace inside two minutes as Paul Geaney was also on target to cut Kerry’s deficit to two points by the 25th minute.  Walsh received his second yellow card reducing Kerry to 14 players but this did not stall their revival unduly as O’Donoghue struck for three points in a five minutes spell to send his side 0-8 to 1-4 clear.

Brilliant block by Jamie Malone to stop James O'Donoghue from scoring again.

Brilliant block by Jamie Malone to stop James O’Donoghue from scoring again.

The final score of the first half fell to Ciaran Russell which left parity between the sides, 1-5 to 0-8, entering the dressingrooms for the interval break with strong wind and rain an unwelcome pairing.

Despite having an extra man, Clare knew that their opponents would be resurgent in the second half as they were bolstered by a very strong bench.  With the wind at their back, Clare opened the scoring with an Eoin Cleary point before Cathal O’Connor sent over a huge long range free off the ground to stretch Clare two clear by the 39th minute.

Kerry’s important substitution was the introduction of Stephen O’Brien who was a key player in the second half alongside O’Donoghue. O’Brien and Cleary swopped scores before the Geaneys, Paul and Michael, were on target to level the scores on 1-8 to 0-11 by the 43rd minute. Kerry’s fitness and energy levels told as Clare were on the backfoot losing control of midfield and being curtailed up front by a now dominant Kerry defence.

Between the 45th and 51st minutes Kerry raced into a 0-15 to 1-8 lead with points from O’Donoghue (3) and Anthony Maher. Clare responded with a brace of scores from Tubridy and Cleary by the 54th minutes. Clare went looking for a goal goal but were denied by the crossbar after a terrific shot from Jamie Malone.

Just when it appeared that the home side might step up their game in the final ten minutes, Kerry struck for 1-2 to seal the game.  O’Donoghue and substitute Bryan Sheehan (free) were on target for points before Stephen O’Brien waltzed past three Clare players before slotting the ball past Joe Hayes as the Kingdom went seven points clear.

Keelan Sexton breaks free from Shane Enright.

Keelan Sexton breaks free from Shane Enright.

Shane Enright made it eight before Eoin Cleary reduced the deficit with two late scores. To their credit, Clare remained competitive throughout but ultimately lacked finishing power up front.

Best for the winners, who will once again host the final in Killarney against Cork as building work at the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh is not yet finished, included Shane Enright, Paul Murphy, Anthony Maher, Michael Geaney, Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue, Stephen O’Brien and Fionn Fitzgerald.  Clare had good displays from Gary Brennan, David Tubridy, Eoin Cleary, Martin McMahon, Cathal O’Connor and Jamie Malone.

CLARE: Joe Hayes, Dean Ryan, Kevin Harnett, Martin McMahon, Ciarán Russell (0-1), Martin McMahon, Pearse Lillis, Cathal O’Connor, Gary Brennan, Shane Brennan, Jamie Malone (0-1), Sean Collins, Eoin Cleary (0-6), David Tubridy (1-3), Keelan Sexton. Subs: Cian O’Dea for S Brennan, John Hayes for Lillis, Eoghan Collins for K Hartnett, Gearoid O’Brien for O’Connor (70).
KERRY: Brian Kelly, Fionn Fitzgerald, Mark Griffin, Shane Enright (0-1), Peter Crowley, Tadgh Morley, Paul Murphy, Jack Barry, Anthony Maher (0-1), Michael Geaney (0-1), Kevin McCarthy, Donnchadh Walsh, Barry John Keane, Paul Geaney (0-4), James O’Donoghue (0-9). Subs: Stephen O’Brien for Keane (1-1), Jack Savage for McCarthy, Jonathan Lyne for M Geaney, Kieran Donaghy for A Maher, Bryan Sheehan (0-1) for Barry, Johnny Buckley for P Geaney.
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)