|16 July 2023||4:00 pm||Sam Maguire Cup||2023|
David Clifford kicked nine points in a man of the match display, as Kerry booked their spot in the All Ireland Final, winning a nail biting tie with Derry.
For their fifth ever meeting, this one will be in the history books, a fifth semi-final, a fourth win for Kerry over Derry, the wait since 1958 lingers on for the Oakleaf County to win in the Championship.
Not at their best, Kerry needed the experience of Stephen O'Brien, the brilliance of Clifford and Sean O’Shea, along with the cat-like reflexes of Shane Ryan, to get them over the line against a resilient Derry side.
Heartbreak for Derry as they in truth looked the better, but Kerry came to life late on to secure the win, Brendan Rodgers, Gareth McKinless, Shane McGuigan, all tormented Kerry in headquarters, but in the dying embers a spot in the final slipped through their fingers.
They will regret the goal chances they spurned in both halves, Ryan making some big saves to keep them out, the Dubs now await the Kingdom on Sunday July 30th.
Derry started well, building an early attack from Conor Glass with a turnover, Niall Loughlin went for an early goal chance that was deflected out for a line ball, Derry kept up the pressure sending a high ball into the square, but the referee saw something he didn’t like and a free out was awarded.
Kerry used that possession to get up the other end of the field and should have taken the games opening score inside two minutes, passing and using their off the ball movement, Gavin White and Paul Geaney combined, the latter passing to the former and White looked destined to score, but Odhran Lynch saved well, a wide coming after Geaney tried to recycle.
David Clifford opened the account for the Kingdom with a beautiful point on the left leg from a difficult angle, but the Oakleaf County hit them with a sucker punch two minutes later, Gareth McKinless with a direct run at the Kerry defence, he fed Brendan Rodgers who went for goal, Tadhg Morley saved it on the line, but on the rebound McKinless struck home, advantage Derry.
That lasted less than 60 seconds however, Kerry took their kick out well and worked it up to the Hill 16 end, Sean O’Shea with a terrific pass to spot Gavin White lurking near the square, he applied the finishing touches, Kerry back ahead 1-1 to 1-0 inside seven action packed minutes.
It was all Derry however following the goal, Padraig McGrogan, Paul Cassidy and Shane McGuigan all adding points, McGrogan however was forced off following his score, but they did build a two point lead. With Kerry through a long range score from Diarmuid O’Connor their first since the sixth minute.
Paudie Clifford levelled the tie once again in the 18th minute, as passed the midway mark both teams brought the intensity needed to stake a claim for a final appearance, it was nip and tuck as both took the lead and lost it and exchanged scores, but Diarmuid O’Connor’s black card after 28 minutes, turned the tide in favour of Derry.
Rodgers and Ciaran McFaul quickly building a lead as they starting winning more ball in the midfield and starting to drive at the Kerry backline, Lynch had kicked a score from play earlier in the half, but after the half hour mark, Shane Ryan, who plays outfield for his club, raced forward to make it a one point game once again, 1-8 to 1-7.
But it was Derry’s half to win, Rodgers and two McGuigan scores sandwiching a David Clifford effort, putting Derry three ahead at the break, the Fossa man carded in injury time, allowing McGuigan to strike his fourth of the tie, 1-11 to 1-08 at the interval.
Kerry needed an instant reply in the second half, an excepted earful from manager Jack O’Connor at the break, along with a change as Stephen O’Brien came on for Adrian Spillane, looked to spark them into life.
Points from Clifford and O’Shea helped make it a one point game in a matter of minutes, but Derry remained calm and patient, they used their possession based game, to try and draw cracks in the Kerry backline, Conor Doherty was the man to find space and kicking the ball over the blackspot, two points between them.
Clifford was at his champagne best and kicked his seventh point of the tie from a free after Paul Geaney was pushed over the Derry end line, but again down at the other end, Derry brought the danger and had two goal chances, McKinless and Toner had efforts, but Shane Ryan did well to save.
Almost a sucker punch at the other end followed as Sean O'Shea had a free come back off the post, but the Kenmare forward would tie the game at 1-12 a piece minutes later.
Ryan was to the rescue again for Kerry as he made a stunning save to deny another certain goal from the Derry defender McKinless, he was tormenting the Kerry backline all afternoon. Derry would regain their lead however as McFaul slotted over a score in the 53rd minute, McGuigan furthered their hold on the tie with a follow up score on the hour mark.
But the Kingdom woke from their slumber in the final five minutes to take the tie, two points from O’Shea and Clifford, along with the veteran Stephen O’Brien, swung the tie in their favour, from trailing 1-14 to 1-12, O’Shea’s point just as we ticked into stoppage time, had Kerry ahead 1-17 to 1-14.
Derry had no reply however to change the outcome, they went long trying to lob a ball into the square, a goal needed, but they could not get the answer, with ten minutes of stoppage time elapsed as a stricken McKinless had to be stretched off, he took his point, six for the afternoon, but Derry bow out after a gutsy display.
|Croke Park, Jones's Road, Dublin, D01 WY49, Ireland|