Kerry FC were defeated 3-0 by a strong Galway United side in freezing temperatures in Killarney on Thursday night.
Goals from Stephen Walsh in the first half, along with Karl O’Sullivan and Ed McCarthy in the second secured the victory for the Tribesmen, in a good competitive outing that both coaches will come away from with plenty of positives.
Kerry FC made just one change from their Munster Senior Cup clash against Avondale United last Friday night, with Daire McCarthy coming into midfield to replace Sean McGrath who did not feature tonight.
Galway started a strong team, with plenty of experience including a number of names Kerry faced last year including Clarke, Brouder, Walsh, Hurley, Borden and McCarthy, but the one players the Kingdom knew best was last year’s sports writers player of the season Leo Gaxha, who made his first start for his new club.
Gaxha made a positive impact in the sixty minutes he featured in, playing as a shadow striker just off of Stephen Walsh, that saw him heavily involved in the Galwegians attacking play in the first half. The first goal, just after the half-hour mark, was heavily impacted by the ex-Kerry star, bursting down the left wing past Kevin Williams, before crossing to Walsh who volleyed home into Axworthy’s far corner.
The Kingdom looked a lot more sound defensively, fending off several David Hurley set pieces including four corners, something that defense really struggled with last season.
The biggest concern that came out of the opening forty-five for the away side was seeing new signing Jeannot Esua, who was listed as a trialist, be forced into an early substitution after taking a knock to the foot or ankle area. He walked to the bench on his own accord however after receiving on-field treatment so the injury does not look too serious.
The second half saw the introduction of Antonio Tuta into the Kerry net, the Croatian only just being announced as a Kerry FC player on the morning of gameday, and it took just seconds before he was forced into action, denying Leo Gaxha a goal against his former club,
Galway finally took advantage of a set piece just seven minutes into the second half, when a David Hurley corner from the left ended up in a scramble in the box which Kerry could only clear to the edge, finding Karl O’Sullivan who showed some great technique to bury the ball into the corner past Tuta.
David Hurley almost made it three moments later when he cut him from the left and bent the ball towards the top corner from 18 yards but Tuta gladly saw the ball whistle past the top right of his bar.
As the changes began to flow, including a number of Galway United trailists, the game began to lose its momentum, but the away side got their third and wrapped up the result through Ed McCarthy, as his shot deflected off a Kerry defender into the top left corner with twenty five minutes still to play.
The away side ran the bench which included gametime for Aodh Dervin, Patrick Hickey, Rob Selvin, Kyle Fitzgerald, Billy Regan and a couple of trialists, One of which replaced Brendan Clarke in net and was called into action as the game went on. The other trialist that John Caufield introduced has seemingly been identified by United fans on social media as Tino Quamina, who came on at left-back. Quamina spent some time in the Arsenal academy, featuring in the u18 Premier League, as recently as November for the Gunners. This is of course unconfirmed by Galway United at this time.
Kerry ran the bench as the game wore on, introducing Kennedy Amechi who re-signed with the Kingdom on Thursday afternoon after a number of trials in the UK, and the young Corkman was involved on many occasions up top, forcing their trialist into three saves, including a great double stop from close range.
Sean O’Connell, Graham O’Reilly, Cian Brosnan, a trialist who played left wing, and the Kerry FC U19 Player of the Year Oisin Breen all featured for the hosts in the second half.
Galway United proved tonight that they are a class ahead of Kerry, but it was a great test for a young Kerry side, who kept the 2023 First Division winners to just three goals, a positive after conceding 18 in four to the Tribesmen last year, and conceded one less than their opening night opponents Cork City did against tonight’s opposition on Tuesday.
Speaking to Kerry FC Media after the game, Conor McCarthy noted that “it was great to get a good run out against a good side like Galway, who look to be fair to them are probably in a different place than we are at the moment but lots of positives to take from the game. I thought during the first 25 minutes we were very good both in possession and out of possession, but you could see the level in terms of the fitness in terms of where they are and where we are at the moment, but yeah lots of positives and plenty of things to work on.”
Galway United have two pre-season friendlies to come, one against Sligo in Westport on Saturday next, along with a return to Eamonn Deacy Park a week before the season start against Wexford.
Kerry FC meanwhile have not officially announced a schedule, which is believed to include a number of behind closed doors tests in the coming weeks, but we do know their return to competitive action comes on February 5th, when Cobh Ramblers are the visitors to Mounthawk Park in the Quarter Final stages of the Munster Senior Cup.