1. No Kerry error this time as 2021 season starts
230 days after one campaign began for them in disastrous fashion, Kerry set out to try to make amends. If the 2020 winter championship proved a major letdown for their silverware aspirations, they started their 2021 summer run on a more positive note.
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Where the Cork game last November was a tight struggle from the off, Kerry never allowed themselves to get embroiled in a dogfight with Clare. They registered their first score after 12 seconds, their smallest advantage during the match was four points and they accelerated clear at the finish.
Kerry’s play was sloppy in places but for a start this was a win achieved with comfort. And after last November’s shock, that will do them for now.
2. Clare mistakes are punished
Colm Collins was in a downbeat mood afterwards. Not just at the result his Clare team had suffered but at one particular aspect of his team’s performance. The first-half goal they shipped stemmed from a Conor Jordan pass which was turned over and punished ruthlessly as Paudie Clifford fed Sean O’Shea for a Kerry strike to the net.
And that was symptomatic of a wider malaise as 1-7 of Kerry’s first-half total of 1-11, could be linked back to Clare turnovers in possession. To have any hope in fashioning a major upset, they needed to cut out such errors. Instead their mistakes were punished.
Clare held Kerry to three points between the 8th and 29th minutes, while only conceding two points in the third quarter. The issue was Kerry rattling off 3-17 in the remainder of the game, including 2-9 in the final quarter, to win with plenty to spare.
3. The Clifford-O’Shea double act shine
Kerry’s ambitions for this year will largely rest on how much they can utilise the talents of their two stars in attack. They both hit the ground running for Kerry last night.
Sean O’Shea set the tone as he struck the the first four points of the game in quick succession. His first-half goal checked momentum that Clare were building up before he finished off with a tally of 1-7. David Clifford was just a point shy of that, as he efficiently posted a total of 1-6. The second Kerry goal he blasted home was his parting shot as he departed with what the Kerry faithful hope will be a minor knock.
His input and that of O’Shea’s will be critical in shaping this football summer.
4. Clare ponder a short summer
Losing to Kerry is not new for Clare, more a recurring outcome. This was their sixth time sustaining a provincial defeat to the Kingdom during Colm Collins time at the helm. What is different is that this loss in Munster represents the end of the road in 2021.
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Clare have generally been good at rebuilding during the qualifiers, they did that so successfully in 2016 that they ran into Kerry again in Croke Park, but they won’t get that chance this year with the reversion to knockout football. Their captain Eoin Cleary was superb as he amassed 0-6 but he’ll be in an observer role for the rest of the year. It’s a tough end to a shortlived inter-county campaign.
5. Selection questions for Kerry
For Kerry the focus is on moving forward. They play Tipperary in a fortnight in Thurles with selection questions to consider. Debuts were handed out to Kieran Fitzgibbon and Michael Breen last night, Paudie Clifford received his first senior championship start for Kerry and responded with a vibrant display.
Killian Spillane and Micheál Burns both came off the bench to get in on the scoring act. Jack Barry, Jack Sherwood and captain Paul Murphy were the experienced names that didn’t see a minute of action. Kerry boss Peter Keane has plenty options as he tries to sette on a consistent winning formula.
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