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Kerry show their experience against Down


KERRY 2-24

DOWN 1-21

2020 finalists Kerry made an impressive start to Group B of the Joe McDonagh Cup with a deserved victory against Down at Austin Stack Park, Tralee this afternoon.

Supplementing 1-7 from ace attacker Shane Conway, the Boyle brothers - Mikey and Padraig - contributed combined hauls of nine points for the Kingdom. Shane Nolan also chipped in with 0-4, while Cian Hussey registered a first half goal.

From a Down perspective, Pearse Og McCrickard (1-3) was a lively presence with Paul Sheehan and Oisin MacManus also reliable off placed-balls. This victory now puts the Kingdom in pole position to reach another Joe McDonagh decider, while Down will hope that a win over Meath in round two can help them to avoid falling into a relegation play-off.

Hoping to go a step closer than last year, Kerry started this game with considerable intent. Inside the opening six minutes, Conway, Mikey Boyle and Nolan were all on target to give the Kingdom an early three-point platform.

Down eventually responded through a Paul Sheehan free, only for the Munster men to reinforce their authority with further points from Brendan O’Leary and Shane Conway (’65’). The Mourne County initially struggled to rein in the challenge of their opponents, but finally came to grips with the task at hand.

Following another place-ball effort by Sheehan, McCrickard rattled the back of the Kerry net on 10 minutes. The reliable Sheehan subsequently added another single to edge Down in front.

Within the space of just a few minutes, the northerners had turned the game around, but there was still plenty of hurling to be played. Although a McCrickard point kept Down in the ascendancy as the first half water break approached, Mikey Boyle found the range either side of it to ensure the teams were on level terms for the brief interlude.

McCrickard was causing a host of problems for the Kingdom defence and he bolstered his individual tally with a point in the second-quarter. Kerry had their own star performer in the shape of Conway, whose 0-2 salvo helped his team to regain the lead in the 19th-minute.

Despite leaking further scores to Padraig Boyle and Nolan, Down fired back with points from Donal Hughes and Sheehan to keep the gap at the bare minimum. However, it was in the closing moments of the opening period that Kerry made their big statement.

Complimenting a Mikey Boyle point, Hussey fired past Stephen Keith for his side’s maiden goal of the contest on 31 minutes. The excellent McCrickard brought this scoring sequence to a halt, but Padraig Boyle and the increasingly-prominent Nolan proceeded to split the uprights to propel Kerry towards a convincing 1-14 to 1-8 lead at the midway juncture.

The Kingdom carried this momentum through to the second half, with Barry O’Mahony, Nolan and Conway (free) points stretching them eight points in front. In the first of two miniature scoring bursts in the third-quarter, Sheehan and Sands (two) raised white flags to keep Down in contention.

While Kerry threatened to pull away with additional unanswered contributions by Mikey Boyle, O’Mahony and Padraig Boyle, their Mourne counterparts were inclined to throw in the towel. Either end of a Hughes point, substitutes Ryan McCusker and MacManus found the range to leave them five adrift (1-20 to 1-15) at the second half water break.

Another MacManus free looked set to tee up an interesting finale, before Conway’s goal on 57 minutes offered Kerry significant leeway.

The aforementioned MacManus was proving himself to be an able dead-ball deputy for Sheehan - who he replaced on 50 minutes - and added another brace of points to his and Down’s haul. A Conway point was squeezed in between and Padraig Boyle also dissected the posts in the 63rd-minute.

A willing Down did register late points courtesy of Phelim Savage, Tim Prenter and MacManus but, with Conway and Fionan O’Sullivan also firing over in the dying minutes, Kerry were able to ease their way towards a well-earned win.

Scorers - Kerry: Shane Conway 1-7 (0-4f, 1 ’65’), Mikey Boyle 0-5, Shane Nolan (1f), Padraig Boyle 0-4 each, Cian Hussey 1-0, Barry O’Mahony 0-2, Brendan O’Leary, Fionan O’Sullivan 0-1 each. Down: Pearse Og McCrickard 1-3, Paul Sheehan 0-6 (4f), Oisin MacManus 0-5 (4f), Donal Hughes, Daithi Sands 0-2 each, Ryan McCusker, Tim Prenter, Phelim Savage 0-1 each.

KERRY: John B O’Halloran; James O’Connor, Evan Murphy, Eric Leen; Conor O’Keeffe, Fionan Mackessy, Jason Diggins; Paudie O’Connor, Shane Nolan; Mikey Boyle, Barry O’Mahony, Brendan O’Leary; Padraig Boyle, Shane Conway, Cian Hussey. Subs: Tomas O’Connor for J O’Connor (21), Bryan Murphy for O’Leary (65), Donal Hunt for Hussey, Fionan O’Sullivan for M Boyle (both 70).

DOWN: Stephen Keith; Conor Cassidy, Caolan Taggart, John McManus; Matt Conlon, Conor Woods, Liam Savage; Donal Hughes, Jordan Doran; Chris Egan, Paul Sheehan, Marc Fisher; Pearse Og McCrickard, Eoghan Sands, Daithi Sands. Subs: Ryan McCusker for Fisher (half-time), Tim Prenter for Doran (46), Phelim Savage for Egan (49), Oisin MacManus for Sheehan (50), PJ Davidson for Hughes (73).

Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).

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