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Kingdom do enough to set up Munster final clash with Rebels

Midfielder Bryan Sheehan was Kerry's star man on Sunday, kicking five points in their Munster SFC win over Tipperary  
Jackie Cahill at Semple Stadium

Munster SFC semi-final: Tipperary 2-8 Kerry 2-14

COLM ‘'GOOCH' COOPER came safely through his Championship comeback as Munster and All-Ireland kingpins Kerry dug out a six-point victory against Tipperary in Sunday’s provincial semi-final. But it was midfield ace Bryan Sheehan who provided the steady hand as the Kingdom negotiated a potentially tricky assignment.

Depleted Kerry were viewed as vulnerable in quarters, but Tipp suffered setbacks along the way as they chased a first senior Championship victory against their opponents in 87 years. Ian Fahey was ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in the warm-up, U21 captain Colin O’Riordan damaged his ankle during the game, defender Robbie Kiely tweaked a hamstring and midfielder George Hannigan went off after taking a blow to the head. Factor 13 bad wides into the mix and a wonderful Brendan Kealy save from Ger Mulhaire in the 57th minute and the margin could have been much closer.

But for Kerry, this was simply about getting through in front of a bumper 11,248 attendance. And Sheehan played his part, kicking five points as the Kingdom set up a Munster final clash with Cork on July 5. Kerry boss Éamonn Fitzmaurice described his team’s performance as “strange,” but his players still did enough.

For Tipp, it’s the back door again as they look to replicate two of the previous three Championship seasons, when they went within 70 minutes of an All-Ireland quarter-final appearance.

Boss Peter Creedon admitted disappointment that his side weren’t in contention down the home straight and pinpointed poor forward play as the reason. Kerry were far more economical with their shooting, registering just five wides all afternoon.

Tipp had chances but snatched at them and, despite going 1-1 to 0-0 ahead within four minutes, Kerry came roaring back. Barry John Keane and Paul Geaney netted first half goals, both avoidable concessions from a Tipp viewpoint, before Tipp forward ace Michael Quinlivan netted his second.

Kerry led by 2-6 to 2-4 at half-time and killed the game with five unanswered points after the restart.

Tipp did give a good account of themselves, but Kerry had the know-how to dig themselves out of a hole as Fitzmaurice emptied his bench in the second half, bringing on top stars like Darren O’Sullivan, Tommy Walsh and James O’Donoghue.

Creedon, meanwhile, wasn’t best pleased with referee Cormac Brannigan’s erratic display. Steven O’Brien, admittedly, could have been black carded in the first half, but so too could Cooper in the second, for pulling down O’Brien as he advanced on goal. There were a number of other strange calls from the match official, but Kerry were the better side nonetheless.

Fitzmaurice said: “It was a strange performance, there were patches of frustrating stuff and a lot of good stuff as well, particularly in the second half.

“We got six or seven points ahead at one stage, but we got very sloppy in possession after that, which was disappointing.”

Kerry went into action with Allstar wing-back Paul Murphy and 2014 All-Ireland winning captain Kieran O’Leary both ruled out through injury. But Fitzmaurice revealed Murphy, David Moran and Paul Galvin will be fully fit for the Cork tussle.

Tipperary: E Comerford; P Codd, C McDonald, R Kiely; S Kennedy, P Acheson, A Campbell; S O’Brien, G Hannigan; C O’Riordan (0-1), P Austin, G Mulhaire (0-1); C Sweeney (0-2 free), M Quinlivan (2-0), B Fox (0-1); Subs: J Lonergan (0-1) for Kiely (31), B Grogan (0-1 free) for Hannigan (ht), K O’Halloran (0-1, 45) for Austin (54), L Casey for Fox (65), B Mulvihill for Sweeney (65), A Morrissey for Kennedy (70).
Kerry: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, M Griffin, S Enright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher (0-1), B Sheehan (0-5, 0-3 frees); M Geaney (0-1), C Cooper (0-3, 0- 1 free), J Buckley; P Geaney (1-2), K Donaghy, BJ Keane (1-1); Subs: S O’Brien (0-1) for Buckley (33), J O’Donoghue for Keane (48), A O’Mahony for Crowley (49), D O’Sullivan for M Geaney (53), D Walsh for Sheehan (62), T Walsh for Maher (67). 
Referee: C Brannigan (Down).

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