Kerry crush Meath to book All-Ireland SFC knock-out spot

The Royals were no match for the Kingdom in Navan

Ronan McNamee had to mark Kerry star David Clifford in the 2021 All-Ireland SFC semi-final.
David Clifford was in goalscoring form in Navan

All-Ireland SFC Group 4, round two

Meath 0-9 Kerry 2-18

WHEN the full-time whistle sounded in Navan, David Clifford’s GPS stats spiked one last time with a darting run for the tunnel.

In doing so he skilfully avoided the hordes of autograph hunters who’d been treated to another few moments of Clifford magic in the final 20 minutes of the game.

The reigning footballer of the year had been quiet up to then and had found Meath’s Donal Keogan a particularly sticky man-marker. But few hold the Fossa phenom for a whole game and by full-time he went from having scored nothing to finishing with 2-2.

In doing so, he eased Kerry to a slightly flattering 15-point win and ended the Munster champions’ goal drought having failed to find the net in any of their previous three Championship games. Lest we do Clifford a disservice, he hung around afterwards to satisfy the locals with selfies and autographs.

In all, Kerry had 11 different scorers but the sense of a team still waiting to cut loose is strong. They didn’t look particularly energised by this relatively rare trip to Meath and, in their defence, they were faced with a wall of green jerseys for much of the game as Colm O’Rourke’s young and inexperienced group set themselves up in containment mode.

“I thought in the first-half of the game we did quite well, especially as we had 14 shots in the first-half and Kerry had 14 shots yet we ended up with three points and they ended up with 10 points at half-time,” said Meath manager O’Rourke.

Whether it would have been any different if Meath had taken more of those chances is hard to know. Maybe they’d have really got the 8,224 crowd behind them and opened up a few more fissures in the Kingdom’s rearguard.

It didn’t happen though and while they enjoyed a decent first 15 minutes of the second-half, it only yielded two more points. Then the green dam they’d erected burst with Tom O’Sullivan feeding Clifford for the opening Kerry goal and a slew of Kingdom players adding points before Clifford popped up at the end of a snaking passing move in stoppage time to strike their second major.

Kerry will play Louth next, on the weekend of June 15/16 and, should they avoid defeat, they will finish top of Group 4.

“I’ve no doubt that we will be better the next day,” assured O’Connor.

Despite Meath’s third loss in-a-row, all is not lost. If they beat Monaghan in round 3 they’ll advance to an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final.

Meath B Hogan; Ronan Ryan, A O’Neill, D Keogan; C Caulfield (0-1), B O’Halloran, S Coffey (0-1); C Hickey, C Gray; M Murphy, D Campion, S Ryan; C O’Sullivan, M Costello (0-2, 0-1 free), E Frayne (0-4, 0-2 frees)

Subs R Jones for Gray (h-t), J Morris for Murphy (h-t), J O’Connor (0-1) for O’Sullivan (47), C McBride for Coffey (54), Ross Ryan for Campion (58)

Kerry S Ryan; T O’Sullivan (0-2), J Foley, D Casey; B O Beaglaoich (0-3), M Breen, G White; D O’Connor (0-1), J O’Connor (0-1); T Brosnan (0-2), P Clifford (0-1), C Burke; D Clifford (2-2, 0-1 free), S O’Shea (0-3, 0-1 45, 0-1 mark), P Geaney (0-1)

Subs D Moynihan (0-1) for Burke (49), K Spillane (0-1, 0-1m) for Geaney (55), D Geaney for Brosnan (55), A Spillane for D O’Connor (61), S O’Brien for Breen (61).

Referee L Devenney (Mayo)