A Clifford and Walsh duel for the ages, Kerry end the famine and Galway heartbreak

5 talking points after yesterday’s All-Ireland final.

1. Kerry deliver 38th All-Ireland title

KERRY HAD TO dig deep and grind out this victory. It was a far tougher battle than Galway’s 3/1 pre-game odds suggested.

david-clifford-celebrates-with-his-parents-ellen-and-dermot Kerry’s David Clifford celebrates with his parents Ellen and Dermot. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

After a poor opening-half where they led Galway 8-1 on the wides count, Jack O’Connor was force to make two half-time changes, withdrawing veterans David Moran and Paul Geaney for the legs of Adrian and Killian Spillane. 

The Kingdom didn’t lead the game until six minutes into the second-half. That advantage didn’t last long and they found themselves two points in the arrears again by the 46th minute. Four successive scores put them two clear on the hour mark but Galway pulled level for the sixth time in the second half five minutes later.

It was from there where Kerry showed their true mettle. Their mentality and bottle in the big moments had been questioned, but they answered those doubts here. David Clifford and Sean O’Shea clipped frees while Killian Spillane and Gavin White fisted points to seal a four-point win. 

2. Galway go so close

That Galway left Croke Park devastated they didn’t take home the prize goes to show how well they performed. Padraic Joyce got his tactics spot-on, nailing many of his defensive match-ups. 

Liam Silke moved to centre-back and did brilliantly to deny Sean O’Shea a single shot at the posts from play. Kieran Molloy wrapped up Paul Geaney to the extent that he was replaced at half-time and Jack Glynn started brightly on Paudie Clifford before facing in the second period. 

Galway’s shooting was outstanding and they kicked just one wide in the first-half, while 0-11 arrived from their own kick-outs. Cillian McDaid made an enormous contribution of four points from midfield.

However, outside of Shane Walsh the rest of the forwards scored a point between them. Their bench had little impact, particularly in comparison with Kerry’s.

With the game tied at 0-16 apiece, a controversial free awarded for a foul by John Daly while he held off Killian Spillane helped swing the game in Kerry’s favour. Padraic Joyce noted his dissatisfaction with that decision afterwards. 

damien-comer-dejected Galway look on. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Kerry end the famine

Kerry’s first All-Ireland win in seven years marks the end of the third-longest famine in their history. For the third time, Jack O’Connor won the All-Ireland, Munster and National League titles in his first season after taking charge. 

Kerry were a different animal this year and credit must go to O’Connor for the backroom team he put in place. In his speech Sean O’Shea declared that Paddy Tally is now an “honourary Kerry man” after his coaching impact this season. 

He certainly helped shore up Kerry defensively while performance coach and former Clare All-Star Tony Griffin did plenty of unseen work on their mental strength. The game management and composure Kerry showed in the final 10 minutes was notable.

4. Clifford and Walsh duel for the ages

Sean Cavanagh did his best to get Pat Spillane riled up pre-game with his assertion that Shane Walsh was more skilful that David Clifford. Leaving aside that pointless argument, both gifted forwards gave exhibitions on the biggest stage.

Under the close watch of Galway captain Sean Kelly, Clifford scored eight points – four in either half. Three from play, two marks and three frees. His final score of the day, a nerveless free from a tight angle in front of the Cusack Stand, was the best of the lot. 

He finally landed his first All-Ireland medal and Footballer of the Year will surely follow. 

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stephen-obrien-with-shane-walsh Shane Walsh takes a shot. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Walsh put to bed any doubts about his ability to perform on the big day. Being tracked by Kerry’s go-to man marker Tom O’Sullivan, Walsh dazzled with a nine-point haul, including four from play. The Kerry defence couldn’t live with his jinking, powerful runs and his free-taking was of the highest order. 

Walsh quite possibly shaded Clifford in the man-of-the-match running, but both simply sublime to watch in full flow.

  5. Lesser lights step up

Jason Foley handled danger man Damien Comer exceptionally well, although he was helped by Galway’s reluctance to kick the ball into him.

Graham O’Sullivan gave one of the great All-Ireland displays, scoring a point and contributing for or five direct assists as he completely shut down Robert Finnerty.

graham-osullivan-celebrates-after-scoring-a-point Graham O’Sullivan was in exceptional form. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kerry’s bench came into the game with question marks over their ability to make an impact, yet they drove the team home when it was needed.

Killian Spillane scored 0-2 and won a free for Clifford’s last point. Paul Murphy assisted a point and was involved in another. Micheál Burns had a point and assist. Joe O’Connor: won the free for O’Shea’s clincher.

On the Galway side, Corofin pair Liam Silke and Kieran Molloy were excellent on the pitch where they enjoyed so many great days with their club.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Croke Park

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