The num­bers that add up to Kerry dom­i­nance

Irish Examiner - Sport - - GAA - John Fog­a­rty

A fifth con­sec­u­tive Mun­ster ti­tle is the car­rot on of­fer for Éa­monn Fitz­mau­rice’s Kerry on Sun­day, which, should they beat Cork or draw, would also trans­late to a 12-game un­beaten run in the prov­ince.

As things stand, their 11game march is su­pe­rior to the county’s in­vin­ci­ble run be­tween 2003 and 2006 when they won nine pro­vin­cial games in a row be­fore draw­ing a fi­nal and the stretch was halted by a James Mas­ters-in­spired Cork in the re­play in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Adding a 12th match with­out de­feat would repli­cate the feat achieved by Kerry in the 1980 Mun­ster fi­nal.

That team even­tu­ally went 18 games un­beaten.

The facts and fig­ures of Kerry’s best Mun­ster spell in 35 years:

Kerry have found the net 19 times from 2013 to the vic­tory over Clare ear­lier this month, fail­ing to score a goal just once. They’ve reg­is­tered 195 points.

They have con­ceded 11 goals in the 11 games, keep­ing five clean sheets, three against Cork. They’ve shipped 119 points.

Paul Geaney is top goalscorer with four, fol­lowed by James O’donoghue, Paul Mur­phy, Kieran Don­aghy and the re­tired Colm Cooper with a brace each.

Ob­vi­ously, Fitz­mau­rice has yet to lose a game in the Mun­ster SFC as man­ager and of the 21 play­ers used against Clare in the semi­fi­nal in En­nis an impressive 13 have also not yet tasted se­nior pro­vin­cial de­feat never mind a SFC loss to Cork in a play­ing ca­pac­ity — Brian Kelly, Fionn Fitzger­ald, Mark Grif­fin, Shane En­right, Tadhg Mor­ley, Paul Mur­phy, Jack Barry, Michael Geaney, Paul Geaney, Kevin Mc­carthy, Stephen O’brien, Jack Sav­age, and Jonathan Lyne.

Lim­er­ick are the only team Kerry have yet to face in Fitz­mau­rice’s term. They’ve clashed with Cork on four oc­ca­sions, Clare and Tip­per­ary (thrice) and Water­ford once.

Kil­lian Young has started all but one of the 11 matches, in­jury rul­ing him out of the re­cent win in Cu­sack Park. Don­n­chadh Walsh has featured from the off in nine, com­ing off the bench in the other two.

Bren­dan Kealy has started six of the 11 games in goal and Brian Kelly the other five.

If any­one is look­ing at the team that started against Clare as an in­di­ca­tion of what side Fitz­mau­rice may name this evening think again: In 2013, he made four changes for the fi­nal from the semi-fi­nal; in 2014, it was the same, while in 2015 it was five. Last year, late cry-off Peter Crowley was the only change. Then again, 2016 was the only time Kerry, in Fitz­mau­rice’s charge, have not faced Cork in a Mun­ster fi­nal.

The re­cent win over Clare was only the third time Geaney and O’donoghue have started a Mun­ster SFC game to­gether, the pre­vi­ous com­ing against Cork in the 2014 fi­nal and the 2015 re­play de­cider. In their three start­ing pair­ings, they have amassed a com­bined 1-28. All but nine points have been scored in open play.

Of the team that be­gan Fitz­mau­rice’s first Mun­ster game in 2013, six are now re­tired — Marc and Tomás Ó Sé, O’ma­hony, Paul Galvin, Cooper and De­clan O’sul­li­van.

Four of Kerry’s games, all wins, have come on the road — Clare and Cork 2014, Tip­per­ary 2015 and Clare this year.

Kerry’s ag­gre­gate to­tal in the four fi­nal clashes with Cork is 4-66 com­pared to Cork’s 3-57. O’donoghue is the King­dom’s top scorer in those games with 1-16.

Since trans­fer­ring from Antrim, Cork de­fender James Loughrey has yet to ex­pe­ri­ence a cham­pi­onship win over Kerry hav­ing played in all four Mun­ster meet­ings with them since. Ken O’hal­lo­ran has been in goals for all four of them also and out­field, as well as Loughrey, he has been joined on each oc­ca­sion by Michael Shields and Paul Ker­ri­gan. Brian Hur­ley, who is side­lined with a cru­ci­ate, all be­gan all four matches.

The afore­men­tioned quar­tet of O’hal­lo­ran, Loughrey, Shields and Ker­ri­gan com­prise all but three of the Cork starters from the 2013 fi­nal de­feat to Kerry, Ai­dan Walsh, John O’rourke and Don­n­cha O’connor be­ing the oth­ers. Roscom­mon’s Paddy Neilan takes charge of Sun­day’s fi­nal. The ref­eree break­down for the pre­vi­ous 11 games reads: David Gough, Pádraig Hughes (2); Cia­rán Brana­gan, Mau­rice Dee­gan, Marty Duffy, Martin Hig­gins, Fer­gal Kelly, Conor Lane, Cormac Reilly.

Éa­monn Fitz­mau­rice: Has yet to lose a game in the Mun­ster SFC as Kerry man­ager.

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