Kerry hammer Roscommon at Croke Park
KERRY 3-15 ROSCOMMON 0-14
KERRY strolled into their first Allianz League final since 2009 when they streamrolled Roscommon into submission in a disappointingly one-sided semi-final in Croke Park.
It was Siberian cold at headquarters and Roscommon's performance did little to lift the spirits as they were comprehensively outplayed by the Kingdom who had lost to Dublin on their last two visits to headquarters.
They had also lost to Roscommon in the second round of the League – but they haven't been beaten since.
This was their sixth win on the spin and a Kerry team on a roll is a dangerous animal.
Mind you, they had scarcely to move out of third gear as the midfield dominance of David Moran and Kieran Donaghy provided their forwards with sufficient ball to wreak havoc on the Roscommon defence in the first half.
Man of the Match Darran O'Sullivan top scored with 1-4 from play in what was essentially a rout and Roscommon have a lot of work to do if they are to dethrone Mayo as Connacht champions this summer.
The gulf in experience between the sides was underlined by the fact that while all of the Kerry team had won All-Ireland senior medals – only full back Mark Griffin hadn't started a final – none of the Roscommon side had ever featured in a senior decider.
Unfortunately for the neutral fans this was all too evident after the early skirmishes. The underdogs took the lead through a Geoffrey Claffey 45 and were still 2-1 in front after six minutes but their perennial problems soon surfaced.
They deployed a three-man attack spearheaded by Cathal Cregg who was marked by Marc Ó Sé – the veteran defender actually outscored him.
Senan Kilbride and Diarmuid Murtagh were the only Roscommon forwards operating inside the Kerry 25m line, though at times the Connacht side pulled as 15 players back into their own half.
Their caution was understandable as Kerry had the advantage of a near gale force wind and Roscommon's repeated failure to secure their own kick-out caused them endless difficulties. David Moran ruled the skies cleanly winning three Roscommon restarts in the first 25 minutes.
Johnny Buckley was a hive of industry until he had to retire injured before the end of the first quarter.
By then, the Kingdom were in control leading 1-6 to 0-2 - the goal came after 14 minutes via Colm Cooper who was left far too much room by Roscommon full back Neil Collins.
The challengers did improve marginally with Ciarain Murtagh kicking their first point from play after 22 minutes but more route one tactics outdid Roscommon when Donnchadh Walsh got in behind the defence to receive a kicked pass from Moran.
He looked like he had overplayed the ball as he was tackled – probably illegally by Sean McDermott – and the referee opted to allowed him continue and he found the net.
It was one of the few occasions that referee Padraig Hughes allowed the advantage rule as he was particularly whistle happy in the first half. Even though the exchanges were largely timid he awarded 24 frees – 16 to Roscommon – which robbed the game of any fluency.
Not that it mattered much to Kerry who effectively wrapped up the contest deep in injury time at the end of the first half when a Hail Mary of a kick from Bryan Sheehan – who replaced the injured Buckley – fell kindly to Darran O'Sullivan who evaded a despairing tackle from goalkeeper Geoffrey Claffey to bring his personal tally from play to 1-2 in the first half.
The second half was lamentably predictable – even with the advantage of the breeze there was little prospect of the challengers making up their 12-point interval deficit.
Roscommon lacked nothing in effort and did string four unanswered points together between the 45th and 51st minute – three from placed balls – as they finally got some traction in the middle third as substitute Donie Shine made a decent impact.
Kerry boss Eamon Fitzmaurice ran his bench as did Roscommon and while the challengers dominated territorially Kerry were cruising in second gear.
But what will disappoint joint Roscommon bosses Kevin McStay and Fergal O'Donnell most was the total failure of their forwards to make an impact.
Their starting forwards only managed three scores from points. Full back Neil Collins was their top scorer from play with 0-2 both scored in 'rubbish time' deep in the final quarter.
Kerry: B Kelly; M O Se (0-1), M Griffin, S Enright; F Fitzgerald, P Crowley, A O'Mahony; K Donaghy, D Moran; J Buckley (0-1), P Murphy (0-2), D Walsh (1-0); D O'Sullivan (1-4), C Cooper (1-5, 5f), S O'Brien. Subs: B Sheehan for Buckey 18m; K Young for Fitzgerald 47m; A Fitzgerald for O'Brien 49m; BJ Keane (0-1) for Walsh 53m, B O'Sullivan (0-1)for Moran 57m; P O'Connor for Crowley 61m.
Roscommon: G Claffey (0-1, 1 45); S McDermott (0-1), N Collins (0-2), S Mullooly; S Purcell, D Murray; N Daly, C Shine; C Devaney (0-1), C Cregg, C Murtagh (0-4, 3f); D Murtagh (0-4, 2f), S Kilbride, F Cregg, Subs: D Shine (0-1, 1 45) for C Shine ht;; R Stack for Purcell ht; D Keenan for Mullooly 46m; R Daly for Devaney 56m; N Kilroy for C Cregg 56m, J McDermott for N Daly 65m
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)