The woefully lob-sided nature of the Munster championship was all too evident as the Kingdom strolled to their ninth titles in ten seasons and maintained their 27-year unbeaten record in Munster finals in Killarney.
Let’s not patronise Limerick; they never stood a chance. They were a 20/1 shot in a two-horse race. But they were out of their depth here. They have had a momentous season securing promotion to Division 2 for the first time and appearing in their first Munster final since 2010.
Why the GAA authorities persist with this format for the premier competition defies logic.
But then Kerry together several of the other big powers in football including Dublin, Galway and Mayo all voted against proposals to reform it at the GAA Congress in February.
It is the one-sided nature of so many games in the provincial series rather than the split season which is the reason the football championship has passed unnoticed.
The attendance of 14,587 witnessed a game rather than a contest. Kerry had 11 different scorers with Killian Spillane hitting 1-3, while three defenders Tom O’Sullivan, Brian O’Beagloish and Gavin White chipped in with 0-6 from play. The poverty of the Limerick effort was underlined by the fact none of their forwards scored from play.
Kerry now have a four-week wait until their All-Ireland quarter-final, arguably their most hazardous assignment of the season, whereas the four team that come through Round 1 of the qualifiers next weekend will all relish an opportunity to meet Limerick in the last 12 of the All-Ireland series.
The historical gulf in football standards between the counties is underlined by the fact that Kerry were appearing in their 107th Munster final whereas it was just a13th appearance for Limerick, who won their only title in 1896.
Killian Spillane celebrated his return to first team action by kicking a point after 41 seconds. But though the home side exerted a full court press on Donal O’Sullivan’s kick-outs Limerick survived the early onslaught.
Josh Ryan nailed a 45 after seven minutes which he won after putting Jason Foley under pressure and it took Kerry nearly 13 minutes to double their tally, though they also kicked two wides, a Paul Geaney shot rebounding out off the upright and another shot that landed short.
Limerick tried to isolate Ryan up front. but they weren’t committing enough players into attack to test the Kerry defence. At the other end, the home side turned the screw with three points in as many minutes.
A monster free from the sideline on the 20m line from Josh Ryan left four points between the sides in the 28th minute but Kerry hit straight back with Gavin White running 50 metres before punching the ball over the bar.
The tackling of the Kerry defence was first class but at the other end the finishing was ragged at times - they kicked six first half wides.
But in the closing seven minutes of the half the relentless Kerry pressure started to take its toll on Limerick, and they coughed up five points.
The pick of the bunch was a fisted effort from Sean O’Shea after a 60-metre foot pass from goalkeeper Shane Ryan allowed Stephen O’Brien steam through before off-loading to O’Shea.
Leading 0-12 to 0-3 at the break Kerry already had one hand on the trophy.
It was more of the same on the resumption; Limerick kicked two bad wides, but Kerry reeled off three points and Stephen O’Brien’s 42nd minute effort meant that all the Kerry forwards had scored from play.
Kerry’s Jack Barry underlined his defensive qualities with a last-ditch tackle to deprive James Naughton of a shot at goal.
With Kerry leading by 15 points Limerick opted to introduce three substitutes. But, though Ian Corbett hit his second and the side’s fourth point in the 48th minute, Kerry finally hit the net immediately afterwards. Paul Geaney provided the assist for Killian Spillane who brought his personal tally to 1-3.
Frankly, the rest of the second half lacked any degree of a competitive edge as Kerry tagged on ten more points. Only a point from Limerick wing-back Cian Sheehan with a last kick of the game prevented Kerry from posting a record victory. But they still won by a whopping 23 points.
Kerry: S O’Shea 0-6, (1f, 1 45), K Spillane 1-3, P Guiney 0-4 (1m), T O’Sullivan, T Brosnan 0-3 each; B O Beaglaíoch, P Clifford, M Burns 0-2 each, G White, S O’Brien, A Spillane 0-1 each.
Limerick: C Sheehan 0-3, J Ryan 0-2 (1 45), I Corbett 0-2, G Brown 0-1
Kerry: S Ryan; T O’Sullivan, J Foley, G O’Sullivan; B O Beaglaíoch,T Morley, G White; D O’Connor, j Barry; P Clifford, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; K Spillane, P Geaney, T Brosnan. Subs: A Spillane for O’Brien (52), D Casey for Foley (52), D Moran for O’Connor (52), M Burns for K Spillane (52), P Murphy for Morley (56), G Crowley for O’Beaglaioch (blood sub) (57)
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; M Donovan, B Fanning, S O’Dea; C Sheehan, I Corbett, A Enright; D Treacy, C Fahy; P Maher, B Donovan, J Naughton; P Nash, j Ryan, H Bourke. Subs: R Bourke for H Bourke (ht), G Brown for Maher (46), T Griffin for Enright (46), C McSweeney for Nash (46)
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)