Kerry FC had their first test of competitive action on Friday night when they took on Avondale United of Cork in the third round of the Munster Senior Cup at home in Mounthawk Park.
It is Kerry’s first involvement in the competition since joining the League of Ireland last year, and they will be determined to get off to a winning start. Manager Conor McCarthy said during the week that pre-season games are great for getting a run-out for the team, but nothing beats a competitive game for a real test to see where the squad is at ahead of the new League season which starts in just thirty-four days.
McCarthy named a strong eleven for his first game in charge. Three of the four new signings started on the night. Jack Kavanagh, and Steven Healy were named at both left-back and midfield respectively while Andy Spain was named at centre-back and lined out as captain of the kingdom.
McCarthy did say whoever was named out as captain on the night might be the captain
for the season as the decision had not been made yet.
Avondale United got to this stage with two convincing wins over Kanturk AFC and Passage AFC. The side recently beat Ringmahon Rangers 4-1 in the O’Connell Cup whom Kerry are familiar with from their 2-0 win over Rangers in the first round of the FAI Cup last season, so it was evident before a ball was kicked that this would be no easy game for the kingdom.
The first half was an incredibly quiet affair with not much to shout about. Daniel Okwute who started out on the right wing made some fantastic runs down the flank beating his opponent more times than not. Okwute had a fair shout for a penalty after getting around his opponent only to be dragged down in the area but the referee on the night Ray Matthews did not feel there was enough in it to give a penalty. Despite the shouts from around the ground, the referee kept to his decision and waved on the play.
The debut of Andy Spain was cut short as he and Simon Falvey clashed heads in around the centre of the pitch late in the half. Falvey kept playing with a bandage around his head, but the Kerry sideline felt it was best that Spain would make way for Ethan Kos. First-team coach James Sugrue said after the game that Andy wanted to stay on, but the doctor made the call which was the best for the long term.
Ronan Teahan was closest to opening the scoring for Kerry as his half-volley effort inside the area was saved well by Adam Murphy O’Dwyer. The half shortly ended after this sequence of play and Kerry knew if they were to be in the next round of this competition, they would have to
Kerry started the second half on the front foot. A free kick from Steven Healy sailed just over the crossbar and only a few moments later Sean McGrath had two near misses as his first effort went just wide of the top left corner from far out and his second went just wide of the keeper’s bottom right-hand post. Kerry were getting closer and found a rhythm that they were lacking in the first forty-five minutes. Keeping that rhythm going and keeping a consistent defensive shape was the big test for the duration of the game.
Avondale had a couple of big chances themselves to open the scoring as a cross from Danny O’Connell into the six-yard area found Naythan Coleman, but he was not able to convert and put his effort over the crossbar from 6 yards. In the sixty-fourth minute Simon Falvey tried to catch out Lee Axworthy with an audacious long-range shot but went wide of the target.
Kerry found their breakthrough in the seventy-seventh minute when Daniel Okwute coolly slotted home into the bottom left corner to give the Kingdom the lead. The chance was really created and finished by Okwute himself who managed to make space for himself outside the area and dispatch his shot with pure power and technique.
Galway United in Killarney.
Kerry FC Team: 32. Lee Axworthy, 15. Kevin Williams, 18. Sam Aladesanusi, 4. Andy Spain (C), 6. Jack Kavanagh, 8. Steven Healy, 7. Sean McGrath, 23. Ronan Teahen, 14. Nathan Gleeson, 11. Daniel Okwute
(Goal ‘77), 9. Ryan Kelliher
Subs: Aaron O’Sullivan, Sean O’Connell, Ethan Kos, Daire McCarthy, Togor Silong, Graham O’Reilly, Cian Brosnan.
Avondale United Team: 1. Adam Murphy O’Dwyer, 2. David Kiely, 3. Sam O’Driscoll, 5. Jamie O’Sullivan, 6. David O’Leary, 7. Eoghan Vaughan, 8. Naythan Coleman, 9. Simon Falvey, 10. Niall Hanley, 11. Daniel O’Connell, 17. James Carson
Subs: Eoghan Loughead, Andrew Gannon, 13. Jamie Collins, 14. Elijah Kadi-Harrington, 15. Richard Tobin, 16. Ben Roche O’Brien, 22. Jack Forde