On Friday evening Kerry FC were back home again as they welcomed league leaders Galway United to Mounthawk Park for the first time. Galway came into the game obvious heavy favorites winning nine out of their nine games this season, and Kerry were still looking for that desired first win of the season. The previous meeting between the two sides was on the tenth of March when Kerry suffered their heaviest defeat this season in a game that finished 9-1 to United. With Kerry being at home, a result like that again would be very unlikely. A sold-out Mounthawk Park crowd never disappoints, and the home faithful had their voices heard from minute one.
In the program’s dugout notes Manager Billy Dennehy did not shy away from the huge challenge that faced his side but said these are challenges that need to be embraced, as these are games and nights the club has dreamed of for a very long time.
Kerry defended excellently last time out away to Waterford, and it seemed if Kerry could keep the same composure at the back on the night as they did last week, they could make it very tough for the top side in the league.
Kerry started the first half well in possession and equaled Galway’s intensity on the ball. Theywere not being pressured to start off by Galway and seemed to be the more comfortable of the two. The first big chance of the game came in the way of Kerry when a kick out from Wayne Guthrie was flicked on brilliantly by Ryan Kelliher. His header pushed out wide to Leo Gaxha who played the ball inside the box to Sean McGrath. He got his shot off and aimed it for the bottom left corner. The effort, however, was unfortunately saved well by Brendan Clarke.
Kerry were not letting off and kept going at the league leaders. Sean McGrath picked up the ball just over the halfway line and gave a ball over the top which stretched Gaxha to the max. Gaxha picked the ball up down the right close to the byline and drilled a half volley across the box but there was nobody inside to take advantage and Galway narrowly escaped.
Galway started to get a foothold on the game and a corner for United was first cleared but the ball back into the box flew through the crowd and was eventually cleared off the line but was ruled to be offside, easing the minds of the home crowd for the time being.
Kerry kept to their game plan excellently in the first half and went toe-to-toe with Galway showing no sign of weakness. They defended well and attacked even better. In the 40 th minute they got their reward for their excellent work and sent Mounthawk into hysterics. A short-taken corner was played in and out with great feet from Leo Gaxha to lose the defender, he chipped his cross deep into the back post for Ryan Kelliher who nodded home to give the Kingdom a hugely deserved lead.
A lead in at halftime would have given Kerry fantastic confidence going into the second half, but the great form and resilience that Galway have shown throughout the course of the season so far to be where they are in the league table was conveyed right on the stroke of halftime. A floating ball into the box by Conor McCormack was attempted to be punched out by Guthrie but he unfortunately mistimed the flight of the ball and David Hurley got there before him to head home into the empty net, closing out the half 1-1.
From the late equalizer in the first half, Galway really drove on. A free kick from a decent position 25 yards away from the goal was taken by David Hurley. It was laid off for him and his left foot shot whipped around the wall and smashed off the crossbar. It was dealt with by Kerry in the end, but they could not hold off the pressure for that much longer. Maurice Nugent gave the ball to Stephen Walsh inside the box after Kerry gave away the ball very easily. Walsh twisted and turned to open a shot for himself before burying the opportunity to give Galway the lead on the night.
Galway were starting to kick into a new gear and find space in all areas of the pitch. One of those instances came when full-back Colm Horgan went forward well and found some of the said spaces to run into. He gathered enough room and rifled a right-footed shot from just outside the left side of the box into the bottom right corner, giving Guthrie no chance in goal.
Just twelve minutes later things worsened for the home side. A corner swung in from David Hurley at the right corner flag was found by Sean Walsh who headed the ball back the way it came and into the bottom right corner.
Although Kerry found themselves down by three goals they kept pushing and showed great fight. A free kick delivered superbly out from the left wing by Leo Gaxha had his cross flicked on by substitute Trpimir Vrljicak. His header hit the bar and the follow-up acrobatic effort from Samuel Aladesanusi went just wide of the post.
Even with Kerry’s late pressure with another chance coming from Kevin Williams, Galway were able to see the game through and they went away 4-1 victors.
Although Kerry were unable to keep up the pace with Galway, they can feel immensely proud of their first-half performance and keep that in their locker as something to build on, especially with a tough week ahead with a double game week. First off, they face Treaty United away in Limerick. Then they have a trip to Cobh just three days later on the bank holiday Monday to face ramblers. If the Kingdom can put in a good shift in those two games, there is nothing to say that they cannot walk away with maximum points.
Kerry FC Team:
1. Wayne Guthrie (C), 2. Rob Vasiu, 18. Samuel Aladesanusi, 15. Kevin Williams, 22. Cian Barrett, 23. Ronan Teahan, 24.
Jonathan Hannafin, 10, Leo Gaxha, 9. Ryan Kelliher (Goal ‘40), 7. Sean Mcgrath, 11. Sean Kennedy.
Subs: Callan Scully, Shane Guthrie, Sean O’ Connell, Matt Keane, Alex Ainscough, Trpimir Vrljicak, Cian Brosnan, Nathan Gleeson,
Galway United Team:
1. Brendan Clarke 21. Colm Horgan (Goal 58’)(Evan O’connor ‘81), 4. Robert Slevin, 5. Killian Brouder, 6. Maurice Nugent 17. Vincent Borden (Robert Manley ‘75), 22. Conor Mccormack (C) (Michael Rowe ‘75), 24. Edward Mccarthy (Darren Clarke ‘66), 10. David Hurley (Goal 45’), 19. Francely Lomboto (Ronan Manning ‘66) 7. Stephen Walsh (Goal 50’, 70’).