LIMERICK Desmond Youths got their Youths Inter-league Trophy campaign off to a brilliant start when they won 5-0 against Kerry in a wintry Clounreask on Saturday afternoon.
The first goal can be crucial in encounters such as this and it would have gone to Kerry in the 7th minute but for Andy Brouder making an excellent save from Jesse Sullivan.
The opening goal did come a minute later, at the other end. Peter Shanahan’s floated free-kick from the right was defended poorly by Kerry and Dylan Griffin took full advantage by ghosting in behind and lofting the ball into the far corner of the net.
To defend one free-kick poorly is bad enough, to do so twice in the space of three minutes is unforgiveable but that’s what happened. This time Shanahan delivered from the left. Kerry failed to clear and the ball broke to James Naughton, who gave goalkeeper Josh O’Reilly no chance with a clinical finish.
Kerry were doubly bloodied but singularly unbowed and they went about the task of getting back into the game with some vigour.
They had their fair share of possession but enjoyed no success whatsoever from their policy of playing the ball behind the Limerick Desmond defence, who were in top form and seemed to have judged to perfection the amount of space left between them and goalkeeper Brouder, with the result that the visitors didn’t have another shot at goal for the rest of the game.
It might have been different if Kerry had a striker in their ranks of the quality of Naughton, who was the best player on the pitch. He hardly put a foot wrong throughout the game, showing an eye for a pass as well as an eye for goal in a display that bristled with class and energy.
In the 38th minute, Naughton’s battling qualitites were in evidence when he won possession in the Kerry right-back position before passing to Steven Carrig who almost breached the goal-line from an acute angle. The ball was kept in play by Griffin who pulled it back to Bob Keogh, who finished with unerring accuracy.
Facing a 3-0 deficit as they came out after the half-time break, Kerry needed a good start to the second-half to offer a chink of light on the floodlit pitch. Cue the opposite.
The second-half was only fifteen seconds old when Naughton made it 4-0, taking a pass from Griffin and turning sharply on the edge of the box before firing low inside the far post.
Before the hour mark, Limerick Desmond created another five chances. Downes and fellow midfielder, James Cussen, both came close after one-twos with Naughton, who also set up Keogh to curl wide of the right-hand post and Cussen again to fire straight at O’Reilly. Carrig had a shot cleared off the line by Brian O’Connell after O’Reilly had dropped a long ball from right-back Shane Stack.
Kerry were in disarray at this stage but, to their credit, they did rally to come more into the game in the final quarter. They had a rare sight of goal in the 68th minute when Cian Sheridan’s through ball found Ryan Carroll, who hesitated momentarily and was immediately crowded out by four hungry defenders. A couple of minutes later, substitute Denis Cassidy was narrowly off-target with a glancing header from a free-kick by Westley Delaney.
However, Limerick Desmond remained the better side, showing more invention and penetration. Naughton presented Griffin with a great opportunity to score his second but, off-balance, the right-sided midfielder screwed the ball across the face of goal.
When a team dominates a match as much as Limerick Desmond did, it is a sign that the central midfielders have played well and that was the case with Cussen and Downes.
The pair crowned a successful partnership in the 85th minute when Cussen passed to Downes to score the goal of the match.
Receiving the ball near the left-hand sideline, only Downes himself could have thought of scoring from there. It took a remarkable display of skill, confidence and tenacity to do so, beating two defenders en route to the corner of the penalty area, from where he stroked the ball into the far corner. Limerick Desmond are top of the Group after the opening series of games, leading on goal difference from Cork who won 2-1 away to Limerick District on Friday night, scoring the winner from a corner in the sixth minute of injury-time.
Limerick Desmond’s remaining two games in the group are away, against Cork on the 24th of November and Limerick District in the week ending 6th January. Limerick Desmond - Andy Brouder, Shane Stack, TJ Lane, Peter Shanahan, Eoin Cuddihy, Dylan Griffin, Paul Downes, James Cussen, Steven Carrig, Bob Keogh, James Naughton. Subs: Patrick Wilmott for Carrig (64 mins), Eoin Murphy for Shanahan ( 70 mins), Martin Madden for Keogh (76 mins), Lukas Tanzcuk, James Bridgeman, James O’Brien.
Kerry - Josh O’Reilly, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Westley Delaney, Jared O’Sullivan Cillian Regan, Liam O’Connor, Brian O’Connell, Ryan Carroll, Ryan Downey, Cian Sheridan, Jesse O’Sullivan. Subs: Klaudio Dema for O’Connor (50 mins), Denis Cassidy for Regan (63 mins), Craig Corcoran.
Referee - Pat O’Connor.
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