“Championship is about winning.” That was Peter Keane’s opening remark in his post-match interview on Saturday night after he watched his Kerry team hammer Clare, 3-22 to 1-11 in Killarney.
Call it a cliche. The usual platitude rolled out to dampen the hype. But it rings true for Keane and Kerry, after enduring a winter of regret following their shock loss to Cork.
Championship is about winning, and their failure to do so at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last November saw them watch from afar as Dublin collected a sixth consecutive All-Ireland title with minimal fuss.
There is significantly more work to be done before the Kingdom can start dreaming of Croke Park in August, but they can be happy with their start. They didn’t just avoid a potential banana skin, they stamped down on it and didn’t break stride.
“Championship is about winning. Whether you’re a point ahead or two points ahead, it doesn’t really matter as long as you win. Especially this year with no back door,” Keane told Sky Sports after the 17-point victory.
Nonetheless, there are still areas upon which to improve.
“There are certainly things that we need to do a bit of tidying up on after the game,” he continued.
“We certainly have work to go at on Tuesday night in preparation for Tipperary who are the Munster champions, and we have to go and face them at home. So that is going to be a difficult task for us in two weeks’ time.
“I think our accuracy was poor bar the last quarter. I thought it was very good in the last quarter. I think in the first half, we could have been a lot tidier.”
That is going to be a difficult task for us in two weeks’ time.
Keane is now focused on Tipperary
In defence, he was thrilled with how his side limited their visitors to 1-11:
“You’re always trying to be as tight as you possibly can. We were very conscious that we were playing a Clare team who had been very strong on the scoreboard. They kicked 2-18 against Mayo who were in an All-Ireland final last year, and they kicked 1-18 against Cork who had beaten us last year. These are a very good threatening Clare forward line, so that was something we were very conscious of coming in.”
One worry on an otherwise satisfactory evening was the sight of David Clifford limping off before the end.
“It’s a good question,” Keane grimaced when asked about the Fossa star. “We’re going to have to see where he is tomorrow and see where he’s at.”
‘You get punished severely’
Keane’s opposite number Colm Collins did not need a lengthy post-mortem to diagnose where it went wrong for the Banner County.
Kerry ruthlessly punished Clare’s sloppiness in possession, time and time again.
“I think that it’s pretty obvious, if you make mistakes against the top teams, you get punished severely,” he lamented.
“And we gave away too much of the ball. In the first half, 1-7 of their scores came from turnovers. So it’s just a fact of life, you’ve got to protect the ball and we didn’t do it very well today.
“We left ourselves wide open, and when you do things like that, you’re in trouble against a top team.”
And so, after a season that was filled with promise three weeks ago as they threatened to win promotion to Division 1 of the National League, the season is now over for Clare.
“It is [disappointing]. It’s a very abrupt ending, but we all bought into this from the start, we knew it was happening. So that’s it,” Collins sighed.
“I think there’s a lot of very good young players there. Obviously there are areas we need to improve on, but largely I think the future is bright.”
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