at Croke Park
A mesmerising performance from Kerry captain David Clifford helped the Kingdom ease into a fourth successive All-Ireland minor final with a comfortable win over Cavan.
The precocious Fossa man, who has bagged 4-30 in five matches in this campaign, was magnificent and proved the difference between the teams as the Munster champions dismissed the Ulster runners-up.
There was little between them early on with Clifford bagging Kerry’s first three points – all from play – and Cavan’s own go-to forwards Oisin Pierson and Cian Madden replying with two excellent points from play.
In the second quarter, however, Peter Keane’s side took charge. They dominated on kick-outs and with Clifford in such deadly form – despite Cavan deploying Ryan Coyle as a sweeper in front of him – they always looked comfortable.
Cavan midfielder James Smith made it 0-4 to 0-3 on 15 minutes but Kerry reeled off eight points in succession, with Clifford, Donnchadh O’Sullivan and Brian Friel doing much of the damage.
Cavan were thrown a lifeline when Pierson got on the end of a long delivery and bundled home a goal just before half-time to reduce Kerry’s interval advantage to four, 0-11 to 1-4, but the third quarter was all about the All-Ireland champions as they kicked for home.
After Cavan goalkeeper Gary O’Rourke saved well, Kerry recycled possession and it landed in the hands of trigger man Clifford, who calmly side-footed to the net in the 36th minute to effectively end the match as a contest.
Kerry’s tackling was excellent and, when they stripped Cavan of possession, they countered at pace – and their inside forwards did the rest.
Two Friel points and a Clifford free helped them extend their lead to 11 by the end of the third quarter and although Cavan briefly rallied, impressive midfielder Smith getting on the end of a good move to hit the net and Pierson adding two points (one a free), the Breffni lads were never close enough to truly threaten.
Kerry recovered their composure and dominated the closing stages, with sub Jack Griffin slotting home their second goal in injury time and another sub, Eddie Horan, landing a well-taken point as Keane emptied his bench.
While Cavan battled to the end and posted a respectable 2-10, they were out-gunned at the back as Kerry sauntered through to their fourth All-Ireland final in a row – and with their brilliant captain Clifford in such red hot form, they will be the warmest of favourites to retain their crown again.
Kerry: D Uosis, S O’Leary, C O’Donoghue, C Gammell, P Warren, M Potts, N Donohue, B Mahony (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1), A Donoghue, D Clifford (1-10, 2f, 45), Donal O’Sullivan (0-1), F Clifford (0-2), Donnchadh O’Sullivan (0-1), B Friel (0-4)
Subs: E Horan (0-1) for Warren (47 mins), J Griffin (1-1) for O’Sullivan (50), C O’Reilly for F Clifford (58), R O’Neill for Gammell (60),
Cavan: G O’Rourke, J Cooke, E Fortune, R Coyle, P Nulty, C Timoney, D Cusack, R Patterson (0-1), J Smith (1-2), R Curran, C Madden (0-1), P Rogers (0-1), O Pierson (1-5, 2f), P Lynch, O Kiernan
Subs: S Keogan for Kiernan (h-t), K Brady for Coyle (38), N McCabe for Lynch (50), P Meade for Patterson (60), R Madden for Timoney (60)