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GAA: GOLDEN BOY LIFTS THE KINGDOM; Kerry ...2-9 Dublin...0-10: Russell proves he's top dog for revived champs.

Byline: COLM KEYS

THE golden boy of Kerry football came storming back to his very best at Killarney yesterday. And Maurice Fitzgerald also made his comeback after a short self imposed exile!

Where the real hub of this Kerry football team is could be gauged in the second half as Kerry picked themselves up off the Allianz NFL Div 1A floor with a well timed win over Dublin at Fitzgerald Stadium.

A crowd of almost 9,000 turned out to see Fitzgerald back in a Kerry shirt after his well publicised 'misunderstanding' with the Kerry management before their last league game with Roscommon.

But instead of watching a show of Fitzgerald retribution they were treated to the magic of Russell at his best.

Even Paidi O Se, not noted for singling out individuals unless it's Seamus Moynihan, took time out to praise the contribution of the Laune Ranger as Kerry finally got their Allianz NFL campaign off the ground.

Kerry hadn't won any of their four previous league encounters and were heavily stalked by the the threat of relegation.

And for long spells of the first half the malaise which has dogged them since their All-Ireland triumph was still clouding their play.

But a resurgent second half performance, inspired by the sorcery of Russell in the right corner of the attack, helped turn a two point deficit into a five point winning margin.

Russell scored four points from play in all, three in that second half, and also made the main assist in Aodhan MacGearailt's last minute goal that ensured their first league victory.

"We showed a lot more urgency in the second half. Michael Frank was a completely different player in the second half than he was in the first and our midfield also got on top. Donal Daly brought up his game again," said a delighted O Se afterwards.

"The players were under pressure and were conscious that the supporters and indeed the management were getting uneasy. It sets us up for the remaining two matches," he said.

"Whether or not we avoid relegation or not could still be in our own hands depending on how other games go," he added.

As for Fitzgerald his indifference was put down to a lack of match practice and training by the manager.

"Maurice will admit himself that he found the pace of the game that little bit hard. It was his first game back since we played Offaly and he has missed his share of training," said O Se who re-iterated his delight at having Fitzgerald back in harness.

For Dublin it's back to the drawingboard after another second half performance that offered little solace.

They only scored three times in the second 35 minutes and will rue another succession of missed frees that cost dearly.

First Wayne McCarthy drove blatantly wide from a scoreable position and then Declan Darcy, just on the field as a replacement for McCarthy, hit an urpight with a much easier chance which would have left just a point in it if he had converted.

Of more concern is yet another injury to Ian Robertson which could rule him out of action for at last six weeks.

An MRI scan on Friday revealed that he had a hairline fracture of a bone in the leg.

Robertson, selected at centre-forward for this clash, means a lot to this Dublin team and it was easy to detect the disappointment in manager Tom Carr's voice afterwards.

"It's hugely for Ian and for us. We need players like him for games like this," admitted Carr.

"It was in the balance at that stage. We were closing until the goal went in," said Carr.

Dublin had started impressively with plenty of good passing movements testing the Kerry defence on a number of occasions in the first period.

Vinny Murphy's strength posed plenty of problems for 'Footballer of the Year' Seamus Moynihan while Colin Moran, fresh from Saturday's under 21 win over Kildare, added to his growing reputation with a couple of excellent points.

By the 14th minute they were 0-4 to 0-1 to the good, courtesy of points from Senan Connell after only 17 seconds, Murphy, Moran and a Wayne McCarthy free.

Kerry were chalking up too many wides in pursuit of their great rivals and it came as a great relief to them when a floated Fitzgerald free into the box was won by MacGearailt who fed his club-mate O Cinneide for a 21st minute goal.

KERRY: D.O'Keeffe; M. Hassett, S.Moynihan, M.McCarthy; T.O Se, E.Fitzmaurice, K.Scanlon; D.O Se (0-1), D.Daly; D.Dwyer, M.Fitzgerald, B.Sheehan; MF.Russell (0-4), D.O Cinneide (0-3,all frees), A.MacGearailt (1-0). Subs - N.Keneally (0-2,0-1 free) for Sheehan, W.Kirby for for Dwyer (10 mins).

DUBLIN: D.Byrne; M.Cahill, P.Christie,C.Goggins; S.Ryan, J.McGee, P.Andrews; C.Whelan, E.Sheehy; S.Connell, N.O'Donoghue, C.Moran; D.Farrell, V.Murphy, W. McCarthy.

CAPTION(S):

ON THE RUN: Maurice Fitzgerald; ATTACK: Kerry showed their fighting spirit in the second half; STAR QUALITY: Michael Russell
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2001
Words:854
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