Conway goal sets Kerry on their way to victory
ALL IRELAND U-21 ‘B’ HC FINAL
Kerry 2-12 Wicklow 2-8
IT was just about the only moment in the match where you feared for the Kingdom.
Not because of the margin at the time – three points with about twenty minutes to go was never likely to prove insurmountable – but because of the momentum it seemed likely to generate for Wicklow and the momentum it denied the green and gold.
Ian Brick’s side had started the second half well. A Shane Conway free two minutes beforehand had levelled the match up again. With the breeze at their backs into the town end, the tide was beginning to turn their way.
That was before Wicklow scored a brilliant team goal, working the ball through Pádraig O’Toole and Seánie Germaine and onto Michael Boland for an expertly taken finish. It was a goal to win a final, a goal to rock a team back upon its heels, it was a goal which suggested Wicklow were going nowhere.
This was one of those crunch moments in the life of a team. Sink or swim. How Kerry responded defined the final and defined their season. How they responded speaks incredibly well of them. They responded with fury and indignation and no little skill.
Straight from the puck-out, which the ever-impressive Jack Goulding won, Kerry went down the other end of the pitch and nabbed a goal of their own. Goulding got the ball to Shane Conway and young Lixnaw flyer did the rest.
He cut in from the left and down towards Cian Staunton’s goal before planting it to the Wicklow shot-stopper’s left. A great move, a class finish. Far from reeling, the Kingdom were striking back and striking back hard.
Kerry were the better team, they knew it too and they weren’t about to let Wicklow win a game that was rightly theirs. To emphasise the point, Kerry got the game’s next score
– another goal, this one from Kilmoyley’s Maurice O’Connor.
With that second goal whatever doubts were there were all but extinguished. Kerry were going to win this game. It really should have been more straightforward than it was. Instead a succession of wides gave Wicklow more hope than they scarcely had right to.
By the fifty third minute the three point lead Kerry had opened following O’Connor’s goal had been whittled down to just the minimum – points from Shaun Hughes and Germaine – but even then the Kingdom remained the dominant force in the game.
Barry O’Sullivan – who after a slow start thundered into the game in the second half – assisted Daniel O’Carroll to re-establish a two point lead. Kerry, as they did for much of the second half, owned the ball. Wicklow were left limited to the odd sporadic attack here and there.
The Garden County had a few chances late on – an Enda Donohue free dropped short on fifty five minutes – but the whip hand remained with Kerry. Eventually all that pressure told. Conway pointed a free on fifty seven and Kerry were pushed three clear.
Then on the hour mark the Lixnaw man sent over a booming long range effort from about the halfway line and that truly was that. Kerry were deserved champions, even if they probably never did hit the heights they’re capable of.
The conditions, of course, played a large part in that, as could seen when the A final which followed never really caught fire either. Wicklow too played their part. To the naked eye they looked a more robust outfit than Kerry and in the first half put that extra heft to good effect.
Still though they lacked that little bit of class up front to really punish Kerry. Even with Wicklow playing well and pushing Kerry back, by the fourteenth minute Kerry actually led – four points to three.
It wasn’t until Michael Boland found the back of the net for the first time – following up on the rebound when a Germaine shot was saved by Stephen Murphy – that Wicklow retook the lead.
They maintained that two point advantage at the break – 0-6 to 1-5 – and, with Goulding forcing a save from Staunton, Wicklow could count themselves glad to have even that.
For as well as Wicklow competed, a two point lead was never likely to be enough in the second half against a team with the fire-power Kerry had at their disposal and, even not firing anywhere near 100%, that’s how it turned out.
There was just that one brief moment when we questioned that assessment. Conway’s response was emphatic. He wasn’t going to be denied and neither were Kerry. As a result the Richie McElligott Cup resides in the Kingdom for the first time.
That it was a Lixnaw man who helped make it happen – and that it was a Lixnaw man who collected the cup – couldn’t possibly have been any more apt.
KERRY: Stephen Murphy (Causeway), Stevie O’Sullivan (Abbeydorney), Eoin Ross (Ballyduff), Billy Lyons (Causeway), Jason Diggins (Causeway), John Buckley (Lixnaw), Jordan Brick (Kilmoyley), Barry O’Sullivan (Dingle), Tomás O’Connor (Crotta O’Neills), Brandon Barrett (Causeway), Michael O’Leary (Abbeydorney), Ronan Donovan (0-1) (Abbeydorney), Maurice O’Connor (1-1) (Kilmoyley), Shane Conway (1-6, 6f) (Lixnaw), Jack Goulding (0-3, 1 sideline cut) (Ballyduff)
Subs: Daniel O’Carroll (0-1) (Ballyduff) for R Donovan, 48, Robert Collins for B Barrett, 50
WICKLOW: Cian Staunton, Shaun Hughes (0-1), Oisín Furlong, Seánie Maloney, Matthew Traynor, Andrew Hughes, Terry Healy, Christy Moorehouse, Cormac Whitmore, Gary Hughes, Jack Doyle (0-2), Michael Boland (2-0), Enda Donohoe (0-3f), Pádraig Doyle, Seánie Germaine (0-2f) Subs: Pádraig O’Toole for C Whitemore, 31, Tiernan Mellon for T Healy, 43
REFEREE: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)