South squeeze past Strand road
SOUTH Kerry, the old dogs for the hard road, dug deep into all their reserves of experience and poise to find the clutch scores down the stretch to edge past Kerins O’Rahillys and back into a county final meeting with Dr Crokes that will pit the county champions of the last two years together.
Bryan Sheehan was touch and go all last week to shake off a leg injury and take his place in the South Kerry team, but the St Marys man not only started but he played a crucial role in the divisional side’s victory against an O’Rahillys team that had their chances to win but would have to concede were beaten by a better team.
With little between the teams on the scoreboard throughout, a 59th minute Daniel Daly free and a Mark Griffin score a minute later nudged South Kerry into a 0-12 to 1-7 lead with three minutes of additional time signalled. Barry John Keane landed a monster 50-metre free in the second of those three minutes to half the deficit but another free from 55 metres a minute later drifted high and wide to end O’Rahillys hopes of a first county final appearance since 2008.
The victory sets up a South Kerry versus Dr Crokes final that will evoke memories of their 2005, 2006 and 2009 final meetings, all three of which the divisional side won. Given how Crokes dispatched of West Kerry in their semi-final there is no doubt the reigning champions will be hot favourites to retain their title, and South Kerry will know better than most that considerable improvement will be needed on this performance if they are to dethrone the Killarney club. Still, as the old cliché goes - and as South Kerry manager William Harmon confirmed - semi-finals are just there to be got over, and South Kerry did that with a quintessential ‘semi-final’ performance.
It took quite some time for the contest to catch fire, but it ended in a blaze of scores and excitement as the divisional side engineered a come from behind win in the final quarter.
Jack Savage’s first half penalty looked for a long time as if it might be the score to separate the teams at the end but South Kerry scored five of the last seven points to pull off the perfect come-from-behind win. Sheehan had an off day with his usually impeccable free taking but he made up for those errant kicks off the florr with three first half points from play and then proceded to propel his side forward in the second half, albeit from the slightly more advanced position of centre forward.
That first half was an error-ridden affair, with both sides guilty of several unforced errors and some terrible distribution. Sheehan opened the scoring with a punched point after seven minutes but that lead lasted just three minutes when Savage rolled his penalty to the corner of the South Kerry net after Padraig Griffin was fouled after a neat assist from Tommy Walsh operating at full forward.
With Walsh matching up on Griffin on the edge of the square, and Sheehan playing more so at no.11 it was left to David Moran to engage his fellow Kerry panellist Brendan O’Sullivan at midfield, with the Valentia man probably just about enjoying the upper-hand over the hour.
O’Rahillys lost John Ferguson at half time through injury, and though they were 1-3 to 0-5 in front at half time, there was a little more about South Kerry at that stage, even it was only that they had created more scoring chances and kicked more wides in that first half.
Savage (free) and Tommy Begley got early second half scores to put the Tralee club 1-5 to 0-5 ahead, but after Keane and Daly exchanged scores, South Kerry began to find their rhythm.
Substitute Niall O’Shea and Paul O’Donoghue (‘45’) brought them to within a point - either side of a Sheehan shot that was cleared off the line - and then Daly and substitute Ian Galvin (free) gave them a 0-10 to 1-6 lead after 55 minutes.
Savage levelled matters a minute later but that score and Keane’s injury-time point were the only scores O’Rahillys could muster in the last 26 minutes. Meanwhile, Daly and Griffin found the target at other end to book South Kerry’s place in the final on Sunday week.
SOUTH Kerry: Padraig O’Sullivan, Brian Sugrue, Mark Griffin 0-1, Fionan Clifford, Paul O’Sullivan, John Curran, Robert Wharton, Bryan Sheehan 0-3, Brendan O’Sullivan, Conor O’Shea, Paul O’Donoghue 0-1 ‘45’, Graham O’Sullivan, Ronan Hussey 0-1f, Matthew O’Sullivan 0-1, Daniel Daly 0-3 (1f). Subs: Niall O’Shea 0-1 for R Hussey (35), Ian Galvin 0-1f for M O’Sullivan (42), Oran Clifford for P O’Donoghue (48), Shane O’Connor for J Curran (58)
KERINS O’Rahillys: Gary Kissane, Danny O’Sullivan, Ross O’Callaghan, Tommy Begley 0-1, Ryan Carroll, Cormac Coffey, Karl Mullins, David Moran, Tommy Walsh 0-1, Padraig Griffin, Con Barrett, Gavin O’Brien, Barry John Keane 0-3 (2f), Jack Savage 1-2 (1-0, pen, 0-1f), John Ferguson 0-1. Subs: Gearoid Savage for J Ferguson (30+3, inj), Cian Sayers for G O’Brien (30+3), Tom Hoare for T Walsh (46), Shane Brosnan for P Griffin (59)
REFEREE: Eddie Walsh (Rathmore)
Con Barrett, Kerin’s O’Rahillys, is pursued by South Kerry’s Oran Clifford, Conor O’Shea and Brian Sugrue in last Saturday’s County Senior Football Championship semi-final in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney.