Group phase reaches crescendo this week­end

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - SPORT - TADHG EVANS


Le­gion 0-7 Rath­more 1-11

IT was calm rather than fiery, more solid than stun­ning, but Rath­more’s re­sponse to their eight-point de­feat against Din­gle was as ad­mirable as it was un­ex­pected.

With their cham­pi­onship hopes re­duced to a flicker in Austin Stack Park ten days ago, many felt their dreams would quench al­to­gether in Direen. That they trot­ted to the field with an un­fa­mil­iar band of starters only weak­ened their sup­port­ers’ con­fi­dence. In­stead, they left Kil­lar­ney with pride, points and re­newed op­ti­mism head­ing into their fi­nal group game – even if Din­gle’s win over Kenmare ef­fec­tively ended their hopes of mak­ing the fi­nal.

Le­gion, while dis­ap­point­ing, weren’t timid; they launched at­tacks from half-back con­tin­u­ously, leav­ing parts of the field as worn as a race­course re­cov­er­ing from a lengthy card.

Their ills, in­stead, stemmed from a lack of ring-craft in fac­ing Rath­more’s de­fence; on the sel­dom oc­ca­sions they weren’t robbed of pos­ses­sion, they of­ten drove wide from dis­tance.

Rath­more them­selves kicked four wides in­side the open­ing ten min­utes; their only score in this pe­riod came from a short­range free by Mark Reen. A pair of points by Le­gion’s Jamie O’Sul­li­van, in­clud­ing a su­perb ef­fort just in from the right wing, put his team 0-2 to 0-1 ahead – and when ref­eree Seán Joy waved a black card at Rath­more wing-for­ward Ge­orge O’Ke­effe, this match looked set to fol­low pre-game pre­dic­tions.

Even a one-point deficit seemed harsh on Rath­more; they’d looked the live­lier team. But they went about ad­dress­ing their early fail­ings, kick­ing only two wides from the 10th minute on­wards.

An ex­cel­lent score from near the right wing by John Moyni­han and a pointed free by Reen put them ahead, with Dean Fitzger­ald trad­ing points with Le­gion’s Ai­dan Slat­tery for a 0-4 to 0-3 score-line.

Rath­more should have net­ted on 23 min­utes when cap­tain Shane Ryan soared to touch the ball to­wards goal, but Le­gion goal­keeper Brian Kelly threw shapes wor­thy of Be­y­oncé to parry the strike. His save was the prod­uct of in­stinct and string-like flex­i­bil­ity, but did noth­ing to in­spire his team as they con­ceded fur­ther points to Moyni­han and Ryan.

Rath­more lost five of their first six kick-outs; Le­gion’s mid­field pair­ing of Billy McGuire and Padraig Lucey took enough marks from those restarts to raise sus­pi­cion they had su­per­glue on their fin­gers. But a lack of imag­i­na­tion by Le­gion’s for­wards in try­ing to open Rath­more’s de­fence meant those kick-outs went largely un­pun­ished, their harm­less at­tacks leav­ing them 0-3 to 0-6 down at half-time.

Al­most im­me­di­ately upon the restart, Le­gion’s Conor Keane ac­cepted a pass from Pe­ter McCarthy to boot the first point of the sec­ond half and his team-mate Jamie O’Sul­li­van kicked his third point af­ter Le­gion’s for­wards pressed up on Rath­more’s de­fence to force a short-range free.

Some 20 min­utes would pass, how­ever, be­fore the Kil­lar­ney team found the mark again – a fa­tal famine. A quick dou­ble from Ryan and Brian Friel made it 0-8 to 0-5, be­fore the game’s cru­cial play pushed the match be­yond Le­gion. As a long punt by Reen on 46 min­utes de­scended to­wards goal like a hawk, Shane Ryan – with his best im­pres­sion of a man div­ing for a fall­ing vase – lunged at the dipping ball and touched it to the net. It made it 1-8 to 0-5, and a cool fin­ish to the match by Rath­more quelled any hope of a Le­gion fight­back; a straight off-the-ball red card for home cor­ner-back Chris Davis only eased their pas­sage to vic­tory.

Another long-range strike by Reen fur­ther boosted the away team’s ac­count, and while Le­gion coun­tered quickly with Billy McGuire curl­ing one over with the out­side of his boot and O’Sul­li­van land­ing a ‘45, Rath­more looked un­shake­able. Ryan and Daniel O’Sul­li­van points made vic­tory cer­tain; the straight red card flashed at Eoin Lawlor for a strik­ing of­fence ar­rived too late to help Le­gion. LE­GION: Brian Kelly, Cian Gam­mell, Danny Shee­han, Chris Davis (r/c 50 min­utes), Dar­ragh O’Do­herty, Damien O’Sul­li­van, Jonathan Lyne, Billy McGuire (0-1), Padraig Lucey, Ai­dan Slat­tery (0-1), Fin­barr Mur­phy, Jack O’Neill, Jamie O’Sul­li­van (0-4, 0-1 frees, 0-1 ‘45’), Conor Keane (0-1), Pe­ter McCarthy Subs: Luke O’Donoghue for Pe­ter McCarthy, 44, Rob Leen for Fin­barr Mur­phy, 47, Alan Mo­ri­arty for Ai­dan Slat­tery, 47 Black Card: Sean McCarthy for Dar­ragh O’Do­herty, 63

RATH­MORE: Padraig McCarthy, Michael Joe Kel­li­her, Bren­dan O’Ke­effe, Colm Kelly, TJ Friel, Cathal Mur­phy, Paul Mur­phy, Brian Moyni­han, Daniel O’Sul­li­van (0-1), Ge­orge O’Ke­effe, Brian Friel (0-1), Mark Reen (0-3, 0-2 frees), Shane Ryan (1-3, 0-1 frees), Dean Fitzger­ald (0-1), John Moyni­han (0-2) Black Card: Eoin Lawlor for Ge­orge O’Ke­effe, 12.

REF­EREE: Seán Joy (Laune Rangers)

Pe­ter McCarthy, Le­gion scores a point de­spite the ef­forts of Colm Kelly, Rath­more in the Club Cham­pi­onship at Direen, Kil­lar­ney on Sun­dayPhoto by Michelle Cooper Galvin

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