Kilcummin have to dig it out
OVERWHELMING favouritism can sometimes be the rock on which a team can perish and for a struggling Kilmcummin side there were times during this provincial quarter-final that banana skins could be visualised all over those rocks on Capt Tubridy Memorial Park in Kilrush.
However, in the end it was a case of all’s well that ends well as Willie Maher’s charges finally shook off the lethargy that had dogged much of their first half efforts to kick on for victory against the flagging second half challenge of the Clare champions.
Kilcummin did this by outscoring Kilrush Shamrocks by 0-6 to 0-2 in that 30 minutes as they turned a 0-5 to 0-4 deficit at the interval into a comfortable three-point victory that tees up a semi-final joust with Waterford champions Kilmacthomas.
They finally found the rhythm either side of the fourth quarter with Gary O’Leary, Matt Keane and Chris O’Leary hitting booming points, but were thankful that the cause they were chasing down the home straight wasn’t already a lost one.
All because it was in the first 30 minutes that Kilrush Shamrocks’ chance of creating a shock was thrown away – a half hour in which they spurned two glorious goal opportunities that could have given them a healthy lead to defend in the second half when turning around to face the wind.
Put simply the Shams failed to find inspiration from the exploits of the international showjumper after whom their pitch is named – they couldn’t scale the fence between them and this notable scalp, which would have been a first for the club since they beat the great All-Ireland winning team of Austin Stacks on their home patch in 1979.
The home side weren’t given a hope, but thanks to a barnstorming first half display when they poured forward at every opportunity into the town end goal they gave themselves a great chance of sending Kilcummin packing.
Alas, that they only led at the break by a point was a very poor return for chances they created and for the urgency of their play against a Kilcummin side that was lacking in front of the posts.
The scores dried then up for the Shams in the second half, something that was to be expected against the elements, but at the same time they should have had a four or five-point cushion to buttress themselves for the onslaught.
The first chance of putting daylight between the sides came just six minutes in when after the opening point from a Liam Madigan free the Shams’ opening goal opportunity came for Darragh Bolton – he ran through on goal but after his rasping drive was brilliantly saved by Brendan Kealy his follow-up ground shot from close range went agonisingly wide.
Shane McSweeney levelled matters in the seventh minute, while a Philip Casey free had Kilcummin level once more by the end of the first quarter as he responded to Madigan’s second free a couple of minutes earlier.
Still, with Matthew Moloney revelling in his sweeping role and with Gearóid O’Brien and Bolton barrelling forward it was the Shams that assumed control of the tie for the remaining 15 minutes.
Points by O’Brien and Madigan’s third helped them into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead after 20 minutes, but the goal that their industry and effort deserved never came, with Jim Young’s point on 26 minutes being an opportunity lost as he fired over instead of under the bar.
It might have been a swift response to a fine Gary O’Leary effort a few minutes later to give the home side a 0-5 to 0-3 lead, but a goal could really have opening things up before the break.
As it was, a free from Noel Duggan in the second minute of injury time brought the gap back to the minimum, at which point Kilcummin had assumed favouritism once more as they turned to play with the elements in the second half.
It’s true that wind never won a game, but it certainly helped win this one as Kilcummin gradually turned the screw against their opponents who retreated into defence for most of the second half.
Another Liam Madigan point on 36 minutes did put two between them once more, but Kilcummin were level by the 39th thanks to Gary O’Leary and Matt Keane, while they never really looked back after taking the lead for the first time when Chris O’Leary split the posts from distance in the 49th minute.
By this stage the Shams were under siege — and there was no let-up with two further Philip Casey frees by the 52nd minute putting three between the sides.
The Shams needed goals, but after slipping four behind when Noel Duggan pointed a free in the 59th minute their only return was Liam Madigan’s fifth from a free four minutes into injury time.
By then the game was lost, with both sides also losing a man each after Shane McSweeney and Ross Phelan were marched after a flare up two minutes from time.
The Shams gave what they had, but it wasn’t enough, while Kilmcummin knew in victory that this won’t be enough if they’re to go on and bring a 12th Munster intermediate title to the Kingdom.
KILMCUMMIN: Brendan Kealy, Sean Brosnan, Donal Maher, Daniel Moynihan, William Maher, Philip Casey (0-3f), Sean O’Leary, Kevin Gorman, Chris O’Leary (01), Gary O’Leary (0-2), Shane McSweeney (0-1), Padraig Nagle, Ian Devine, John McCarthy, Noel Duggan (0-2f) Subs: Matt Keane (0-1) for Gorman (12) B/C, Daniel O’Leary for Brosnan (20), Kieran Murphy for McCarthy (45), Damien O’Leary for Devane (60), James Nagle for Maher (63) KILRUSH Shamrocks: Stephen Ryan, Michael Shannon, Ross Cullinan, Padraig Browne, Con O’Brien, Niall Gilbride, Cian Murray, Darragh Bolton, Jim Young (0-1), Darragh Kelly, Ruaidhri O’Connor, Gearóid O’Brien (0-1), Ross Phelan, Matthew Moloney, Liam Madigan (0-5f) Subs: Niall Brennan for Moloney (51) B/C, Billy Clancy for Kelly (56)
REFEREE: John Ryan (Cork)