Ardfert (Kerry) 1-12 Valley Rovers (Cork) 1-10
With 20 minutes remaining under the peaks of the McGillycuddy Reeks, it looked like it would be a day for Valleys.
An excellent free from John Cottrell, on the back of points by him and Eoin Manning, put the Cork side four points clear, 1-9 to 0-8, but Ardfert are made of tough stuff.
They had been faced with a four-point deficit in the first half and responded well to trail by just one at half-time; this time, they did even better. Damien Wallace’s third point left just a goal in it and, even though they lost full-back Rory Horgan to a black card on 44 minutes, the goal wasn’t long in arriving.
Throughout the game, the North Kerry side had shown themselves to be able to put together incisive attacking moves when they managed to get past halfway and the goal was a prime example of that. Darren Wallace, Michael Moloney and John Egan were all involved as the ball was worked to sub Brandon Barrett. Though Joe Lynch got in a great block on his shot, Damien Wallace was there to pick up possession and slot home.
That made it 1-9 to 0-9 and Shane Griffin pointed straight after to put them ahead for the first time since the 18th minute. It would prove to be a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, 1-4 to 0-1 the score for those last 20. Valleys manager Gerard Slyne accepted that Ardfert’s experience had been a factor.
“They’re a very dangerous team,” he said, “very slick forwards, the experience was there and it told.
“We looked to be holding our own after we pushed it out to four points in the second half but to lose a goal like we did… maybe we should have fouled further out. We had chances to level and didn’t take them, then they came down and took the right options.
“There was one passage where we trying to work it out of the corner and we did and created a scoring chance, maybe if we got it, it would have been a big psychological boost.
“Kevin Canty was a devastating loss. He had been our talisman all year and we were looking to him to drive it on and it was tough to lose him so early.
“You learn from your experience and these lads will be better for it.”
The loss of Canty was costly. He suffered an ankle injury in the third minute and attempted to run it off but had to be substituted. That meant a re-jigging of the team, with Fiachra Lynch coming from full-forward to midfield, and the upheaval affected Valleys as it took until the 15th minute for them to score, a Cottrell free.
That made it 0-2 to 0-1 after Ardfert had started better only for poor shooting to prove costly. When Egan pointed following a nice pass from centre-back Stephen Leen, there were no signs of the overall pattern changing but then Gary Farrell pointed for Valleys after a lay-off from Manning, who had come on for Canty. From the kickout, Farrell gathered the ball again and produced a powerful run. Despite the attentions of Darren Dineen, he managed to get his shot away and while Nicholas O’Sullivan saved well — injuring himself in the process — Cottrell was there to tuck away the rebound.
Even though Egan had an immediate response after another well-worked move, the goal had swung the momentum firmly and Manning and Hughie O’Donovan (two) added more points to push them 1-5 to 0-4 clear.
As they would later show, Ardfert had no problems when faced with challenges like that and two from Griffin and one by Damien Wallace left just a point in it at half-time.
“We’re better when our backs are to the wall,” said Ardfert joint-coach Pat O’Driscoll.
“I said to the lads at half-time that I’d prefer to be down one or two, not too much, but that’s the way we play football, we’re better coming from behind.”
From the throw-in, Darragh Murphy launched a good ball into Cottrell, whose catch and kick were of the highest order to extend the lead again. David Griffin responded for Ardfert but when Valleys reeled off those three in a row, their odds had shortened significantly.
Instead, Ardfert had found a renewed energy and Damien Wallace’s point made it 1-11 to 1-9. Valleys sub Aidan Walsh did give them hope but a couple of equaliser attempts fell short and Egan’s third point wrapped it up in injury time for Ardfert.
Scorers for Ardfert: Damien Wallace 1-4 (one free), S Griffin, J Egan 0-3 each, D Griffin 0-2.
Subs for Ardfert: B Barrett for Leen (38, injured), J Wallace for R Horgan (44, black card).
Scorers for Valley Rovers: J Cottrell 1-4 (two frees), H O’Donovan (one free), E Manning 0-2 each, G Farrell, A Walsh 0-1 each.
Subs for Valley Rovers: E Manning for Canty (10, injured), M Power for Delaney (half-time), T O’Brien for B Murphy (40), A Walsh for Lyons (50), T Cummins for J Murphy (53).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).
No questions about this one: Damien Wallace’s goal drew Ardfert level at 1-9 apiece when it looked like the game might have been slipping away.
Talk of the town
Ardfert’s love for the club championship – in 2005/06 they were All-Ireland junior champions and the following year went all the way in intermediate. Can they do it again?
Did that just happen?
Despite the time of year, Ardfert managed to score all but one of their scores from play.
Best on show
Damien Wallace scored 1-4 for Ardfert and was heavily involved in a series of nice passing moves.
Black card watch Ardfert full-back Rory Horgan was the only one and there were no complaints from the Kerry side. No other real candidates.
Valley Rovers were unlucky that the loss of Kevin Canty meant that Fiachra Lynch was needed in midfield and he couldn’t impact the scoreboard as he might have done from full-forward. Ardfert lost their starting full-back Horgan and centre-back Stephen Leen to injury but their switches worked.
The man in black
Rory Hickey did seem to allow advantage to run on too long once or twice but no other complaints.
Ardfert have an All-Ireland final against Warrenpoint (Down) to look forward to. The year ends for Valleys but senior football awaits in 2015.
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