The division’s first success in 22 years earned Maurice Fitzgerald the one medal that he had failed to garner over the course of his distinguished career and it was all the more appropriate that he should be the one to lift the trophy.
Dejected Laune Rangers players, clearly handicapped by the loss of Liam Hassett, could hardly begrudge him the honour. Other than Laune Rangers missing a goal in the last minute of normal time - when team captain Mike Frank Russell finished off a disappointing game by kicking wide from close range - the destination of the title looked inevitable after Ronan O’Connor hit the net for South Kerry at the three-quarters stage.
Fitzgerald set it up with his best show of genius in the whole game but it was really the end result of a sweeping movement begun at the other end by wing-back Padraig Sheehan and carried on by full-back Killian Burns.
That passage of play best symbolised the performance of the South Kerry combination in the second-half which saw them perform more like a club side.
And, crucial to their dominance was the powerful play of man-of-the-match Renard’s John Sugrue at midfield and the huge influence of Declan O’Sullivan at centre-forward.
South Kerry made most of the running early on. O’Sullivan (who also kicked the last score) put them in front after two minutes and they had added two more points by the 6th minute.
But out of the blue Laune Rangers produced a goal when Seamus Foley ran on to a perfectly placed cross from Pa O’Sullivan and matched it with his finish. That score was to prove highly significant in the psychological boost it gave them, as well as on the scoreboard.
The Killorglin side started to dominate, with Eoin Ferris and John Sheehan both very strong down the centre of the defence, Barry O’Sullivan prominent at midfield and Billy O’Shea doing well at centre-forward (until Brian Hickey settled).
From South Kerry’s perspective, it was worrying that their good work going forward was not producing scores. Nevertheless, the game remained delicately balanced, with scores level three times up to the 18th minute.
Brian Gannon was effective for Laune Rangers in the right corner until Adrian O’Connell was moved back on him from the wing. But most important of all, Mike Frank Russell was contributing virtually nothing to the Killorglin side.
The game took a dramatic twist in the 22nd minute, first when a mix-up between O’Sullivan and Burns led to Colin O’Connor being gifted a goal.
South Kerry missed a glorious opportunity immediately afterwards when Bryan Sheehan set up Ronan O’Connor at the edge of the goalmouth and the St. Michael’s/Foilmore man hooked his shot well wide of the post as he turned.
With Sheehan putting over a marvellous score from play shortly afterwards, Laune Rangers finished the half 2-3 to 0-6 in front.
As events transpired, it proved to be the strongest position they were in for the game. That was because after Declan O’Sullivan pointed for South Kerry within 13 seconds of the resumption the amalgamation raised their standard considerably.
It happened gradually, and two pointed frees, outstandingly kicked by Sheehan, proved crucial in restoring their confidence. Notably, after Fitzgerald kicked his third wide of the game Sheehan put over a spectacular kick from the right wing which the maestro would have been proud of.
It levelled the scores (2-4 to 0-10) for the last time and marked a major turning point in the game.
By now, Sugrue was monopolising the play at midfield - having at other stages used his fielding ability to great effect in around the goalmouth - and Declan O’Sullivan was much more influential.
Ronan O’Connor, who regained confidence after his first-half miss, had South Kerry back in front in the 41st minute, Sugrue followed with another score and then followed O’Connor’s goal - very well taken, resulting from the Costello, Burns, Ronan Hussey, Fitzgerald move.
The game still had a full 15 minutes (plus injury time) to run, but effectively, Laune Rangers’ challenge had been overcome.
Pa O’Sullivan got what proved to be their only score of the half in the 51st minute and while only four points separated the sides, South Kerry were so much in control that it was next to impossible to see them losing.
Russell would have given Laune Rangers hope had he managed to goal near the end, but it wasn’t to be.
: South Kerry: B. Sheehan 0-5 (0-3 frees); R. O’Connor 1-1; D. O’Sullivan 0-3; R. Hussey 0-2 (0-1 free); D. O’Dwyer and S. Sugrue 0-1 each. Laune Rangers: C. O’Connor 1-1; S. Foley 1-0; P. O’Sullivan 0-2 frees; B. Gannon and B. O’Shea 0-1 each
: M. Drummond (Sneem); S. O’Sullivan (Skellig Rangers), K. Burns (Sneem), G. O’Driscoll (St. Mary’s); P. Sheehan (Dromid Pearses), B. Hickey (Skellig Rangers), A. O’Connell (St. Michael’s/Foilmore); A. O’Sullivan (Skellig Rangers), J. Sugrue (Renard); D. O’Dwyer (Waterville), D. O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses), B. Sheehan (St. Mary’s); R. Hussey (Sneem), R. O’Connor (St. Michael’s/Foilmore), M. Fitzgerald (St. Mary’s, capt).
: T. Lyons; C. Falvey, E. Ferris, T. Houlihan; P. Costello, J. Sheehan, J. Coffey; J. Lynch, B. O’Sullivan; B. O’Shea, C. O’Connor, S. Foley; B. Gannon, P. O’Sullivan, M.F. Russell.
: N. Lynch for Ferris (injured, 48th minute); A. Hassett for O’Sullivan (55th).
: P. Sheehy (Clounmacon).