This was an absorbing AIB Munster Club SFC semi-final at rain-lashed Quilty, Co Clare, yesterday.
The Banner side looked to be retiring with a four point interval lead, more than retrievable for the Kerry side who had wind and rain advantage in the second-half. However, Hickey’s goal gave Kilmurry/Ibrickane a confidence-injecting cushion.
The 1,500 odd spectators who braved the cruellest of conditions were treated to a marvellous contest as the under-rated Milltown-Castlemaine side proved more than a match for the home side.
Indeed had forward Ian Twiss been on from the start, this game might have panned out differently. Carrying a hamstring injury, Twiss was introduced with 10 minutes to go and played a key role as his side pulled down a six point lead to three with five minutes remaining.
In the end, however, the experience and greater physical strength of Kilmurry/Ibrickane won through, and they will fancy their chances against Waterford champions Stradbally in the final on December 5 in Thurles.
The Clare champions opted to play with the elements in the opening half. However, their concentration on a short-passing game in the extremely difficult conditions was clearly the wrong tactic and it was only when they reverted to the long ball game that the scores finally came.
It took four minutes for Odran O’Dwyer to open their account when he pointed a 30 metre free, but they found it hard to add to their tally, principally due to great defending by Milltown-Castlemaine full-back Damien Murphy and man of the match Alfie Giles.
In contrast, Milltown-Castlemaine played the possession game very well and were very dangerous on the attack. They might have had a goal in the ninth minute had Gavin Wren spotted the unmarked Derek Twiss on the edge of the Kilmurry/Ibrickane square. Wren went it alone and the chance was lost.
It took the Clare side another six minutes to add to their tally when O’Dwyer again pointed a free and it sparked off a great 10 minute spell for the home side.
They began to use the long ball from defence, and it paid a handsome dividend in the 12th minute when Michael O’Dwyer won possession from a long clearance to set up Enda Coughlan for an opportunist goal.
However, points by Alfie Giles and Gavin Wrenn had Milltown-Castlemaine well in contention after 20 minutes. The dominance of the O’Dwyer brothers, Peter and Odran, at midfield ensured Kilmurry/Ibrickane enjoyed more of the play but they continued to struggle for scores.
A four point lead didn’t look to be good enough as the game ticked into injury-time, but after forcing a 45, Johnny Daly’s well directed kick was fisted home by Shane Hickey.
The introduction of Martin Keavey to centre-forward was a key factor for the home side, although his hard-won possession was often wasted by his errant-shooting colleagues.
Odran O’Dwyer edged his side in front with a fisted point from a Keavey pass, and while Derek Twiss got one back for the visitors, the Kerry side’s scores weren’t coming as frequently as they would have liked, mainly due to great defending by Brendan Moloney and Declan Callanan.
Milltown-Castlemaine continued to press forward at every opportunity, and in one sweeping movement, they carved open a goal chance for Mike Burke, but he was denied by a great block by Alfie Giles.
The Kerry team refused to buckle. As the home side visibly wilted, the visitors kicked over four points without reply and with five minutes remaining the score stood at 2-5 to 0-8 for Kilmurry/Ibrickane .
Kilmurry/Ibrickane finally broke the visitors’ resistance when outstanding wing-back picked off a point after great work by Peter and Odran O’Dwyer. Johnny Daly landed the insurance point in the 62nd minute.
: Kilmurry: O. O’Dwyer 0-4 (0-3 free); E. Coughlan, S. hickey 1-0 each; J. Daly 0-2 (0-1 free); D. Callanan 0-1. Milltown-Castlemaine: G. Wren 0-3 (frees); A. Giles, D. Twiss (free), D. Kelleher, I. Twiss, F. Murphy 0-1 each.
: D. O’Brien; B. Moloney, J. O’Connor, E. Talty; D. Callanan, M., Cahill, V. Talty; P. O’Dwyer, O. O’Dwyer; A. Corry, E. Coughlan, S. Hickey; M. Hogan, J. Daly, M. O’Dwyer. Subs: M. Keavey for Corry; Paul O’Dwyer for Hogan; G. Donnellan for V. Talty.
: G. Murphy; F. Kelleher, D. Murphy, J. Blennerhassett; G. McKenna, F. Murphy, J. Giles; M. Burkie, P. McCarthy; S. Murphy, A. Giles, G. wren; D. Twiss, C. Kerins, D. Kelleher.Subs: C. Kelleher for J. Giles; I. Twiss for D. Twiss; W. Harmon for McCarthy.
: P. Russell (Tipperary).