“There’s a lot of similarities with that 1986 Co U21 final,” says coach Pat O’Shea, who was corner forward twenty years ago against Castleisland.
“We were a very young side, with a lot of raw talent, and the general view would have been that it was a season too soon for us. Winning (by 1-11 to 2-4) was a huge fillip, because the club had just decided to go it alone in the senior championship.”
Despite their successes in the past two decades — including an All-Ireland club title in 1991/92 — there’s a sense of a new beginning about tomorrow’s Kerry SFC final against champions South Kerry.
“We feel, like in 1986, that the club is very young at the moment. A ‘breakthrough’ success would be very healthy for the club,” O’Shea feels. The coach is confident too, though not unhealthily.
“There are a lot of things changed from 2005. The gap between the semi-final and final has been helpful to us — last year it was six days, this time it’s three weeks. Also Eoin Brosnan and Colm Cooper were not involved in the International Rules this year, whereas they had only returned to us from Australia last season.”
There’s also the passing of time, even if it’s only twelve months. “The experience gained by Kieran O’Leary, Andrew Kennelly and Mike Maloney last year will be of benefit to them, and the team.”
South Kerry defeated Crokes 0-12 to 1-6 last November, and while O’Shea accepts that the champions tick all the boxes of proven winners, and possess the marquee names, he senses “the time is right for us to give them a scare.”
They’ll need to do more than scare a side going for a historic first Kerry senior three-in-a-row. Crokes are boosted by the return at full back of James Cahillane, who missed the semi-final with an eye injury.
The Killarney side’s last Kerry title was six years ago, when they squeezed past Gaeltacht 1-4 to 0-6 in a dire affair. On that occasion the full-forward line was O’Shea, Connie Murphy and a 17-year-old Colm Cooper. Tomorrow’s equivalent of Cooper, Eoin Brosnan and Kieran O’Leary is similarly promising, but they’ll need to deliver on their potential if South Kerry are to be denied their piece of history.
K. Cremin, K McMahon, J. Cahillane, L. Quinn, S. Doolan, B. McMahon, M. Moloney, K. Brosnan, A. O’Donovan, B. Looney, A. Kennelly, J. Fleming; C. Cooper, E. Brosnan, K. O’Leary.
M. Drummond (Sneem); A. O’Connell (St Michael’s, Foilmore), W. Sullivan (Skellig Rangers), C. Young (Renard); S. O’Sullivan (Skellig Rangers), B. Hickey (Skellig Rangers), Denis O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses); B. Sheehan (St Mary’s), A. O’Sullivan (Skellig Rangers); P. O’Connor (Valentia), Declan O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses), D. Dwyer (Waterville); R. Hussey (Sneem), R. O’Connor (St Michael’s, Foilmore), M. Fitzgerald (St. Mary’s).