Ardfert’s four goals brings their tally of majors in the championship to 36 from 16 games played and they needed everyone of them to get the better of a dogged Confey side that was well in contention up to the time Shane Griffin had the winner’s fourth green flag.
There was no disputing that the Kerry and Munster champions deserved victory. There was little to choose between the teams in terms of general play, but the ability of the Ardfert forwards to score goals ensured they stay on course to add the intermediate All-Ireland title to last year’s junior crown.
Confey had the better of the opening exchanges and led through a Kieran Divilly point after three minutes. Stephen Wallace equalised seven minutes later before the Munster champions took a firm grip on the affair.
Eamon Corridan began to dominate at centre back and with Wallace who won an All-Ireland JFC medal with Kerry last year, proving a handful at full forward, Ardfert struck for their opening goal.
Wallace looked to be going for a point from a 20 metre fee but his effort fell short and Shane Griffin out-jumped the keeper to punch home a goal. It got worse for the Kildare side. Brendan O’Flaherty came forward to fist a point before the industrious John Egan stroked home a goal from Michael Moloney’s delivery and the Kerry champions held a five point lead by the quarter hour.
Confey’s approach work was very good but the efforts of Kieran Divilly, Frankie Barry and Eoin Fitzpatrick counted for little as the Ardfert backs defended in numbers.
In contrast, the winner’s forwards were very dangerous in possession particularly Wallace and Egan who combined for a third goal in the 27th minute. Michael Moloney made a lot of ground out of defence before parting to Egan whose pass to Wallace was fell short but the full forward showed commendable courage in beating the goalkeeper in a race to the ball and fisting to an empty net.
That goal helped Ardfert to an interval lead of 3-3 to 0-4 and barring a total collapse, they were well on their way to Croke Park for the second year in a row.
Confey were clearly in need of a goal and it came after the sides had swapped points early in the second half. A shot by Frankie Barry cannoned off a defender to Darragh Nolan who billowed the net, and when Eoin Fitzpatrick added a point, the Kildare champions were back in the hunt.
The dominance of Hugh Lynch and Colm Quinn at midfield kept the pressure on the Ardfert defence but with no recognised free-taker, Confey wasted two good chances to reduce the deficit further before the impressive Eamon Ferris eased the pressure on the Munster champions with a point.
Still Confey came forward and Hugh Lynch again closed the gap with two pointed frees before Ardfert finally closed out the game with their fourth goal. In a sweeping move from defence the hugely impressive Stephen Wallace showed marvellous vision to pick out Eamon Ferris with a delightful through pass and he in turn found Shane Griffin who fired to the net.
Scorers for Ardfert: S. Wallace 1-3; S. Griffin 2-0; J. Egan 1-0; Darren Dineen 0-2; B. O’Flaherty, E. Ferris 0-1 each.
Scorers for Confey: D. Nolan 1-0; E. Fitzpatrick, F., Barry, H. Lynch (frees) 0-2 each; K. Divilly, R. McMahon, M. McCann 0-1 each.
ARDFERT: D. Dineen; B. Moloney, C. Flaherty, M. Moloney; S. Flaherty, E. Corridan, F. Wallace; B. O’Flaherty, M. Ferris; J. Egan, E. Ferris, J. Best; S. Griffin, S. Wallace, D. Wallace.
Subs: Darren Dineen for J. Best; JP Leen for Egan; J. Dowling for D. Wallace.
CONFEY: K. O’Sullivan; R. Quinn, P. Nolan, F. Ryder; R. McMahon, M. McCann, G. Donnelly; H. Lynch, C. Quinn; K. Divilly, J. Kehoe, C. Hughes; D. Nolan, F. Barry, E. Fitzpatrick.
Subs: J. Gately for Hughes; P. Quigley for Quinn; C. Coyle for Donnelly; M. McCann for Fitzpatrick.
Referee: M. Condon (Waterford)