However, on the balance of play in the second half, when they gained an important advantage at midfield, they were more than deserving of a draw with South Kerry.
The circumstances in which this was achieved — when they lost possession going forward after Sean Fogarty had scored a lead point following two uncharacteristic missed frees by Brian Sheehan — didn’t please manager Pat McCrohan.
“We should have killed the game. It was a bad ball to lose when we had plenty of men available.’’
And, taking account of their missed goal opportunities, he felt they were “victims of their own misfortune”.
More positively, after 10 weeks of inactivity, he expressed confidence that the game “will stand” to them.
A relieved Mid Kerry manager James Sheehan said: “It’s the year of the draws. If they are going to win a county championship they will have earned it.”
South Kerry had the better of the exchanges for the greater part of the opening half-hour. They went ahead for the second time in the seventh minute after Kieran Foley had cancelled out Ronan Hussey’s early score and only fell behind once — when the same player goaled 20 seconds after the resumption.
In particular, they offered a greater attacking threat, with Declan O’Sullivan lively at centre-forward (faced by Jack O’Shea’s son Aidan) and midfielders Bryan Sheehan and John Sugrue (the Kerry trainer) more productive.
And O’Sullivan was directly involved in the three goal chances, each of which was stopped by goalkeeper Mike Moriarty. The first came in the 17th minute when Sheehan put him through and the angle proved too narrow to manoeuvre the ball into the net. Six minutes later he was at the end of a Ronan O’Connor/Garry Sayers move and again he was unable to finish.
In the meantime, Mid Kerry tightened up in defence, with James Nagle prominent at left-half and Darren O’Sullivan seeing more of the ball in the centre. However, Sean O’Sullivan wasn’t very prominent on the left flank, closely marked by a very determined Killian Young, and overall the best work came from Kieran Foley.
Aside from the efforts of both sides to establish an advantage, the biggest talking point was the poor refereeing of Donal Casey, who left far too much fouling go unpunished and didn’t properly penalise pulling and dragging offences until very late when he issued two yellow cards in the last five minutes.
Interestingly, just before Declan O’Sullivan was denied for a third time, Sean O’Sullivan had a chance of goaling for Mid Kerry.
Midfielder Rory McGrath, now operating at full-forward, broke down a ball to Darren O’Sullivan and the Cromane man took a pass on the run, only to blaze his shot over the bar. At the break it was 0-5 to 0-4 for the holders.
Mid Kerry had better luck immediately after the resumption when Foley ran onto a loose ball and finished well to the net.
However, their lead was short-lived, with Ronan O’Connor taking a pass from Sheehan to score.
South Kerry were now two points clear, but it wasn’t long before the challengers were back on level terms thanks to an excellent score from Darren O’Sullivan — showing great pace and tenacity to make ground — and a Foley score from a doubtful free awarded against Sugrue.
Apart from a high work-rate, especially in defence, the main explanation for their increased challenge was the superiority gained at midfield through Donncha Walsh and Raymond O’Connor, who made a significant contribution after his move from full-forward before half time.
Scores were again level in the 50th minute after Sheehan and Foley swapped frees and, as the game reached its most critical phase Mid Kerry were in luck when Sheehan missed a 40-yard free four minutes later.
Again, after a bad wide from Mid Kerry’s Gary Sayers, Sheehan inexplicably wasted an even better opportunity from another free in the last minute.
The game was heading towards injury time when Sugrue broke down the ball at midfield and Ronan O’Connor fed Sean Fogarty for what might have been a winning score but for the fact that the referee allowed five minutes of injury time.
South Kerry’s persistence, boosted considerably by Darren O’Sullivan’s creativity in making the opening for Foley to equaliser, was duly rewarded.
B Sheehan 0-5 (0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘45); R O’Connor 1-0; R Hussey 0-2; S Fogarty 0-1.
K Foley 1-5 (0-4 frees); S O’Sullivan 0-2; D O’Sullivan 0-1.
M Drummond (Sneem); W O’Sullivan (Skellig Rangers), S O’Sullivan (do), A O’Connell (St Michael’s/Foilmore); K Young (Renard), B Hickey (Skellig Rangers, capt.), Denis O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses); B Sheehan (St Mary’s), J Sugrue (Renard); S Fogarty (St Michael’s/Foilmore), Declan O’Sullivan (Dromid), A O’Sullivan (Skellig Rangers); R Hussey (Sneem), R O’Connor (St Michael’s/Foilmore), P Curran (Waterville).
M Moriarty (Beaufort); A Cahillane (Keel), F Griffin (Glenbeigh/Glencar), J Nagle (Keel); E O’Malley (Beaufort), A O’Shea (Glenbeigh/Glencar), T O’Hagan (Beaufort); D Walsh (Cromane, capt.), R McGrath (Beaufort); G Sayers (Keel), D O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar), S O’Sullivan (Cromane); T O’Sullivan (Keel), R O’Connor (Glenbeigh/Glencar), K Foley (Keel).
M Burke (Keel) for T O’Sullivan (39th minute); E Courtney (Glenbeigh/Glencar) for Nagle (45th).
D Casey (Scartaglin).