The addition of Milltown-Castlemaine this season has injected that extra depth, balance and quality to the mix for the underachieving division. Having taken South Kerry to three games in last year’s semi-final, they won’t fear facing them or Kerins O’Rahillys in the final.
With good reason too. Compact defensively, if untested on this occasion, they can stand up for themselves around midfield, and have the electric surges of Darren O’Sullivan in attack.
For long periods yesterday though, it was another Kerry player, Donncha Walsh, who orchestrated this semi-final success. Starting at full-forward, he was the maker and taker of opportunities in the first period before returning to midfield for the second period, when he was an important obstacle to Laune Rangers’ best efforts.
In truth, Killorglin have fallen some way since the heady All-Ireland club winning days of the 90s. Former wing back Shane O’Sullivan is now building a new Laune Rangers, and they mustered only a single Liam Hassett point from play over the hour. Most of Mike Frank Russell’s possession was won in his own half, and though he claimed four handy frees, he was never close enough to Mid Kerry keeper Mike Moriarty to bother him. The latter’s only save of note came in the 22nd minute of the game, when he had to parry a Liam Hassett effort on goal.
Evidently, there’s been a power shift in the division, from town to country. Mid Kerry’s last appearance in a county final was a winning one in 1992 against St Brendan’s, but this final appearance has been a few seasons in the making. Though Milltown-Castlemaine — who dropped from senior last season — provided five of the starting 15 yesterday, Mid Kerry have one unusual ingredient for a divisional outfit: team balance.
There may be three Kerry players but there’s no dominating presence in the side. In fact, it was one of the longest serving players, Keel’s Kieran Foley, who turned Mid Kerry’s dominance around the field into conclusive superiority on the scoreboard. One of the county’s most reliable club scoring forwards claimed five first-half points as James Sheehan’s side romped into a 0-9 to 0-2 half-time advantage.
A former Laune Rangers man, James Sheehan, is at the helm with Mid Kerry, and moved quickly to cut down the shoots of a Rangers recovery after half time. No sooner had Russell pointed two quick frees than Donncha Walsh was repositioned to midfield.
The Cromane man’s mobility was too much for a clearly injured John Lynch, and once Kieran Foley popped over Mid Kerry’s 10th point, this one was done and dusted.
Their chances in the final? Well, Sean O’Sullivan needs to contribute more. His two sublime points came when they were of little significance, and while his passing accuracy is a joy to behold, he needs to give the side more over 60 minutes. He’s too important to be a luxury player.
No such complaints about Darren O’Sullivan, who finished with the same number of points as his intercounty colleague, but was more purposeful and daring. Clearly frustrated at not getting a championship start with Kerry at the business end of the season, this is his stage to advertise his abilities over a full hour.
However, perhaps it’s the third member of the half-forward line who sums up his team. Keel’s Gary Sayers is economical in possession, intelligent in distribution, and fittingly, claimed the 13th and last point of the game. Neither Kerins O’Rahillys or South Kerry will dismiss them readily.
Scorers for Mid Kerry: K. Foley (0-6, 2 frees), D. O’Sullivan, S. O’Sullivan, D. Walsh (0-2 each), G. Sayers (0-1).
Scorers for Laune Rangers: M. F. Russell (0-4, frees); L. Hassett (0-1).
MID KERRY: M Moriarty (Beaufort); A Cahillane (Kel), D. Murphy (Milltown-Castlemaine), A. Giles (do.); F Griffin (Glenbeigh-Glencar), C Kelliher (Milltown-Castlemaine), J. McGillicuddy (Glenbeigh-Glencar); M. Burke (Milltown-Castlemaine), A. O’Shea (Glenbeigh-Glencar); G. Sayers (Keel), Darren O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh-Glencar), S. O’Sullivan (Cromane); D. Kelliher (Milltown-Castlemaine), D. Walsh (Cromane), K. Foley (Keel).
Subs: L. Sheehan (Keel) for D Kelliher (48); I. Twiss (Milltown-Castlemaine) for M Burke (58); C. McKenna (Milltown-Castlemaine) for Giles (59).
LAUNE RANGERS: T. Lyons; J. O’Callaghan, E. Ferris, J. Carey; K. Crowley, J. Sheehan, P. Crowley; J. Lynch, M. Foley; T. McGillicuddy, S. Foley, G. Mahony; S. McSweeney, L. Hassett, M.F. Russell.
Subs: K. Flynn for Mahony (22); P. Joy for T. McGillicuddy (44); P. O’Sullivan for S. McSweeney (44); B. O’Shea for M Foley (46, blood sub); S. McSweeney for K. Flynn (48); B. O’Shea for Lynch (58).
Referee: P. O’Sullivan (Firies).