Having shocked St Finbarrs (Cork) in the semi-final, Kilmihil were expected to make a bold bid for honours. But they failed against a St Michael’s side that oozed class and confidence.
The Kerry champions’ football was superb and the pace at which they moved the ball from defence to attack was breathtaking.
While it was essentially a team effort, the winners had a brilliant leader in Ronan O’Connor. Everything the Kerry senior did smacked of class. He hit 1-5 and had a hand in his side’s other goal.
Cian O’Connor was another to leave a lasting impression. Using his height and strength he made life extremely difficult for the Clare full back, and he might have had a second goal but for a superb save by Jonathan O’Sullivan.
The Clare outfit could never cope with the inter-passing of their opponents, and their cause wasn’t helped by some dreadful finishing — they kicked 11 wides to five for St Michael’s.
Tactically they got it all wrong. Playing with the wind in the opening half, they opted for a two man full forward line and the plan backfired spectacularly. Full forward David Ryan impressed but had little support from his colleagues over the hour.
St Michael’s started with two points in quick succession by Ronan O’Connor. The pace of their football out of defence was superb and from one such move they grabbed their opening goal on seven minutes courtesy of Cian O’Connor.
Winning coach James O’Sullivan admitted: “It was our game plan to try and get a couple of early scores to upset them and it worked out perfectly for us. Being 1-2 up after seven minutes playing into the wind was a dream start and once we contained them around the middle, I was fairly confident it was going to be our day.
“We played well and deserved our victory. We’ll celebrate tonight but there is another very big game next Sunday against Dromid Pearses in the South Kerry championship and this won’t count for anything if we don’t win that.”
O’Sullivan’s side struck for a second goal four minutes later when Cian turned provider for Ronan for a close range finish.
After Kilmihil had their opening score — in the eighth minute — they waited 17 minutes for their next point as the Kerry side began to pick off their scores to open up an eight points lead (2-5 to 0-3) by half time.
St Michael’s were ruthless in their application on the changeover. Nine minutes in they had stretched their lead with six points in a row, three of them by Ronan O’Connor, and it was plain sailing from there to the finish.
In a tough, physical contest, the referee flashed seven cards, and when tempers frayed midway through the second half each side lost a player to second yellows, Kieran Granfield (St Michael’s) and Timmy Ryan (Kilmihil).
To their credit the Clare champions continued to take the game to their opponents and the surging runs of Mark O’Connell and David Ryan caused a few anxious moments in the St Michael’s defence.
However the South Kerry outfit coped well with the pressure and the Clare champions never threatened a goal.
Ronan O’Connor felt the decision to play against the wind in the first half was crucial. “We were able to hold the ball and when you are on the ball quite a lot, it helps. The two early goals settled us and the confidence grew from there.
“Today is a great day for the club and having a Munster club medal ranks up there with the others I’ve won.”
Scorers for St Michael’s: R O’Connor 1-5 (0-5 frees); C O’Connor 1-0; B Kelly, D King, J O’Shea (0-1 free) 0-2 each; DJ Moran, S Fogarty 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilmihil: P Reidy 0-5 (0-3 frees); D Ryan 0-2.
ST MICHAEL’S: M Galvin; C Granfield, R Harty, A O’Connell; DJ Moran, Brian Galvin, K Granfield; S O’Connor, M O’Sullivan; B Kelly, D King, S Fogarty; R O’Connor, C O’Connor, J O’Shea.
Subs: P King for M O’Sullivan (39); C O’Sullivan for B Galvin (48); Brendan Galvin for M Galvin (54); P Golden for DJ Moran (55) J Harty for C O’Connor (60).
KILMIHIL: J O’Sullivan; C Crowley, D Haugh, S Egan; K Downes, M O’Connell, D O’Connell; S Mangan, T Ryan; P Reidy, A Normoyle, P Ryan; C O’Gorman, D Ryan, J Egan.
Subs: E O’Halloran for J Egan (h/t); N O’Halloran for P Ryan (h/t); K Considine for C O’Gorman (52).
Referee: B Tyrell (Tipperary).