With the 2007 and 2008 victors, there was a feverish level of anticipation ahead of yesterday’s Kerry SFC quarter-final. However, 60 minutes of football on a sun-splashed afternoon only generated intermittent sparks rather than any dazzling fireworks. The drab fare was primarily due to the vastly diverging team performances, as Rangers hit soaring heights whereas Mid Kerry flatlined. Rangers certainly benefited from the previous Sunday’s championship test against Kenmare, as they adjusted to the pace and tempo of the game quicker. In contrast, Mid Kerry looked as lethargic as any team would after a mammoth 16-week gap between competitive matches.
The North Kerry men conjured up a display that was packed with strength and power. Astonishingly, they restricted Mid Kerry to only one point from play in the whole match and that came after 30 seconds from Darran O’Sullivan. Mid Kerry’s low total was a testament to the vigour and aggression of Feale Rangers defenders Pat Corridan, Kieran Quirke and John O’Brien.
At midfield Feale Rangers established a foothold in the first-half.
Neither Eamonn Fitzmaurice or Anthony Maher were listed on the programme to start the match, but the Feale Rangers no’s 18 and 19 exerted an inordinate influence on the opening-half. Maher’s lorded the aerial battles while Fitzmaurice was assured and shrewd in his ball usage, and that enabled them to service a Feale attack which posted a sizeable first-half total.
Seven days after weighing in with a breathtaking return of 2-7, Noel Kennelly continued to showcase his attacking talents at full-forward. He gave Mid Kerry full-back Damian Murphy a torrid time of it in the opening half and his booming left peg was deadly accurate from play and frees. In the corner, ex-Kerry minor Patrick Curtin was a useful sidekick and he squirmed clear for a pair of tidy early points. Given Kennelly and Curtin’s prowess, Feale Rangers did not require glittering scoring contributions from their marquee half-forward duo of Paul Galvin and Tadhg Kennelly. The Kerry seniors performed more earthly tasks in the first-half scrapping hard for possession in the middle third.
Despite an ineffectual showing Mid Kerry were still in touch at the interval as they trailed 0-8 to 1-3. They owed much to the product of their best attacking move of the game in the 7th minute when Gary Sayers and Sean O’Sullivan combined to release midfielder Joe McGillicuddy and his shot low and hard to the corner of the net. But apart from that they failed to split open the Feale Rangers backline and relied on the forward thrusts of defenders Fergal Griffin and Aidan O’Shea for much of their attacking invention. The loss of Kieran Foley, the two-goal star of last year’s drawn county final, with a back injury was an incalculable loss for Mid Kerry as they badly required his predatory scoring instincts.
And yet Mid Kerry were never truly out of it. By the 43rd minute they were only 0-11 to 1-5 adrift, their hopes owing much to goalkeeper Michael Moriarty after he splendidly tipped away a terrific Curtin shot in the 36th minute.
But Mid Kerry fell short when it came to converting possession into scores. Feale Rangers may not have scaled their first-half heights in the second-half, but critically they never had to. They could trust their well-structured defence to soak up the pressure and invariably when the point chances arose, Mid Kerry’s shooting was awry from play and placed balls.
Tadhg Kennelly stormed forward for a brace of excellent points, one off each foot, and the closing brushstroke was applied by full-back Pat Corridan in the 60th minute, as he darted forward before arcing over a stunning shot.
The 2007 champions head towards a semi-final date with Dr Crokes next Sunday with rising confidence.
Scorers for Feale Rangers: N Kennelly 0-6 (0-3f), P Curtin 0-4 (0-2f), T Kennelly 0-2, P Galvin, P Corridan 0-1 each.
Mid Kerry: J McGillicuddy 1-0, D O’Sullivan 0-3 (0-2f), S O’Sullivan 0-2 (0-2f)
FEALE RANGERS: S Quinn (Emmetts); P Corridan (Finuge), K Quirke (Duagh), J Mulvihill (Moyvane); J O’Brien (Duagh), D Griffin (Duagh), B McGuire (Emmetts); E Fitzmaurice (Finuge), A Maher (Duagh); M Corridan (Finuge), T Kennelly (Emmetts), P Galvin (Finuge); D Galvin (Emmetts), N Kennelly (Emmetts), P Curtin (Moyvane).
Subs: G McCarthy (Emmetts) for McGuire (43), B Scanlon (Emmetts) for D Galvin (45), M O’Connor (Duagh) for Curtin (54), B Whelan (St Senan’s) for Griffin (60).
MID KERRY: M Moriarty (Beaufort); A Cahillane (Keel), D Murphy (Milltown/Castlemaine), A Giles (do.); F Griffin (Glenbeigh/Glencar), A O’Shea (do.), C Kelliher (Milltown/Castlemaine); M Burke (do.), J McGillicuddy (Glenbeigh/Glencar); G Sayers (Keel), D Walsh (Cromane), S Murphy (Milltown/Castlemaine); D O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar), S O’Sullivan (Cromane), D Kelliher (Milltown/Castlemaine).
Subs: D O’Neill (Keel) for Cahillane (38), C McKenna (Milltown/Castlemaine) for Sayers (38), F Courtney (Beaufort) for S Murphy (48), D Breen (Beaufort) for D Kelliher (54).
Referee: P Hayes (Kerins O’Rahilly’s).