Tralee CBS, who included Kerry senior defender Marc Ó Sé amongst their management team, secured their second title in four years and that was principally due to a fine second-half display as they overcame a 1-5 to 1-3 interval deficit to triumph.
Tralee CBS benefited from some astute half-time positional switches which aided their success. Captain Niall Sheehy thrived when moved to centre-forward as he kicked sublime points from open play and dead ball. Greg Horan helped Tralee gain a stronger foothold at midfield and, in the closing stages, helped his defence stymie the influence of St Flannan’s attacker Martin O’Leary.
Full-back Argent Kastrati and wing-back Tom McLoughlin excelled in the Tralee rearguard as the match progressed while Danny Carroll was an incisive presence up front.
In this competition last year, St Flannan’s were routed by 19 points at the quarter-final stage by Tralee. But this time the St Flannan’s defence, led by Aidan McGuane, Stephen Ward and Shane O’Donnell, restricted the space available to the Tralee attack. Captain Sean Corry was to the fore at midfield, Tadgh Lynch was an energetic force all over the pitch while Kilmihil player O’Leary caused difficulties for Tralee.
Flannan’s were rocked when the Kerry side pounced for a goal in the ninth minute. Conor Jordan pumped a long ball forward which was fisted across by Carroll and substitute Kyle Fitzgibbon, only on the pitch for a minute having replaced the injured Brian Scannell, lashed the loose ball to the net.
However St Flannan’s regained control with O’Leary punishing indiscretions by Tralee players as he claimed three points, while another fine effort by wing-back Conor Clancy saw the Ennis school lead 0-5 to 1-1 by the 21st minute.
Tralee regained the initiative with splendid scores by Carroll and Sheehy, yet the St Flannan’s challenge was boosted considerably in first-half injury-time when O’Leary tore through the Tralee defence before passing off to David Conroy. His goalbound drive took a deflection and looped up over goalkeeper Maurice Leen and nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
St Flannan’s built on that score when O’Leary pointed soon after the break to leave them 1-6 to 1-3 ahead.
Tralee then started to command matters in key positions and kicked six of the game’s next seven points — Sheehy was responsible for four of those.
By the 51st minute, Tralee were in the ascendancy by 1-9 to 1-7, yet St Flannan’s battled admirably until the finish.
Barry Lynch and O’Leary knocked over points to tie the sides at 1-9 apiece with four minutes left but Tralee surged downfield with Carroll and Jordan scoring from their next two attacks.
A late point by Ciaran MacMathuna was all St Flannan’s could muster as Tralee held on for glory.
Scorers for Tralee CBS: N Sheehy 0-5 (3f); D Carroll 0-3; K Fitzgibbon 1-0; R Quill, M Wrenn, C Jordan 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Flannan’s: M O’Leary 0-5 (4f, 1 ‘45); D Conroy 1-0; C MacMathúna 0-2 (1f); C Clancy, T Kerins, B Lynch 0-1 each.
M Leen (Ballymacelligott); B Walsh (Austin Stacks), A Kastrati (John Mitchels), T Begley (Kerins O’Rahilly’s); B Howard (Ballymacelligott), C Jordan (Austin Stacks), T McLoughlin (Austin Stacks); N Sheehy (John Mitchels), J Moran (John Mitchels); B Scannell (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), G Horan (Austin Stacks), E McAllen (Austin Stacks); J Savage (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), D Carroll (Austin Stacks), R Quill (Kerins O’Rahilly’s).
Subs: K Fitzgibbon (Austin Stacks) for Scannell (8), M Wrenn (John Mitchels) for McAllen (41), A Duggan (Austin Stacks) for Savage (41), S O’Connor (John Mitchels) for Howard (53).
K Normoyle (Lissycasey); C Dolan (Éire Óg), A McGuane (Kilmihil), R Rafferty (Michael Cusacks); S Ward (Clarecastle), S O’Donnell (Éire Óg), C Clancy (Clarecastle); S Corry (Éire Óg), C MacMathúna (Éire Óg); D Conroy (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), B Lynch (Lissycasey), D Kerins (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield); M O’Leary (Kilmihil), E Courtney (Éire Óg), T Lynch (Clondegad).
Referee: S Hourigan (Rathkeale).