Sheehan’s priceless strike enabled his midfield partner and 42 year-old Kerry legend Maurice Fitzgerald to secure his ninth medal, leaving him one short of Valentia player Pat O’Connor.
Despite the Herculean efforts of county star Declan O’Sullivan, who registered 0-7 including three superb efforts from play, Dromid Pearses were unable to follow up their recent Munster Club JFC triumph and round off their season on a winning note. They lead 0-7 to 1-3 at the break but St Mary’s surged ahead in the second half and the outstanding markmanship of Sheehan, who also fired a magical long-distance point from play, was demonstrated when he landed that crucial late free.
Success crowned a glorious year for St Mary’s as they followed up their All-Ireland JFC final victory last February with this three-in-a-row milestone at divisional level. On a day when the input of the veteran Fitzgerald commanded the headlines, joint manager Paul O’Connell paid tribute to Sheehan.
“The score he hit from play gave us a huge lift. He was the only person out there today that could have done it. That’s really saying something because once upon a time you would be relying on Maurice Fitzgerald to do that for you. Now we have Bryan to assume that role for us.
“We believed we would be fresher coming into the game and, at the end of the day, it stood to us. We trained hard and played challenge games and two weeks ago we had a wonderful match against Glenflesk which Seamus Moynihan organised. To do a three-in-a-row with such a nice mix of young and old in the team is a tremendous reflection of the club.”
Despite the disappointment of defeat, Dromid Pearses boss Michael Anthony O’Connell remained optimistic and was looking forward to the Munster JFC champions’ attempt to land an All-Ireland title when they face a semi-final tie against Tyrone outfit Derrytresk on January 22.
“We showed the same hunger and fighting spirit that we have shown in recent weeks so I really wouldn’t say that tired legs or the games catching up with us had anything to do with it. The two goals, especially the timing of them, killed us. St Mary’s were the winners and congratulations to them. We won’t let our heads drop; we’ll go back to our families for Christmas and prepare for Derrytresk. We’ll keep our heads high, these are a great bunch of lads and there’s a great future ahead.”
Despite having been out of action since November 6, St Mary’s were extremely sharp from the outset and raced into a 1-2 to 0-1 lead after five minutes despite playing against the wind. The green flag was raised by Daniel Daly, who clinically finished to the net after being set up by Paul O’Donoghue. However, St Mary’s only registered one more point in the opening half courtesy of O’Donoghue in the 14th minute as Dromid Pearses gradually began to harness the elements.
Aidan ‘Shine’ O’Sullivan, whose return boosted Dromid Pearses prospects, got them back on track with a point before Declan O’Sullivan took control of the match with exemplary score-taking, landing five points in a row. That left Dromid Pearses 0-7 to 1-3 ahead, but it looked an insufficient advantage given the strength of the wind they would be facing.
St Mary’s quickly started to dominate the second-half with Fitzgerald and Sheehan providing a strong platform at midfield and within a minute they had grabbed their second goal when Sean Cournane tapped home an inch-perfect cross by Aidan Walsh. Then Sheehan found the range from 65 yards and by the end of the third quarter, St Mary’s were in a healthy 2-7 to 0-8 lead.
Dromid Pearses refused to wilt and they mounted a brilliant revival, inspired by Thomas Curran and Declan O’Sullivan. They were handed a lifeline when awarded a penalty in the 53rd minute and Curran sent Damien Horgan the wrong way to tie the match at 2-7 to 1-10.
The prospects of a draw were heightened as the game drifted into injury-time but it was Sheehan who stepped up to separate the sides with that late free.
Scorers for St Mary’s: S Cournane 1-1 (0-1f); Daniel Daly 1-0; B Sheehan 0-3 (2f); P O’Donoghue 0-2; R Keane, Denis Daly 0-1 each
Scorers for Dromid Pearses: Declan O’Sullivan 0-7 (0-4f); T Curran 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1f); M Sheehan, A O’Sullivan 0-1 each
ST MARY’S: D Horgan; I Casey, B Curran, K Curran; N O’Driscoll, Daniel O’Sullivan, Daragh O’Sullivan; B Sheehan, A Walsh; R Keane , P O’Donoghue, Denis Daly; S Cournane, Maurice Fitzgerald, Daniel Daly. Subs: C Quirke for Keane, A Constable for Walsh.
DROMID PEARSES: A Hogan; P O’Sullivan, Dominic O’Sullivan, Donal O’Sullivan; Denis O’Sullivan, K O’Shea, M Sheehan; T Curran, C O’Connor; A O’Sullivan, Declan O’Sullivan, A O’Connor; E O’Leary, N O’Shea, J Curran. Subs: G O’Sullivan for O’Leary, C Farley for John Curran
Referee: Eddie Walsh (Rathmore).