Rathmore looked in trouble prior to the switch, which cried out to be made for long periods of an intense, exciting match. The hosts trailed 0-8 to 0-5 at half-time and were 0-13 to 0-8 adrift with 17 minutes remaining.
A grandstand finish, the highlight of which was a decisive Michael A Kelleher goal, dashed West Kerry ambitions and propelled Rathmore to victory.
West Kerry will understandably be disappointed to lose a game that they had every chance of winning. With time running out, they had six successive chances to equalise but spurned them all — Kerry stars Marc and Tom Ó Sé amongst those to waste decent opportunities.
Apart from Aidan O’Mahony’s second-half heroics, Rathmore can thank John Buckley, the O’Keeffe’s George and Brendan, and the laser-like accuracy of Michael O’Riordan for their success.
West Kerry had a number of standout performers, chief amongst these, Marc and Tomás Ó Sé, their cousin and son of the late Páidí, Pádraig, Shane Hennessy, sharp-shooter Alan Fitzgerald and Eamonn Hickson.
Rathmore manager Denis Desmond cut a satisfied figure as he exited the playing field with his charges and he paid tribute to their tenacity and never-say-die spirit.
“At half-time we were down by three points and we were happy enough with that given the strong breeze that we played against which was definitely worth four or five points. Fair play to the lads, goals win games and that was proved there today, but you have to keep at it. Bringing Aidan (O’Mahony) out to midfield steadied us a great deal. He made a huge difference for us. The game will bring us on a pile. We were missing John Moynihan (hamstring) which was a huge loss to us going into the game. Mark Reen is in America, so two of our usual starting forwards were missing. John will be back the next day for us which will be a big plus.”
Rathmore began the game in determined fashion and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 10 minutes — Michael O’Riordan, John Buckley and Patrick Reen on target, while SM Ó Conchúir replied for West Kerry. And, though free-taker O’Riordan added another Rathmore point halfway through the opening period, West Kerry, largely through the forceful play of Hickson, the Ó Sés, Ó Conchúir and Alan Fitzgerald, took control to lead 0-8 to 0-5 at the break.
Fitzgerald (4), Ó Conchúir, and Jason Hickson added to West Kerry’s first-half tally with Brendan O’Keeffe replying for Rathmore.
The initial 15 minutes or so of the second half saw West Kerry make what seemed to be a decisive move towards victory by outscoring Rathmore by 0-6 to 0-3.
Then came the switch of O’Mahony and with it the game turned. O’Mahony’s presence turned the tide in his side’s favour and he kicked a mighty point into the bargain. With the strong breeze in their favour, the home-side chipped away at the deficit and had reduced the arrears to just two points, 0-14 to 0-12, when Kelleher struck for the match-winning goal.
RATHMORE: J Cooper; P Murphy, A O’Mahony (0-1), J O’Sullivan; Patrick Reen (0-1), C O’Sullivan, S Reen; D O’Sullivan, J Buckley (0-2 frees); E Lawlor, B O’Keeffe (0-1), G O’Keeffe; M O’Riordan (0-7, 0-6 frees), MA Kelleher (1-0), Paul Reen.
Subs: S O’Riordan for Paul Reen (61).
WEST KERRY: T Mac an tSaoir (An Ghaeltacht); C Sills (Castlegregory), M Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht) (0-1), D Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht); T Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), C Ó Muircheartaigh (An Ghaeltacht), P Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht); E Hickson (Annascaul), D Ó hUigín (Lispole); S Hennessy (Castlegregory) (0-2, 0-1 free), SM Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht) (0-2), C Ó Gealbháin (Lispole) (0-1); J Crean (Annascaul), A Fitzgerald (Castlegregory) (0-7, 0-5 frees), J Hickson (Annascaul) (0-1).
Subs: E MacGearailt (An Ghaeltacht) for D Ó hUigín (35).
Referee: J Lynch (Ballymacelligott).