O’Rahillys were the dominant side in the opening half, with David Moran and Mike Quirke lording matters at midfield. They only led 1-5 to 0-7 at the interval but appeared to be in pole position with a slight wind behind them for the second half.
However, South Kerry, inspired by the brilliant Declan O’Sullivan, who had been moved out to the 40, and with big games from Bryan Sheahan and Paul O’Donoghue, took over. When a Sheehan centre was punched to the net by Thomas Curran in the 37 minute, South Kerry looked to have grabbed the initiative.
Points from long range, a Sheehan free and another from Paul O’Donoghue saw South Kerry move four clear (1-10 to 1-6) with ten minutes remaining and O’Rahillys were on the way out.
But, instead of dropping players back in defence, South Kerry continued to attack. It gave O’Rahillys scope to recover and they began to play again for the final ten minutes, with Jack Savage converting two frees. Suddenly, the deficit was only two points.
The Tralee men then made what turned out to be a master switch by moving big Michael Quirke into the edge of the square and when David Moran lofted in a high centre, his former Kerry team-mate broke the ball into the path of minor star Jack Savage, who slid the ball past Damien Horgan. Now O’Rahillys were in front with just two minutes left.
Then Declan O’Sullivan won a free 50m from goal. Bryan Sheehan hit it well and it looked to be going over the bar until Quirke, now back under his own crossbar, rose high and plucked the ball down.
It was a bitter blow to South Kerry, who felt Quirke should have got more than yellow minutes earlier for a high challenge on Thomas Curran. But directly from Quirke’s clearance, Barry John Walsh scored a point.
In one final attack, O’Sullivan fed Bryan Sheahan, who raced in along the end-line before finding Thomas Curran, who shot low beyond the advancing O’Rahillys keeper. Agonisingly for South Kerry, the ball struck the right-hand post, ran along the goal-line and struck the left post before Gary Kissane dived on it and somehow the ball was cleared.
Somehow O’Rahillys had chiselled out a famous win.
Scorers for Kerins O’Rahillys: J Savage (1-3, 0-3 frees), K O’Mahony (1-0), D Quill (3 frees), BJ Walsh (0-3 each).
Scorers for South Kerry: B Sheehan (0-5, 0-4 frees), T Curran (1-0), A Walsh (0-3), P O’Donoghue (0-2).
KERINS O’RAHILLYS: G Kissane; T Begley, M Tierney, A Thompson; G O’Grady, G Duffy, J O’Connor; M Quirke, D Moran; J Ferguson, K O’Mahony, K Walshe; D Quill, BJ Walsh, J Savage.
Subs: B Moran for K Walshe (39), E McGrath for D Quill (48), D McLoughlin for J Ferguson (58).
SOUTH KERRY: D Horgan (St Marys); P O’Sullivan (Valentia), K O’Dwyer (Waterville), S O’Sullivan (Skellig Rangers); G Gibson (Waterville), K Young (Renard); N Fitzgerald (Waterville), B Sheehan (St Mary’s), A Walsh (St Mary’s); Denis Daly (St Marys), P O’Donoghue (St Marys), T Curran (Dromid Pearses); B O’Dwyer (Waterville), D O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses), Daniel Daly (St Mary’s).
Subs: P O’Sullivan for K O’Dwyer (inj 12), S Cournane for Daniel Daly (46), O Clifford for G Gibson (46).
Referee: James O’Sullivan (Firies).