Their failure to succeed in Munster back in 2007 has greeted them at every corner in the ensuing six years and PJ Reidy’s outfit were once more reminded of that disappointment yesterday in Mallow — the roll of honour listed in the programme showing one noticeable statistic: Canovee’s victory in 2007 breaking the stranglehold of Kerry clubs.
It was no surprise, then, that the first words of captain Martin Burke were to address previous shortcomings.
“The ghosts of 2007 have finally been laid to rest,” proclaimed the left half-forward, a sentiment shared by midfielder Thomas Ladden.
“They have been put to bed for now,” he smiled.
“2007 wasn’t on our thoughts today until that final whistle sounded. Then we knew we had put it behind us. The loss to Canovee was six years ago and even though half the team is different, we are constantly reminded of it. We still hear it on the radio and read it in the paper, but we wanted to put it to bed once and for all. We wanted to do it for the club and we have delivered.”
Limerick teams have never defeated Kerry opposition in the Munster junior championship and it was evident from very early that the trend was not going to be reversed. Indeed, straight from the throw-in, the Mid-Kerry club provided an indication of what was to come. Liam Sheehan worked possession to the edge of the square and was it not for a last-ditch tackle from full-back Gary Nagle, an early Keel major was inevitable.
Feohanagh/Castlemahon’s Alan Rocke kicked the opening score of the contest two minutes in, the sole occasion the Limerick men would enjoy the scoreboard advantage. Liam Sheehan (free) and Gary Sayers put Keel on the board and while Michael Fitzgibbon — with an absolute belter from distance — levelled proceedings, it proved their last score in over half an hour of football.
Thereafter is a tale of Keel dominance, remorseless and unrelenting.
Liam Sheehan (free) and Gary Sayers (two frees) stretched their lead to three, but, in truth, it should have been far greater. Keel, however, could afford to show an element of wastefulness, such was their supremacy throughout the park. The midfield pairing of Ladden and James Long ruled with an iron fist, while further back Patrick Lomansey and Donal Mullane forced the opposition to feed of scraps.
Feohanagh/Castlemahon, though aided by the elements, opted for a defensive approach, one that terribly hindered their scoring capabilities. 13 men were packed into their own half at all times and on the brief occasion they broke forward, they simply didn’t have the numbers to inflict sufficient damage. Michael Fitzgibbon, to his credit, ploughed a lone furrow up front, but was lacking in capable assistance.
Liam Sheehan slotted his third of the afternoon at the change of ends and were it not for an outstanding save from keeper Barry Noonan, the noose would have been tightened there and then. Fitzgibbon provided momentary respite at the other end, but Feohanagh/Castlemahon had already been led to the gallows and the death knell sounded on 39 minutes when Sayers and Terry O’Sullivan split the posts in quick succession.
The Limerick champions, resigned to their faith, offered little by the way of reaction to the pace and ferocity of Keel’s play entering the final quarter. Gary Sayers brought his sides tally into double figures, following up minutes later with a tremendous effort off the left from out the field.
The wing-forward was by this juncture almost single-handedly orchestrating proceedings and two further efforts, again right from the top drawer, arrived on the home stretch.
Victory, redemption and now to challenges new.
“The road to Croke Park is still on,” said Ladden.
“We will put the heads down now for the next couple of weeks and hopefully we can get there.”
Scorers for Keel: G Sayers (0-8, 0-3 frees); L Sheehan (0-5, 0-3 frees); T O’Sullivan (0-1).
Scorers for Feohanagh/Castlemahon: M Fitzgibbon (0-3, 0-2 frees); A Roche (0-1).
KEEL: S Cahillane; E Ashe, G Nagle, B Murphy; G Evans, E O’Connor, J Nagle; T Ladden, J Long; G Sayers, L Sheehan, M Burke; T O’Sullivan, M O’Connor, A Cahillane.
Subs: E O’Neill for Evan (40 mins).
FEOHANAGH/CASTLEMAHON: B Nonnan; N Corbett, S Downey, M O’Mahony; N Kennedy, P Lomasney, D Mullane; W Lomasney, T Butler; P Carroll, M O’Sullivan, A Roche; J Guina, M Fitzgibbon, J Reidy.
Subs: C Noonan for Corbett (22 mins); S Flanagan for Guina (HT); J Clifford for Roche (45 mins); T Dore for O’Mahony (47 mins); V Barry for Carroll (55 mins).
Referee: K Murphy (Cork).