A stunning Milltown/Castlemaine fightback — outscoring their opponents 0-7 to 0-1 in the last quarter — salvaged a draw in Milltown yesterday, when all had seemed lost.
With the spectre of the losers’ round looming, trailing 2-11 to 0-11 after 47 minutes, they needed inspiration. Their veterans Damian Murphy, Martin Burke and Derek Twiss (who kicked 0-10) upped their game, Marcus Mangan started to win breaking ball and the introduction of 17-year-old Jonathan O’Sullivan provided a spark.
West Kerry, trained by former Kerry player Aodán MacGearailt, will be disappointed to have faded as they played some of the game’s best football. The link-up play between Seán Micheál Ó Conchúir at centre-forward and Alan Fitzgerald on the edge of the square was superb. Corner-forward Declan O’Sullivan also impressed, until he received the game’s only black card in the 47th minute.
That coincided with Milltown/Castlemaine’s surge and their trainer, Tralee native Wayne Quillinan, was delighted with his side’s ‘no panic’ recovery.
“We work very hard on a game plan and the thing I liked about the comeback was that they stuck to it. It paid off, there was no panic and we got our just rewards.”
Crucially, they also found their scoring boots when it mattered most. An issue that has haunted them this season.
“You’ve hit the nail on the head. Our problem has been score conversion. In every game we have played, we have had the lion’s share of possession but haven’t converted that into scores. But look, six points down with 12 left — you’ll take a draw.”
MacGearailt was unhappy with concession of a late, late free which allowed Derek Twiss to kick the equalising score in injury time but it wasn’t something he lingered on.
“We are not going to complain. At the time we didn’t think it was a free but looking at the game as a whole: we were six up at half-time and six up midway through the second half, so we can’t look at decisions the referee made.
“Milltown/Castlemaine just played a bit braver towards the end. They were playing a sweeper in the first half and it didn’t work for them. In the second half they attacked us. Most of their scores were from frees though, so that is something we will look at.”
The opening exchanges were an arm wrestle with Alan Fitzgerald’s goal in the seventh minute the highlight. Two excellent points from Milltown/Castlemaine wing-back Pa Wrenn followed and at the end of the first quarter the home side led 0-5 to 1-1. With five left in the half the sides were level: 0-7 to 1-4. Then West Kerry took over.
They added 1-3 before the end of the half to lead by six at the break (2-7 to 0-7), the goal coming from a fortuitous Eamon Hickson shot that looped over Joe Daly, Milltown/Castlemaine’s 43-year-old goalkeeper.
West Kerry still led by six halfway through the second half with SM Ó Conchúir in danger of leather poisoning, such was the amount of ball he played. Then came that ‘brave’ Milltown surge.
Three Derek Twiss points (one free) and two from substitute Jonathan O’Sullivan reduced the gap to one. West Kerry lifted the siege when corner-back Colm Ó Muircheartaigh tapped over a settler with two minutes left but there was no denying the home side as substitute Jack McCarthy and that Twiss free clinched the draw.
Scorers for Milltown/Castlemaine: I Twiss (0-10, 9fs), C Moriarty (0-3, 1f), P Wrenn, J O’Sullivan (0-2), J McCarthy (0-1).
Scorers for West Kerry: A Fitzgerald (1-2, 0-1 free), D O’Sullivan, SM Ó Conchúir (0-3), E Hickson (1-0), E Ó Conchúir (0-2), C Ó Muircheartaigh, J Hickson (0-1).
MILLTOWN/CASTLEMAINE: J Daly; J Blennerhassett, N Colgan, D Murphy; P Wrenn, S Murphy, M Quirke; M Burke (captain), B Delaney; D Kelliher, M Mangan, J Hayes; P Carroll, D Twiss, C Moriarty.
Subs: C McKenna for Quirke (ht), J McCarthy for Hayes (43), J O’Sullivan for Moriarty (45).
WEST KERRY: T Mac an tSaoir (An Ghaeltacht); G O’Shea (Annascaul), C Galvin (Lispole), C Ó Muircheartaigh (An Ghaeltacht); P Ó Sé (do., captain), M Ó Sé (do.), E Hickson (Annascaul); J Hickson (do), E Kennedy (do); C O’Sullivan (Lispole), SM Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht), E Ó Conchúir (do); D O’Sullivan (Lispole), A Fitzgerald (Castlegregory), J Crean (Annascaul).
Subs: D Higgins (Lispole) for D O’Sullivan (bc, 47), B Rayel (Lispole) for Crean (50).
Referee: Gerard Murphy (Skellig Rangers).