East Kerry dominated after being well off the pace in the first 27 minutes, trailing by nine (1-12 to 0-6). However, in Mike ‘Stam’ O’Donoghue they had the game’s star, the Spa man keeping East Kerry in touch at a time when a slick-moving Legion threatened to leave them eating dust.
When O’Donoghue cracked in a magnificent top corner goal in first-half injury-time the East Kerry men were somehow within four (1-13 to 1-9).
The first half was a festival of point-taking, with Legion’s Conor Keane (0-6, four from play), O’Donoghue (with 0-4, two from play) and East Kerry full-forward DJ O’Connor (0-3, all from play) taking centre stage.
Fourteen points were scored in 18 minutes, Legion in front 0-8 to 0-6. The young Killarney side then engaged the after-burners, hitting 1-4 in nine minutes. Impressive wing-forward Billy McGuire provided the goal in the 24th minute, finishing low past Colin Myers after a slip pass from James O’Donoghue. O’Donoghue then escaped the clutches of his marker James Sherwood in the 27th minute to give Legion that nine-point lead.
James O’Donoghue had orchestrated the game’s tempo at centre-forward, proving too elusive for Kerry inter-county colleague Jack Sherwood. In the left corner the classy Conor Keane was inspirational, scoring at will.
Legion, however, left the door ajar and East Kerry stormed through. Within 30 seconds of the second half, Legion spurned a great goal chance as first Thomas Moriarty and then Shaun Keane were denied by East Kerry goal-line blocks. This let-off kick-started East Kerry and they hit seven unanswered points to lead 1-16 to 1-13 by the 44th minute. The pick of these came from Dara Roche, who shrugged off several challenges before pointing. Sherwood — now unshackled from his marking job — began to surge forward while Andrew Garnett and Fintan Coffey began to impress around the middle. The threat of James O’Donoghue and Conor Keane (scoreless in the second half) was nullified by a combination of East Kerry dropping men behind the ball and Legion carrying ball instead of a quick kick release into their dangerous duo. A free from James O’Donoghue eventually stopped the Legion rot and when Kevin Breen kicked a mighty 50th minute point from 40 yards there was just one in it.
With five minutes left East Kerry’s DJ O’Connor missed a glaring goal chance. The pendulum seemed to swing back in Legion’s favour when midfielder Mike O’Sullivan levelled matters with four minutes remaining.
East Kerry were the more composed side and they proceeded to kick the game’s final three points: from Garnett, Roche (ending a sweeping move after James O’Donoghue hit the post at the other end) and O’Connor.
Scorers for East Kerry: M O’Donoghue (1-8, 0-3 frees), DJ O’Connor (0-4), D Roche (0-2), A Garnett, J O’Leary, C Horan, D Aherne, F Coffey,
Scorers for Legion: C Keane (0-6, 0-2 free), B McGuire (1-1), J O’Donoghue (0-4, 0-3 frees), D Sheahan, K Breen, J Lyne, T Moriarty, M O’Sullivan (0-1).
EAST KERRY: C Myers (Fossa); S Lynch (Spa), D O’Sullivan (Glenflesk), M Culloty (do.); C Horan (do.), J Sherwood (Firies), F Coffey (Fossa); A Garnett (Spa), J O’Leary (Listry); M Murphy (Gneeveguilla), M O’Donoghue (Spa), J O’Donoghue (Glenflesk); D Aherne (Listry), DJ O’Connor (Gneeveguilla), D Roche (Glenflesk).
Subs: M Finnegan (Spa) for Culloty (22), E Lawlor (Gneeveguilla) for Aherne (60).
LEGION: B Kelly; C Davies, P O’Connor, A O’Sullivan; D Sheahan, Damien O’Sullivan, J Lyne; K Breen, M O’Sullivan; B McGuire, J O’Donoghue, D Pyne; T Moriarty, S Keane, C Keane.
Subs: T Slattery for A O’Sullivan (36), J O’Neill for Pyne (55), David O’Sullivan for Moriarty (59).
Referee: S Mulvihill (St Senan’s).