When David Moran converted a penalty for Kerins O’Rahillys to tie the game, the momentum seemed to be with the Tralee side, despite them not having led the game at any stage.
They might have pushed ahead when Jack Savage launched a ball in search of Tommy Walsh but Rathmore keeper Shane Ryan punched clear. Even then, Rahillys felt Walsh was fouled as he sought to gain possession but instead, a free out was awarded.
Rathmore worked the ball up and a break fell nicely for Moynihan 30 yards out. Logic would have told him to knock the ball over the bar but, as he continued his run, the field began to open for him and he slotted beyond Garry Kissane despite having to hold off two challenges for the decisive score.
Rathmore boss Denis Moynihan believed a loss to Dr Crokes in the club championship the weekend before ensured they were perfectly motivated for this tie.
“It’s all down to the hammering we got last week from Crokes,” he said.
“They wiped us on the kickouts, so we worked desperately hard on improving on them during the week.
“With six minutes to go, we could have finished it and then they brought it back level but we fought back again.
“Ten minutes into the game against Crokes, we were down eight points so we made sure to stay focused from the start. You’ll always learn from a defeat so I’m absolutely thrilled for the boys.”
The slow start against Crokes left such a bad taste, that Rathmore sprang from the traps on this occasion.
They led 1-2 to no score inside four minutes, midfielder Donal O’Sullivan with the goal as he started and finished a move involving Eoin Lawlor and John Moynihan as holes were punched in the Rahillys rearguard.
A long-range free from Moran got the Tralee side going before Barry John Keane added another and on 16 minutes wing-back John Ferguson levelled, surging forward and exchanging passes with Kieran O’Mahony before palming home.
Even then, however, the men in blue weren’t properly motoring. Their shooting left a lot to be desired — Keane would be their only point-scorer from play — while Moran was finding life difficult against Aidan O’Mahony at midfield and Tommy Walsh also struggled in that sector.
Nevertheless, half-time found them just a point behind, 1-4 to 1-3, after Rathmore goalkeeper Ryan sent over a late free, having earlier missed an easier effort.
Within six minutes of the restart, Rathmore had pulled three points clear after Lawlor converted a free and Brendan O’Keeffe got his third point after two first-half frees.
By this stage, Walsh had been redeployed to full-forward and he was fouled for a free, which Jack Savage sent over, but lack of service meant that the ex-Aussie Rules man was still a peripheral figure.
Rathmore were continuing to play good football, with their half-back line of James O’Sullivan, Conor O’Sullivan and Cathal Murphy to the fore. Two points in as many minutes from O’Keeffe, the first a fine individual effort and the second after a long period of ball-retention, pushed them four clear. Even though Savage replied with another Rahillys free, Rathmore remained composed and looked set to see the game to a satisfactory conclusion.
Had O’Keeffe netted when given the chance, they would have had things easier but Kissane saved well from him. Even so, Rahillys needed a shot in the arm which they got when Walsh won Keane’s excellent ball. Just as he was about to shoot, Tom O’Sullivan — already on a yellow card — illegally intervened but escaped further censure. Moran’s superb penalty was enough of a punishment but Rathmore ensured that the pain wouldn’t be compounded.
After Moynihan’s goal, Rahillys sought a late saving action but it came to nothing. Rathmore lost O’Mahony to a second yellow in injury-time as he and Con Barrett clashed off the ball and both were cautioned.
J Moynihan 1-1, B O’Keeffe 0-3 (two frees), Donal O’Sullivan 1-0, G O’Keeffe 0-2, S Ryan, E Lawlor 0-1 (free) each.
: D Moran 1-1 (1-0 penalty, one free), J Ferguson 1-0, J Savage (frees), BJ Keane 0-2 each.
: S Ryan; P Murphy, T O’Sullivan, C Jenkins; J O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, C Murphy; Donal O’Sullivan, A O’Mahony; B O’Keeffe, E Lawlor, G O’Keeffe; TJ Friel, Daniel O’Sullivan, J Moynihan.
: M O’Riordan for Friel (40), P Reen for Daniel O’Sullivan (60).
: G Kissane; D O’Sullivan, M Tierney, T Begley; C Coffey, G Duffy, J Ferguson; T Walsh, D Moran; K Walshe, J Savage, D McLoughlin; K O’Mahony, C Barrett, BJ Keane.
: J O’Connor for McLoughlin (15, injured), R O’Callaghan for Walshe (40), G O’Connell for O’Mahony (45), S Brosnan for Duffy (49), S Walsh for O’Connor (56).
: P Lyons (Cromane).