Although never once in arrears during yesterday’s curtain-raiser, Maurice Fitzgerald’s charges struggled for long periods to wrangle free from their opponents grasp. On four occasions, they succeeded in opening up a gap of four points. On all four occasions, Spa reeled them in.
Bryan Sheehan had the winners off the mark on two minutes, the South Kerry outfit moving swiftly to assert their dominance. Paul O’Donoghue (0-2), Anthony Cournane and Sheehan (free) extended their advantage to 0-5 to 0-1 after 14 minutes. It was all St Mary’s - fives wides in this period indicative of the amount of chances created.
Two frees from Michael O’Donoghue steadied the Killarney outfit and while St Mary’s would reestablish a four-point cushion on two further occasions approaching the break, Michael O’Donoghue (free), Shane Cronin and Dan O’Donoghue left it finely poised at the interval, 0-8 to 0-6 the difference.
Again St Mary’s stepped on the throttle early upon the change of ends – Sheehan (0-2) and Niall O’Driscoll putting the scoreboard at 0-11 to 0-7 in their favour. They’d go the next 10 minutes without adding to their tally. At the other end, Cormac Cronin (0-2, one free), Ryan O’Carroll (‘45) and Michael O’Donoghue (free) landed four on the bounce to level proceedings.
Spa’s failure, however, to hit the front in their period of dominance or to raise a single green flag despite the several goal chances created, ultimately, proved their downfall.
St Mary’s employed the smarter and more attractive football throughout; Paul O’Donoghue, Aidan Walsh and Denis Daly time and time again cutting deep incisions in the Spa rearguard. Waiting to collect the final pass, more often than not, was full-forward Daniel Daly or the heavily strapped Bryan Sheehan. The pair would contribute seven-points to the Mary’s cause over the course of the game to keep them in front, and yet when Spa sub Craig Hickey landed a fine point on 51 minutes, the sides were level at 0-12 apiece.
By this juncture last year’s defeated finalists had kicked five of the last six points and were it not for the heroics of Mary’s keeper Austin Constable, Spa would have found themselves in the driving seat turning the bend for home.
Constable’s first significant involvement arrived earlier on 39 minutes, referee Cathal Ó Dúbhda awarding Spa a penalty for a foul on Michael O’Donoghue. The centre-forward dusted himself down to stand over the spot kick. His effort flashed off the post and while the rebound fell kindly to him, Constable’s trailing leg kept the ball out.
Constable was again called into action on 44 minutes, producing a double-save from Evan Cronin and Mike Foley.
Goal openings were not half as plentiful at the other end, but when Conor Quirke, Aidan Walsh and Sean Cournane combined to cut through the opposition defence on 54 minutes, they were decisively clinical. Walsh flashed possession across the square where Cournane palmed the ball home. Daniel Daly stretched their lead to 1-13 to 0-12 in the subsequent action. On this occasion, they would not be caught.
A Cormac Cronin free made it a one-score game and while Spa set up camp in opposition territory in the final three minutes, the goal wouldn’t come. Michael O’Donoghue came closest, his low drive kept out by Daniel O’Sullivan.
The final whistle sounded thereafter; St Mary’s winning their second intermediate crown. Fitzgerald’s men turn attentions to the Munster championship, the sole reward for yesterday’s win. With the number of clubs competing in next year’s Kerry senior championship being cut from 11 to eight, promotion was not on the table here.
B Sheehan (0-4, 0-2f); Daniel Daly (0-3); S Cournane (1-0); P O’Donoghue, A Walsh (0-2); N O’Driscoll, A Cournane (0-1).
M O’Donoghue (0-4, 0-3f); C Cronin (0-3, 0-2f); R O’Carroll (0-2, 0-1 45); S Cronin, D O’Donoghue, E Cronin, C Hickey (0-1).
A Constable; P Cournane, B Curran, L Sheehan; C Quirke, C O’Shea, D O’Sullivan; B Sheehan, D Daly; P O’Donoghue, N O’Driscoll, A Walsh; S Cournane, D Daly, A Cournane.
I Casey for Sheehan (42 mins).
J Devane; M Finnegan, A Cahill, H O’Donoghue; M McCarthy, D O’Donoghue, S Lynch; A Garnett, L Kearney; S Cronin, M O’Donoghue, R O’Carroll; C Cronin, M Foley, E Cronin. Subs: C Hickey for Garnett (44 mins), C Tobin for M Foley (45), B Lynch for O’Donoghue (45), C Spillane for Lynch (58).
C Ó Dúbhda (An Ghealtacht).