Those clad in green and gold still standing upright celebrated as if victory had been secured. It hadn’t, but in the circumstances a draw was as welcome as any win.
Having had their six-point interval advantage whittled away during the second-half of normal time, South Kerry were dragged into an extra-time battle when Shane O’Callaghan snuck in between Mark Griffin and South Kerry ‘keeper Brian O’Connor to land the equalising point 10 seconds shy of the hour mark.
In extra-time, it was the reigning county champions who were forced to give chase, one which appeared bound for an unsuccessful conclusion when Kieran Donaghy rose highest in the Stacks’ square to collect a Bryan Sheehan free in the 81st minute. Stacks were defending a 1-13 to 1-12 advantage and victory looked to be theirs when Sheehan’s kick dropped a metre short. The Tralee outfit duly swept upfield where Brian Mangan’s effort also failed to reach it’s destination.
The divisional side went on the attack with Paul O’Donoghue’s charge halted by Pa McCarthy just outside the Stacks 45-metre line. McCarthy was black carded and Caherciveen stood momentarily still as Sheehan stepped up to the free.
On this occasion, distance wasn’t a problem and the ball flew over the black spot. Caherciveen erupted.
All told, a draw was the fairest result. South Kerry held a 1-8 to 0-5 interval lead but then Stacks called on the big guns. Kieran Donaghy and Daniel Bohane were introduced for the second period, and along with Wayne Guthrie and David Mannix, the 2014 county champions slowly began to edge this arm wrestle.
Conor Jordan and Sheehan (free) swapped points early in the second-half and in the ensuing 20 minutes or so, on the scoreboard at least, there was only one team in it.
William Harmon’s charges went 18 minutes without adding to their tally, during which time Stacks hit 1-3 to level matters. David Mannix clipped two of their three points and set up Wayne Guthrie for the third. Mannix’s imprint was strongest on 40 minutes; the corner-forward put in the clear by Donaghy and he duly obliged with a low finish to the net. In the passage of play prior to the goal, South Kerry could have wrapped up this contest. Aidan Walsh weaved a path through the Stacks full-back line, but rattled the post with his shot.
Level at 1-9 apiece turning the bend for home, sub Cian O’Connor ended South Kerry’s barren spell with a superb kick into the wind. Donaghy and Mannix both kicked wide before O’Callaghan eventually ensured extra-time.
Momentum was with Austin Stacks and two Mannix frees either side of a Sheehan dead ball had Stephen Stack’s side 1-12 to 1-11 ahead at the quick turnaround, only the second time they led. Wayne Guthrie extended the gap to two 35 seconds after the restart, but South Kerry, to their credit, and thanks mostly to the cool heads of Killian Young, Mark Griffin, Sheehan, Aidan Walsh and Paul O’Donoghue, kept their composure and were justly rewarded at the death.
It wasn’t all sweetness, light and end-to-end football, mind you. Walsh brandished six yellow cards and there was also the heated altercation in the opening half where Stacks selector William Kirby and Bryan Sheehan got up close and personal. The Kerry captain landed three points in that first-half, with Ian Galvin fisting to the net on 24 minutes after a flowing build-up involving Aidan Walsh, Fionan Clifford and Sean Cournane.
Sheehan, half an hour after the final whistle, was the second last South Kerry player to depart the ground and as he made his way to his jeep, two youngsters burst out of a car waving their phones at the Kerry footballer. He duly obliged for two photographs. Not for the first time, he was the hero in Cahersiveen.
The replay has been fixed for Saturday at a Tralee venue (6.30pm).
B Sheehan (0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’45); I Galvin (1-2); S Cournane (0-1 free), D Daly, C O’Connor (0-1 each).
D Mannix (1-8, 0-6 frees); W Guthrie (0-2); P McCarthy, C Jordan, S O’Callaghan (0-1 each).
B O’Connor (Valentia); P O’Sullivan (Valentia), M Griffin (St Michael’s/Foilmore), F Clifford (Waterville); C O’Shea (St Mary’s), K Young (Renard), O Clifford (Waterville); B Sheehan (St Mary’s), M O’Sullivan (St Michael’s/Foilmore); P O’Donoghue (St Mary’s), D Daly (St Mary’s), A Walsh (St Mary’s); I Galvin (Sneem/Derrynane), N O’Shea (Dromid Pearses), S Cournane (St Mary’s).
B O’Dwyer (Waterville) for Galvin (42 mins); G Gibson (Waterville) for C O’Shea (44); C O’Connor (St Michael’s/Foilmore) for O’Sullivan (50); R Wharton (Renard) for Daly (55); P O’Connor (Valentia) for N O’Shea (63); D O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses) for Griffin (76).
D O’Brien; R Shanahan, F MacNamara, J O’Shea; D McEllitgott, C Jordan, P McCarthy; W Guthrie, S Guthrie; F Mangan, M O’Donnell, S Carroll; D Mannix, S O’Callaghan, A Nestor.
S Ryan for O’Donnell (16 mins, inj); K Donaghy for S Guthrie (HT), D Bohan for Nestor (HT), B Walsh for Carroll (HT); D O’Sullivan for Mangan (44); J Dennis for McElligott (60); D O’Brien for Mannix (75); B Mangan for W Guthrie (78).