With a second successive Corn Uí Mhuirí final appearance locked down, thoughts turned to the February 25 decider and who may be in danger of missing out.
The Killarney outfit already had a crowded sick bay arriving into Rathkeale on Saturday. Returning home after a relatively comfortable nine-point semi-final win, the list had lengthened.
Michael Potts, wing-back on last year’s all-conquering Kerry minor team, was one of three regular starters missing from action on Saturday after sustaining a concussion during a challenge last week.
He was joined on the line by another member of last year’s Kerry minor squad, Cian Callaghan (knee).
Jack Griffin had his tonsils removed last Monday and so was also unavailable.
Centre-back Cian Gammell carried a slight groin strain into the game and would have been rested were it not for the fact that the other two members of the half-back line, Potts and Griffin, were already ruled out.
Gammell put in a fine shift, but did have to be removed late on. Michéal Devlin, meanwhile, picked up a knock in the first period which also forced him off.
“Last year, we were blessed in that we went through the entire campaign without an injury,” remarked winning manager Gary McGrath.
“We were down three today and lost two more during the game.
“We are certainly getting our belly-full of it this year. Cian (Gammell) is probably our biggest worry at the moment and we will just have to wait and see.
“A lot of these lads are going two and a half years without a break between the Kerry minors, their club and the school.
“There are a lot of fellas with niggles and fellas are sick. We came in without three Kerry minors and it says something about the strength of our panel that we were able to come through without them.”
This pair clashed at this juncture last year, with the Killarney outfit romping to a 15-point win.
This latest meeting, however, wasn’t as straightforward and although Dara Moynihan started and finished a 12th-minute goal to send St Brendan’s 1-4 to 0-2 clear, it was immediately cancelled out by the Ennis outfit.
Eoghan Thynne saw his initial effort well saved by keeper Robert Osborne, but from the ensuing kick-out, St Flannan’s worked possession back into the opposition danger area and while Osborne repelled Sean Kennedy’s drive, he could do nothing about Darragh Duggan’s well-placed shot.
Ian Molloy split the posts in the subsequent action to make it a one-point ball game, 1-4 to 1-3. The response from the 2016 Hogan Cup champions, though, was clinical, as five points were reeled off without reply.
Two of those came from David Shaw who had missed their quarter-final as he attended an AFL Academy camp in Florida.
He finished with six here, all from play. The gap was five at the break, 1-9 to 1-4, and was never closer than that in the second period.
Shaw added to his tally while centre-forward Donnachadh O’Sullivan landed three from play and one from the dead ball.
Sub Barry Keane bagged their second goal two minutes from time after Mark Hartnett’s shot had come down off the post.
D O’Sullivan (0-7, 0-3 frees); D Shaw (0-6); B Keane (1-1); D Moynihan (1-0); M O’Shea, B Courtney (0-1 free), C Flynn (0-1 each).
D Duggan (1-5, 0-5 frees); C Donnelly, E Thynne (0-2 each); I Molloy, G Cooney (0-1 each).
R Osborne (Legion); L McMonagle (Dr Crokes), C O’Donoghue (Glenflesk), S O’Leary (Kilcummin); N Donoghue (Firies), C Gammell (Legion), E Cosgrave (Firies); B Courtney (Dr Crokes), D Shaw (Dr Crokes); D Moynihan (Spa), D O’Sullivan (Firies), M Devlin (Legion); N McCarthy (Spa), M O’Shea (Dr Crokes), C Flynn (Firies).
M Hartnett (Dr Crokes) for McCarthy (24 mins); B Keane (Listry) for Devlin (30, inj); O O’Donoghue (Glenflesk) for Gammell (52, inj); B Slattery (Legion) for O’Donoghue (54, bc).
T O’Brien (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield); M Collins (Éire Óg Ennis), P Casey (Clondegad), D O’Shea (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield); I Ugwueru (Éire Óg Ennis), R Hayes (Crusheen), C McNeilis (Clondegad); T Hannan (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield), I Molloy (Banner); C Donnelly (Clarecastle), G Cahill (Corofin), S Kennedy (Kilmaley); G Cooney (Éire Óg Ennis), D Duggan (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield), E Thynne (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield).
C Brannock (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield) for Kennedy (46 mins); Kennedy for McNeilis (52); R Collins (Banner) for Thynne (56).
M Maher (Cork).
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