With David Moran producing a tour de force performance at midfield, and Jack Savage’s dead-ball kicking crucial in the second half, Kerins O’Rahillys withstood a last-gasp Templenoe rally to deservedly claim the Kerry Club SFC title at Fitzgerald Stadium.
In the end, it all came down to one kick of a ball from the excellent Killian Spillane five minutes into injury-time. With the Tralee side leading by the bare minimum, the inter-county forward had one final opportunity to take this interesting contest to an extra 20 minutes.
With nine points already on the board, Spillane had done more than anybody to keep his side in the match, even when it looked at different junctures that their opponents were gaining superiority, but there was to be late, late agony for the Templenoe star.
Arrowing his effort high in the direction of the posts at the Lewis Road end of the stadium, time appeared to stand still for a few seconds. Moran jumped on the line to try and gather (potentially getting a touch), but to the relief of the Strand Road faithful, the ball came back off the post and was cleared to safety before the final whistle sounded.
William Harmon’s charges, just about, deserved to edge their way over the finishing line in front. On a couple of occasions during the hour, they seemed to be about to put their foot on the accelerator and pull clear, but every single time, to the credit of a typically belligerent Templenoe outfit, such a scenario was simply not allowed to happen.
O’Rahillys got off to a flyer in the first half, with a fast-moving forward unit making early inroads, helped enormously by the dominance of veteran Kerry powerhouse Moran around the middle of the field. Four points in arrears (0-5 to 0-1) after only seven minutes, Templenoe had taken an early punch to the nose.
However, as they would show all afternoon, the men from the Roughty valley are made of stern stuff, and between all the jigs and the reels, and with Killian Spillane getting into his stride up front, and Brian Crowley an inspiration at the back, they were only a point behind at the end of the first quarter (0-5 to 0-4).
From there to the interval was really just more of the same – O’Rahillys attempting to set the pace, Templenoe always ready to reel them back in again. Tommy Walsh and Barry John Keane both had a brace by the interval, but the Strand Road cushion was only a single point (0-10 to 0-9).
After such a free-wheeling first half, it was understandable that both outfits decided to try and shut up shop a little, and while two quick scores on the resumption gave Templenoe the lead for the only time in the game, Savage’s brilliant free-taking appeared to have got O’Rahillys over the line by the 52nd minute (0-15 to 0-12).
In a fascinating finale, there could have been goals at either end (Stephen O’Sullivan for Templenoe and O’Rahillys’ sub Ben Hanafin just off target), but two more points from the chasers had the Tralee side living on their nerves all the way to that final nail-biting Spillane attempt.
Despair for the game’s top scorer Spillane, joy for man-of-the-match Moran, Kerins O’Rahillys now with a much-coveted place in the provincial championship to look forward to. Their season has suddenly taken on a different complexion.
J Savage (0-6m frees), BJ Keane (0-3), T Walsh (0-2), G O’Brien, C Hayes, T Hoare, C Coffey (0-1 each).
: K Spillane (0-9, 6fs), J Crowley Holland, B Crowley, A Crowley (’45), S Sheehan, S O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
: S Foley; D McElligott, R O’Callaghan, C Coffey; C Barrett, K Mullins, P Neenan; D Moran, T Hoare; C Sayers, J Savage, G O’Brien; BJ Keane, T Walsh, C Hayes.
: B Hanafin for Sayers (38), S Walsh for Barrett (59).
M Looney; B Crowley, K O’Neill, J Rice; P Clifford, T Morley, G Crowley; S Sheehan, A Spillane; M Casey, J Crowley Holland, C Crowley; S O’Sullivan, A Crowley, K Spillane.
K McCarthy for Casey (49), T Spillane for C Crowley (59), M Hallissey for Rice, inj (60+4). Temp sub: McCarthy for C Crowley (8-10).
: B Brosnan (Glenflesk).