IN the decade since they last claimed the north Kerry senior football crown, Finuge have been repeatedly schooled in hard knocks.
There have been three divisional final defeats to chew over. The county arena has provided setbacks also with narrow losses in two intermediate deciders. Little wonder, then, that claiming the Bernard O’Callaghan Memorial Trophy in Ballylongford yesterday was received so rapturously.
They needed all their wits and guile to overcome a spirited Beale outfit in this game, with captain Eamonn Fitzmaurice contributing 1-5 and lifting the silverware 15 years after he had last led the club to North Kerry glory.
“It’s been a long time coming,” admitted Fitzmaurice. “We won an All-Ireland junior in 2005 and were in a great position with a good young team but we haven’t converted since then. It just hasn’t gone our way in the county intermediate or the north Kerry. Given the nature of our club between football and hurling, and fellas involved with Kerry, sometimes when we come to the end of the year, fellas are drained and have no interest.
“I made the point before the game to the lads that I remember being here in the north semi-final three years ago against Beale and it was one of the lowest days we’d ever had. Our jerseys didn’t show up and we were only ready five minutes before the game. We’ve come a good distance since then.”
The match was an engaging and full-blooded affair despite the soft underfoot conditions and the showers that swept across the pitch in the second half. Though hot favourites, Finuge found it tricky to shake off a Beale team aiming to bridge a 22-year gap since their last success. They were grateful to a blistering start to the game as they raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead by the 13th minute and Beale spent the match attempting to haul them back.
When Beale did finally achieve that in the 51st minute courtesy of Ian Blake, who displayed marvellous composure and accuracy from dead ball situations throughout, as he tied the game at 0-9 apiece, they were left reeling by a knockout blow two minutes later. Finuge’s goal was no strike of beauty, a goalmouth scramble culminating in the ball popping into the arms of Fitzmaurice who could not miss from a yard out with the net in front of him. Yet it was the most significant score of the game and despite a late brace of frees from Blake, this match delivered a result rather than a replay.
Beale may have opened tentatively yet when they settled they produced some vibrant passages of play. Captain Paul Collins was their launchpad from centre-back, midfielder Brendan Brennan claimed plenty primary possession while James McMahon and Tom Joy were lively up front. They were notably reliant on Blake to trouble the scoreboard operator but he consistently obliged with brilliant points. Finuge’s ability to weather the second-half storm was pivotal with Chris Allen and Pat Corridan expertly marshalling their defence while Kerry senior hurler John ‘Tweek’ Griffin was superb all through at wing-back.
In a big game, it was Finuge’s big names that stood out. The tactic of deploying Fitzmaurice and Paul Galvin in a twin strike force close to goal was clever and rewarding. They fired 1-6 between them and Galvin was excellent as a creative force, providing assists for three points. He also put in a key shift in defence during the final frantic moments, carrying the ball clear from danger as Beale fought ferociously for a levelling score.
“We were always a team that had a lot of possession but struggled to get scores,” remarked Fitzmaurice. “It was something we set out this year to try, putting myself and Paul in attack. It was a new challenge as I never played there in my life but I’ve really enjoyed it. A goal was always going to be a big score today. It was a rooted effort really but luckily the ball just fell right for me.”
Scorers for Finuge: E Fitzmaurice 1-5 (0-3f), Paul Galvin, E Galvin, C Galvin (0-1f), J Griffin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Beale: I Blake 0-8 (0-6f, 0-1 ‘45), P Collins, J King, T Joy 0-1 each.
FINUGE: P Fitzmaurice; C Allen, T McKenna, D McCarthy; J Griffin, P Corridan, J Corridan; C Galvin, J McCarthy; Paudie Galvin, R Galvin, E Galvin; F Fitzmaurice, E Fitzmaurice, Paul Galvin.
Subs: C Fitzmaurice for J Corridan (50), J Flaherty for F Fitzmaurice (50), R Thornton for J McCarthy (59).
BEALE: S Dee; J Griffin, C Kissane, P Blake; P Murphy, P Collins, S Joy; J King, B Brennan; D Bambury, J McMahon, P Horgan; T Joy, I Blake, B O’Mahony.
Subs: D Cummins for Griffin (37), O Horgan for Horgan (40), M O’Connor for Brennan (44), Griffin for P Blake (53).
Referee: Mike Hennessy (Ballyduff).
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