John Fintan Daly has known AIB All-Ireland club success at Croke Park at a higher level in the past; namely with Milltown-Castlemaine in the 2012 intermediate decider.
Yet for all kinds of reasons, managing his own club Knocknagree to the junior title was a particularly special experience.
It was in Knocknagree in November 2011 that Daly, returning from Mallow where Milltown-Castlemaine had just won a Munster semi-final, stopped the team bus and addressed his players.
“I named five names to them - Ardfert, Annascaul, St Michael’s/Foilmore, Spa and Gneeveguilla,” Daly revealed at the time. “What do they all have in common? They all came out of Kerry and won Munster. I said, ‘Are ye going to come back to Kerry and say ye failed the green and gold? I’m not a Kerry man, it’s over to ye now.”
Daly’s players ultimately delivered for him back then and Knocknagree did likewise, taking on the responsibility in similar fashion.
They coughed up two goals in the dying moments on Saturday but had already wrapped up the win by then, leading 2-8 to 0-5 at half-time and extending that advantage to 11 points.
“What a wonderful competition, it’s the greatest thing the GAA has ever done for its clubs,” said manager Daly. “I was here six years ago with a lovely club, Milltown-Castlemaine, when we won the intermediate All-Ireland. I’m here now with my home club Knocknagree which is on the border of Kerry, the parish of Rathmore, which is almost in the county of Kerry.
“We’ve 32 on the panel, 28 played championship. Two of our best players went into the final with pain-killing injections; Eoghan McSweeney and Danny Cooper.
Knocknagree dominated Multyfarnham in the first-half when they laid down the platform for victory and were 2-7 to 0-3 ahead after just 19 minutes.
Man of the Match Fintan O’Connor and Michael Mahoney, a defender who played up front in the first-half while marking Multyfarnham’s sweeper, scored the goals in the 13th and 14th minutes.
“We’re a very small club, 600 people in our parish, right on the county boundary,” continued Daly. “We live and die for our team and our club. It’s game number 45 for us, we’ve only been beaten four times and it’s a wonderful achievement because Cork haven’t been doing it in football. I’m a football analyst myself with local radio in Cork so I’ve seen Cork come to Croke Park so often and lose. So it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Daly said that the feeling of winning with family and friends couldn’t be matched.
“I’d two sons playing, one playing at wing-back and one at inside-forward,” he said.
All of Knocknagree’s scores, aside from the third goal which arrived late on, came from open play.
That goal, like the ‘own point’ that Karl Daly scored earlier to prevent a goal going in, takes some explaining; goalkeeper Patrick Doyle strode upfield to take a 45 and drilled it to the back of the net. Knocknagree were down a man at that stage, losing Anthony O’Connor to a second booking after 55 minutes.
The Westmeath side threw the kitchen sink at it in the closing minutes, scoring 2-1 in injury-time.
Mark Fallon, a half-time substitute, netted with a deflected shot before palming home shortly after.
The influential Ronan Wallace then curled over a free to reduce the deficit to just four but six minutes of injury-time had passed at that stage and their heroics counted for nought.
“When we got our first goal in the second-half we had them a little bit rattled but we needed to get another score and bring it down to a four or five-point game,” said Multyfarnham manager Louis Ennis.
Scorers for Knocknagree:
F. O’Connor (1-3); P. Doyle (45), M. Mahoney (1-0 each); J.F. Daly (0-3); E. McSweeney, A. O’Connor (0-2 each); P. Collins, J. Dennehy, M. Dilworth (0-1 each).
Scorers for Multyfarnham:
M. Fallon (2-0); M. Brady (0-6, 4 frees); D. Wallace (1-0); K. Daly (Knocknagree own point), R. Wallace (0-1f), E. Feerick (0-1 each).
P. Doyle; G. O’Connor, P. O’Connor, M. Mahoney; K. Daly, K. Buckley, D. Cooper; D. Moynihan, P. Collins; F. O’Connor, J. Dennehy, E. McSweeney; M. Dilworth (c), A. O’Connor, J.F. Daly.
S. Daly for P O’Connor (30+2); A. Sheehan for Cooper (41); T. Long for Dennehy (54); C. White for McSweeney (59); T. Cooper for Collins (60); J. Carroll for G. O’Connor (62).
H. Reilly; S. Moran, J. Greene, T. McGivney; R. Wallace, P. Heavin, S. Rock; B. McLoughlin, D. Loughrey; C. Madden, A. McGivney, M. Reynolds; I. McGovern, M. Brady, D. Wallace (c).
M. Fallon for T McGivney (h/t); A. Loughrey for McLoughlin (41); E. Feerick for Brady, G. Feerick for Madden (54); D. Kelly for Loughrey (66, black card).
B. Tiernan (Dublin).
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