South Kerry 1-13 Killarney Legion 1-12 (AET): In the gloomy twilight of Fitzgerald Stadium, a set of crutches were called for.
Declan O’Sullivan wasn’t going to make it to the dressing room without some assistance.
With heroic captain Bryan Sheehan off the pitch having been black-carded in the first half of extra-time, the imaginary armband had passed to O’Sullivan but with a few minutes remaining he crumbled to the ground in agony, his heavily strapped knee giving way on him. His day looked done and yet within 20 seconds he was back on his feet grimacing and assuring his team-mates he was okay.
Legion weren’t without their stoic troopers either. James O’Donoghue too defied his body. Taken off with what looked like another shoulder dislocation in the first period of additional time, he returned to the fray shortly after the turnaround.
This Kerry final replay mightn’t have been a classic but it was an epic. Aidan Walsh’s winning point was the climax but the drama continued after the final whistle where captain Sheehan was handed the Bishop Moynihan Cup on the field as a female spectator collapsed beside the presentation area in the stand (she thankfully recovered).
A first title for South Kerry since 2009 and their tenth in total, it couldn’t have been harder won. Seven points down with 25 minutes left they went for broke and it paid off. They rode their luck too: Sheehan, their virtuoso, could have been black-carded long before he struck a goal in the 39th minute. Both sides could have had other men benched in a cagey first quarter but remarkably referee Paul Hayes granted clemency.
It was South Kerry who made the most of the leniency, such was Sheehan’s impact on the remainder of the game. He came into his own in the second half as Legion scrambled to protect their lead but had posted two fine first-half points within seconds of each other.
South Kerry looked nothing like champions after that brace, though. Jamie O’Sullivan goaled for Legion in the following minute and the Killarney men followed up with four points on the trot and stretched six ahead. It was Sheehan, with one point from play, a placed ball and a pass to Walsh for another, who cut that deficit in half but Legion finished out the half with a converted Conor Keane free to lead 1-7 to 0-6.
Keane had been Legion’s best at that stage as South Kerry’s double sweepers succeeded in keeping O’Donoghue at bay, but his contribution dropped as the game developed. A free from O’Donoghue either side of a Pádraig O’Connor point at the start of the second half had stretched Legion’s advantage to seven but they subsequently went 18 minutes without a score.
South Kerry had no choice but to commit players forward. Declan O’Sullivan, anonymous up to that stage, became more of a central figure but it was Sheehan who stood out. After his goal, he delivered a customary long-range free to leave two between the sides. Conor O’Shea then made it 1-3 without reply.
A third O’Donoghue free gave Legion some reprieve but it was short-lived as substitute Daniel Daly pointed and then Killian Young, in the 54th minute, punted over the equaliser which was to force extra-time. “We showed a lot of desire in the second half of normal time and you could see we were that bit fresher,” said Young. “We had a lot more in the legs, I felt, and that’s where we came into it and we pushed on in extra-time.
That resolve was just as evident in extra-time when they lost Sheehan three minutes in. Neither team managed a score in the first 10 minutes as Legion were left to rue three wides, two of them from placed balls. In the final straight, Legion corner-back O’Connor did well to round a couple of defenders and fist a point. Two minutes later, Daly cancelled it out via a free and the stage was set for Walsh to make a name for himself, sprinting free from 50 metres out to fist the winner amid the walking wounded and cramped. A victory that had looked so unlikely was confirmed 90 seconds later.
“Bryan Sheehan was a leader and what he did was immense, the way he kept us in the game,” remarked Young. “Anything can happen in games now but thankfully we were on the winning side.”
Scorers for South Kerry:
B Sheehan (1-5, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ‘45); A Walsh (0-3); D Daly (0-2, 1 free); P O’Donoghue, C O’Shea, K Young (0-1 each).
Scorers for Legion:
J O’Sullivan (1-0); C Keane (0-5, 4 frees); J O’Donoghue (0-3, frees); P O’Connor (0-2); T Moriarty, B McGuire (0-1 each).
B O’Connor (Valentia); Paul O’Sullivan (Valentia), B Sugrue (Renard), K Young (do); D Daly (St Mary’s), B Walsh (Skellig Rangers), Padraig O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses); B Sheehan (St Mary’s), B O’Sullivan (Valentia); C O’Shea (St Mary’s), P O’Connor (Valentia), A Walsh (St Mary’s); I Galvin (Sneem/Derrynane), P O’Donoghue (St Mary’s), D O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses).
Subs for South Kerry:
R Wharton (Renard) for P O’Connor (36); G Gibson (Waterville) for B O’Sullivan (36); D Daly (St Mary’s) for I Galvin (43); B O’Sullivan (Renard) for B Sheehan (black, 63); A Shine O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses) for B Sugrue (74); O Clifford (Waterville) for P O’Sullivan (79).
B Kelly; P O’Connor, D Sheahan, C Davies; D O’Doherty, Damien O’Sullivan, C Sheehan; S Keane, J O’Sullivan; D Lyne, C Keane, B McGuire; J O’Donoghue, J Lyne, T Moriarty.
Subs for Legion:
K Breen for D Lyne (50); J O’Neill for B McGuire (55); S Sheahan for T Moriarty (58); A O’Sullivan for C Sheahan (black, 59); David O’Sullivan for J O’Donoghue (inj 66); J O’Donoghue for D Sheahan (72); T Slattery for S Keane (78); K Breen (black card, 80+1).
P Hayes (Kerins O’Rahillys)
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