South Kerry 3-10 Kerins O’Rahilly 1-15: When they set up a special working group to nip and tuck the Kerry football championship, increasing the quality was a fundamental objective.
Quantity was sacrificed, the blue riband reduced to 16 teams.
The available evidence from the opening eight games in this year’s Championship suggests the working group’s objective is halfway towards fulfilment.
The champions, South Kerry, have a long and storied Bishop Moynihan Cup tradition, and their appetite for another run at the Autumn was clearly evident yesterday in Tralee in the pick of the first round ties.
Kerins O’Rahillys will feel sore and sorry to come out the wrong side of a full-throttle clash at Austin Stack Park. Sorry at blowing a commanding position and sore at the old chestnut of a soft centre will be whispered accusingly at them again.
Coach Micheal Quirke felt his side lost this Round 1 game rather than South Kerry winning it, but with 24 hours distance since the final whistle, he might offer a slightly more benign judgement. Or maybe not.
South Kerry are not your garden variety divisional side. They are organised - ten sessions to date, said coach William Harmon.
They turned around a 1-11 to 1-6 half-time deficit to prevail here without Kerry full-back Mark Griffin and his inter-county colleague Brendan O’Sullivan, victims of hip and groin ailments, respectively.
Killian Young was preoccupied with Barry John Keane, and Bryan Sheehan was good in an understated way, but there was plenty of other talent to pick up the slack, notably St Mary’s duo, Aidan Walsh and Paul O’Donoghue, who contributed six points between them.
South Kerry’s first goal in the 16th minute was indicative of their work ethic. A left-footed effort for a point from corner forward Sean Cournane was drifting harmlessly across the goal but for the chase of Walsh, who shovelled it back across the danger zone where Cournane had doubled back to punch to the net.
In the lexicon of Gaelic football terms, a picture of this goal would illustrate the ‘Against The Run of Play’ section.
That it was. The first quarter was littered with smart running, intelligent passing and accurate diagonals. All from the Tralee side, who led 0-7 to 0-3 before Cournane’s first major intervention.
If it stunned O’Rahillys, it wasn’t for long. Jack Savage, a Kerry U21, was the best player on view for most of the game, as much for his economy and good decision-making with the ball as his six points.
After putting Strand Road 0-10 to 1-4 in front after 22 minutes, he then placed Tommy Walsh on the edge of the square in a one-on-one pitch against South Kerry’s Aidan O’Sullivan.
Only one result there, 1-10 to 1-4.
Minutes after came a decisive moment - the introduction at midfield of young Matthew O’Sullivan from St Michael’s Foilmore, who was known to most of the neutrals as the Kerry U21 sent off against Tipperary earlier this spring.
Yesterday, he was the young man who steadied South Kerry’s ailing midfield and curbed the influence of David Moran and John C O’Connor.
Tommy Walsh commuted between midfield and full forward and he teed up Barry John Keane for the point which gave O’Rahillys their five-point half-time cushion. Walsh was the main curiosity factor for the neutrals who chose Tralee over Banna Beach.
He was impressive without being dominant, and perhaps that is the issue with Walsh. We expect him to bound over buildings in one stride.
He was guilty of fouling up a gilt-edged goal chance eight minutes after the break and it was as significant as inexplicable, coming a minute after South Kerry’s second goal, Niall O’Shea teeing up Cournane.
South Kerry coach William Harmon said two half-time messages were key - work harder around midfield, and tighten up defensively.
The latter South Kerry did to perfection. At least five times I counted an O’Rahillys attack stunted for the want of someone to offload to.
Sub Greg Gibson equalised at 2-8 to 1-11 on 41 minutes, underlining the impact South Kerry had off the bench. Six minutes from the end, the decisive goal would come from Waterville replacement Barry O’Dwyer.
Before that, the Tralee men seemed to have wrested control back from the champions, though it had taken 16 minutes of the half to register their first score— a Savage free.
It was added to by John Ferguson’s third point, and another from midfielder O’Connor eight minutes from time put them two in front (1-14 to 2-9).
Their soreness today is derived from the last three or four significant moments of the hour. South Kerry’s Aidan Walsh was allowed wriggle out of the bottom corner of the pitch to set up O’Dwyer for the winners’ third goal.
Then after the excellent Paul O’Donoghue made it 3-10 to 1-14, Jack Savage converted a free and then sold the perfect dummy to a defender to set himself up for the equaliser.
He pulled the chance wide.
Scorers for South Kerry: S Cournane (2-0), P. O’Donoghue (0-4), B O’Dwyer (1-0), A Walsh (0-2), B Sheehan (0-2, frees), I Galvin, G Gibson (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kerins O’Rahillys: J Savage (0-6, 5 frees), B.J. Keane, J. Ferguson (0-3 each), T. Walsh (1-0), J. C. O’Connor (0-2), D, Moran (0-1, free).
SOUTH KERRY: B. O’Connor (Valentia); P. O’Sullivan (Valentia), O. Clifford (Waterville), F Clifford (Waterville); C. O’Shea (St Mary’s), A. O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses), K Young (Renard); B. Sheehan (St Mary’s), J. Curran (Valentia); A. Walsh (St Mary’s), D Daly (St Mary’s), P. O’Donoghue (St Mary’s); I Galvin (Sneem/Derrynane), N O’Shea (Dromid Pearses), S. Cournane (St Mary’s).
Subs: M O’Sullivan (St Michael’s Foilmore) for Curran (25); G Gibson (Waterville) for C O’Shea (39); B. O’Dwyer (Waterville) for Daly (48); C. O’Connor (St Michael’s Foilmore) for Galvin (56), R Wharton (Renard) for Clifford (57).
KERINS O’RAHILLYS: G. Kissane; D. Murphy, D. O’Sullivan, T. Begley; C. Coffey, S. Brosnan, C. Sayers; J. C. O’Connor, D. Moran; D. McLaughlin, B.J Keane, K. Walshe; J Savage, T. Walsh, J Ferguson.
Subs: G. O’Connell for Sayers (42); G. O’Grady for Walshe (47), K. O’Mahony for McLaughlin ((58).
Referee: J. O’Sullivan (Firies).
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