COUNTY MINOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL
Mid Kerry 2-7
South Kerry 0-11
The old adage that goals win games was seen to full effect once again with Mid Kerry edging out a second half hum-dinger with South Kerry to advance to the Keane’s SuperValu County Minor Football Championship final for the second season in succession, where they will meet North Kerry, who were comfortable winners against Kenmare Shamrocks in the evening’s other semi-final.
After a pretty insipid first half, in which they managed only two scores, and against a Jack Clifford-inspired southern outfit who were undoubtedly the better side at that juncture, great credit is due to Cathal Moriarty’s men for the way they turned things around on the resumption.
In truth, it was their opening green flag in the 25th minute, at a time where they hadn’t even registered on the scoreboard, which kept them in the contest heading into the second period. Looking bereft of attacking penetration, and already three points adrift, they badly needed this goal-den lifeline.
There was certainly an element of good fortune about it as well when, after a solid run upfield by midfielder Fionan Griffin, Darragh O’Connor’s left leg effort for a point dropped short, and it was corner-forward Jack McGrath who reacted quickest to flick the ball to the back of the South Kerry net.
Undoubtedly rattled by that sucker punch, South Kerry responded immediately with the herculean Clifford firing over two more points from play before the short whistle (he notched four in total in the opening 30 minutes), Dara Hogan replying with a tap-over free at the other end, to leave Mid Kerry only a point behind, 0-5 to 1-1, at the break.
With Aidan O’Sullivan, Cathal Casey and captain Zak Fayen well to the fore in a very stingy defensive unit, and fellow inter-county minors Donagh and Ian O’Sullivan offering consistent support to star man Clifford, South Kerry should have had a much more comfortable cushion, and even though Donagh slotted over the first point after the break, the pendulum was about to swing the other way.
Mid Kerry full-forward Hogan, like many of his team-mates, hadn’t really got going in the first half but, thundering into the picture in a four-minute spell of creative, ruthless attacking sorcery, the Milltown/Castlemaine man turned the contest upside down with an unanswered burst of 1-2.
The second crucial green flag arrived in the 38th minute, either side of two well-struck points from play, with earlier goal scorer McGrath this time doing the spadework before plying Hogan with a nice pass, and the number 14 made no mistake with a blistering right-foot rocket past South Kerry custodian, Aaron Galvin.
Now three points to the good, 2-3 to 0-6, and with the switch of Kerry minor Liam Evans to midfield, in addition to Liam O’Neill moving onto South Kerry talisman Clifford, allowing them to gain more momentum, and Josh Coffey’s driving runs from centre-back an increasing feature of the play, Mid Kerry began to grow in confidence.
Not that South Kerry were wilting in any way either. Donagh O’Sullivan continued to carry the ball with great conviction and power, Clifford was just a constant nuisance for the Mid Kerry rearguard with his ball-winning ability and shooting accuracy, and when the leaders lost wing-back Aaron Dinham to a black card in the 48th minute, the clash was well and truly in the melting pot, 2-4 to 0-8.
Maybe Evans could have killed the game off if he hadn’t shot straight at the South Kerry ‘keeper with another goal chance four minutes later, but what was noticeable at this stage was that Mid Kerry were always able to react as soon as their opponents managed to tack on a score. Their self-belief was now at its most optimum levels.
Entering four minutes of added time, following a spectacular curling right-foot point from Hogan, Mid Kerry were still two to the good, 2-6 to 0-10, and even though Clifford kicked a mark for his seventh point in a remarkable personal haul that certainly didn’t deserve to finish on the vanquished side, Mid Kerry simply refused to be rattled.
Winning vital possession from the resultant kick-out through wing-back Gearoid Evans, the winners’ game management was damn impressive, staying patient, recycling the ball, and then going for the jugular with Liam Evans setting up centre-forward O’Connor, who was rewarded for his perseverance with a fantastic 35-metre point which sealed his side’s spot in the final against North Kerry.
MID KERRY: Jamie Casey (Cromane); Ben Downes (Milltown/Castlemaine), Liam O’Neill (Cromane), Donnacha Coffey (Beaufort); Gearoid Evans (Keel), Josh Coffey (Beaufort), Aaron Dinham (Milltown/Castlemaine); Liam Evans (Keel), Fionan Griffin (Keel) 0-1 (m); Tony Og Duffey (Cromane), Darragh O’Connor (Beaufort) 0-1, Fionn O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar); Kealan O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar), Dara Hogan (Milltown/Castlemaine) 1-5 (0-2 fs), Jack McGrath (Cromane) 1-0. Subs: Oisin Spring (Milltown/Castlemaine) for F O’Sullivan (53 mins), Keith Moriarty (Glenbeigh/Glencar) for K O’Sullivan (53 mins).
SOUTH KERRY: Aaron Galvin (Reenard); Aidan O’Sullivan (St Michaels/Foilmore), Padraig Mangan (Dromid Pearses), Cathal Casey (St Michaels/Foilmore); Zak Fayen (Sneem/Derrynane), Ciaran Crowley (Templenoe), Darren Riordan (Skellig Rangers); Jack Clifford (St Michaels/Foilmore) 0-7 (0-1mk), Tadhg O’Sullivan (St Mary’s); Donnacha O’Sullivan (Tuosist), Donagh O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses) 0-1(mk), Michael Lynch (Valentia); Ian O’Sullivan (St Michaels/Foilmore) 0-2 (0-1f), Emmet Daly (Valentia), Fintan O’Sullivan (Reenard). Subs: Ben Egan (Valentia) 0-1 for F O’Sullivan (45 mins), Darren O’Donoghue (Skellig Rangers) for Riordan (52 mins), Donagh Sugrue (St Michaels/Foilmore) for Donnacha O’Sullivan (58 mins).
REFEREE: Peter Curtin (Brosna)