FINUGE could get used to this.
They've played one game of senior championship football, won it and given every indication that it won't be a flash in the pan. This victory wasn't easy, it was hard won, as any other victories they're likely to win at this level are going to be, but they most certainly didn't look out of their depth.
They've been playing great stuff in the county and North Kerry leagues and brought that form with them to this contest with Laune Rangers, who were no slouches at this grade last year, reaching both county semi-finals. Finuge won this game without three of their key players from their All Ireland campaign – Eamonn Fitzmaurice has retired, Mike Conway is out for the season with a cruciate injury and is now part of the management team and Trevor McKenna, who so rarely puts a foot wrong, is out with liagment damage.
With the breeze at their backs in the first half they blitzed Laune Rangers in the opening fifteen minutes. They went 1-3 to nothing in front after just five minutes. Raymond Galvin got Finuge off the mark with a sweetly stuck point, Maurice Corridan doubled their advantage with a free, John Griffin made it three with a lovely score from wide on the right and then young Rickey Heffernan scored a great goal having collected a long ball in front of the posts, squeezing it past Rangers' Tony Lyons.
Pa Joy responded to show that the visitors had some fight about them, but before they could get any sort of foothold in the game the ball was in the back of Lyons' net once more. This time as a result of a penalty – Stephen Power's jersey was pulled by Keith Sheehan leaving referee Eddie Walsh with no choice. Maurice Corridan stepped up and made no mistake to give Finuge an eight point lead.
Rangers with Keith Sheehan from half-back and Peter Crowley from midfield providing the impetus gradually hauled their way back into the game. Mike Frank Russell and Kevin Flynn got a couple of scores to make it a three point game and then, crucially, Finuge conceeded a penalty for a foul by Paul Galvin on Flynn in the area. It was a potentially fatal blow for Finuge. They had to get to half-time with a substantial lead to stand any chance against the breeze.
In fairness they didn't panic. Heffernan got a point to settle their nerves and then came a goal that Rangers will be kicking themselves over ever since. Pat Corridan sent a long range free to the box and Heffernan got the deftest of touches to direct the ball to the net. That goal, coupled with a point from James Flaherty, gave Finuge what they needed at the break – a seven point lead.
All was not lost for Rangers even then. They started the second half with intent and Finuge, feeling the pressure, coughed up some needless frees. By the 37th minute they were within four of their hosts. Things were looking up. Finuge, however, dug their heels in and the scores began to dry up for Rangers. On 45 minutes Paul Galvin took the ball on and scored an inspirational point – a five point game once again.
It was back to three after a couple of scores from Maurice Foley and Kevin Flynn. Whatever happened we were in for a nervy finish. Not even a point from a free by Maurice Corridan changed that impression. The sides swapped further frees and then, following a lovely counter attacking move, Mike Frank Russell found the back of the net. It was the last chance they got. Finuge circled the wagons, held onto possession and ran out the clock for a famous victory.
Despite the defeat there was plenty about their performance to suggest that Laune Rangers' upward graph of last season still has a ways to go. Kevin Flynn is a major addition – off set somewhat by the retirement of Liam Hassett – and Kieran Crowley's performance at centre-back (he played at corner-back mostly last year) was truly encouraging.
Finuge: Cillian Fitzmaurice, Chris Allen, Declan McCarthy, Keefer Roche, Paudie Galvin, Pat Corridan, Conor Fitzmaurice, John McCarthy, Maurice Corridan (1-2, 1 penalty, 1f), Paul Galvin (0-2, 1f), John Griffin (0-1), Ricky Heffernan (2-1), Stephen Power, James Flaherty (0-1), Raymond Galvin (0-1) Subs: Enda Galvin for Paudie Galvin (inj), Fergus Fitzmaurice for J McCarthy
Laune Rangers: Tony Lyons, Keith Sheehan, Jeremy O'Callaghan, Tommy O'Callaghan, Christopher Riordan, Kieran Crowley, Geoffrey Mahony, Maurice Foley (0-1), Peter Crowley, Johnny Carey, Pa Joy (0-1), Shane McSweeney (0-1), Kevin Flynn (0-3, 1f), MIke Frank Russell (2-4, 1 penalty, 3f), Colm O'Shea Subs: John Sheehan for C O'Shea, Aaron Gamble for J Carey, Shane O'Connor for J Sheehan
Referee: Eddie Walsh (Rathmore)