FOR Finuge the voyage is over, Kilcummin must hope theirs is just beginning.
It was important that they win this game. It was important that they maintain their status and give their underage success a chance to filter through and bed in. Of the two teams on view on Saturday afternoon in Strand Road they were the team that better deserved to retain their place in the County Championship and not just because they won the game.
They were the team that better deserved a place in the County Championship, because they demonstrated the greater potential. They have their problems in certain positions of course, but they were the classier side, the side more likely to create, the side with more ability to convert that creativity into scores.
Finuge were everything we expect of Finuge: hard-working, indomitable, physical, whole-hearted and, it must be said, somewhat limited. They won more than enough ball around the middle of the park – between breaking ball and clean catches they must have been 60-40 ahead of the rivals from the south – yet they struggled to create chances, let alone convert them.
Three points in the first half, five in the second, that's not County Championship standard scoring. Enda Galvin tried his best to probe and pull the strings, James Flaherty darted about looking for space and opportunity, but to little avail. Kilcummin had them covered.
Even on the one occasion when Flaherty did get in behind the defence on eight minutes, they had it covered. Or in that instance Brendan Kealy had it covered. Finuge could have badly done with an early goal. The Kerry shot-stopper denied them the opportunity.
What Finuge needed was for Paul Galvin to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, make the hard yards, draw in defenders, create space. Instead he was deployed as a sweeper. It was a waste of their most potent attacking option.
He did fine in the sweeper role by and large, but it was robbing Peter to pay Paul stuff. Seanie O'Leary and the Kilcummin management team would have been delighted to see Galvin in such a deep lying role.
It didn't stop Kilcummin scoring. They pushed Shane McSweeney into the full-forward line and he caused no end of bother. Ian Devane was the main man, however. His four points from play alone would have given them the advantage over Finuge.
DJ Fleming, Kevin McCarthy and Gary O'Leary rounded out the scoring in the final six or seven minutes of the half to give Kilcummin a solid five point lead at the break. As the teams trudged off a little scuffle developed. There wasn't much too it, but it put the referee on notice. Without a firm hand, this game could get away from him.
Players already on yellow – such as Finuge's Raymond Galvin – would have to tread lightly. Unfortunately for Galvin and Finuge that didn't happen. Just as it looked as though they might battle their way back into contention – points from Maurice Corridan and Fergus Fitzmaurice brought it back to a four point game – Galvin picked up a second yellow card.
A disaster for the north Kerry men. They surely couldn't expect to cope now? They couldn't. Over the next fifteen minutes Kilcummin extended their lead to seven – Fleming, McSweeney and Jamie O'Sullivan with the points.
It's becoming an unfortunate habit of Finuge – and Lixnaw – to lose men in big games. They lost two in Crokes Park in the All Ireland Intermediate Championship Final, they lost one in the County Hurling Final replay and they lost another two on Saturday. Young Micheál Stackpoole was sent to the line on a straight red card for a foul on Kelvin Teahan.
In fairness a yellow would probably have been more appropriate, as Stackpoole was simply shaking off a player who held on long after the whistle was blown for a free against him. Whatever about that, these are own goals for Finuge, something they need to get a grip on sooner rather than later.
Even with fifteen men it's hard to envision a scenario where they would have beaten Kilcummin this weekend.
Kilcummin were just that bit better than them all the way through. In the end, quality was what separated the sides.
Kilcummin: Brendan Kealy, Tommy Brosnan, Chris O'Leary, Donal Maher, Daniel O'Leary, Tommy Cooper, Sean Brosnan, Kevin Gorman, Kevin McCarthy (0-1), Ian Devane (0-4), Jamie O'Sullivan (0-1f), Gary O'Leary (0-1), DJ Fleming (0-3, 2f), Kieran Murphy (0-2), Shane McSweeney (0-1) Subs: Damien O'Leary for T Cooper, Kelvin Teahan for DJ Fleming, Ger Sheehan for G O'Leary
Finuge: Cillian Fitzmaurice, Conor Fitzmaurice, Trevor McKenna, Declan McCarthy, Paul Galvin, Keefer Roche, Pat Corridan (0-2), John Griffin, John McCarthy, Maurice Corridan (0-2), Stephen Power, Raymond Galvin (0-2), Fergus Fitzmaurice (0-1), Enda Galvin, James Flaherty Subs: Ricky Heffernan (0-1) for C Fitzmaurice, Micheál Stackpoole for F Fitzmaurice
Referee: Tom Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)