KILLARNEY Legion made the trip to south west Kerry on Saturday evening and emerged victorious after a Titanic struggle that needed extra-time to separate the teams.
Both teams gave it their all in an absolute cracker of a match, played in ideal conditions in Gortmore. Level at half-time and still on terms at full-time of normal time, spectators were treated to a further 20 minutes of thrilling fare that eventually saw the visitors record a deserved five-point win.
This first round county club tie had everything – wonderful scores, strong exchanges, eye-catching fielding, yellow cards and two sendings off.
But in the end, it was that age-old adage that rung true – goals win games. Legion scored two; their second crucially in extra-time, and these scores were the decisive difference in the end.
The match was played at a frantic pace from the off, and it was a tempo that never dropped from first whistle to last.
It was St Michael's/Foilmore that drew first blood when the outstanding Eanna O'Connor clipped over a sensational side-line ball in the first minute.
James O'Donoghue tipped over a free for Legion within a minute before Billy Maguire and Shaun Keane combined to set up the latter's brother Conor – fresh from Kerry's minor defeat to Cork the previous evening – for the lead score.
The lead was short-lived and the home side exerted a modicum of control over proceedings, firstly through a Bernard Kelly equaliser, followed by an Eanna O'Connor free and a point from play from the boot of the former.
Legion then had a fantastic opportunity to put a little daylight between the teams when they were awarded a penalty after Danny Sheahan was dragged down in the square. James O'Donoghue stepped up, however his spot-kick was saved by Jason O'Shea and the rebound was blasted wide.
St Michael's/Foilmore took full advantage of their opponent's misfortune and they eased into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead through scores courtesy of Eanna O'Connor and Bernard Kelly.
Legion soon recovered and three points on the trot saw them ahead 0-5 to 0-4 midway throught the first half – once again it was scorers-in-chief James O'Donoghue and Conor Keane (2) doing the needful.
The swings and roundabouts nature of proceedings continued and a brace of points in as many minutes left the home side in front by a solitary score after 20 minutes - firstly, Sean O'Connor and then Damien Kelly obliged.
A period of stalemate was emphatically ended by a Legion goal. A move involving the brothers Keane ended up with James O'Donoghue crashing the leather to the net and Legion spirits were lifted only to suffer in the closing minutes of the half – an injury to Jonathan Lyne forced the county player off the field to be replaced by Ciaran Lyne, a substitution sandwiched by two Eanna O'Connor scores that saw the sides retire level 0-8 to 1-5 at the break.
The second half was every bit as close as the first with never more than two points between the sides.
Legion looked as though they had just about done enough to pinch it; however an equalising free from the boot of Eanna O'Connor, three minutes into injury time, sent the game into extra time.
The second half was a real arm wrestle with neither side willing to flinch. Both sides scored five points apiece – Sean Fogarty (2) and Eanna O'Connor (3) for Foilmore, while Conor Keane (2), James O'Donoghue, David O'Sullivan, and Danny Sheahan obliged for Legion.
Extra-time was a real test of fitness for both teams and it was Legion that lasted the pace fractionally better than their opponents, because though St Michael's/Foilmore eased into a two-point lead 0-16 to 1-11 seven minutes into the first period, it was Legion that outscored their hosts 1-4 to nil in the remaining 13.
Thomas Moriarty scored the crucial goal on the stroke of half-time of extra time to send Legion into a 2-12 to 0-16 lead and three further points, from David McCarthy, James O'Donoghue and David O'Sullivan saw the Killarney men safely home and into the next round.
Brian Smith and Thomas Moriarty both saw yellow twice and then red following two separate incidents but their dismissals came too late to have an impact on proceedings.
DJ Moran was sent off on a straight red card for a trip on James O'Donoghue in the final minute.
Legion: Brian Kelly; Padraig O'Connor, Sean McCarthy, Cathal Sheahan; Chris Davies, Jonathan Lyne, Danny Sheahan (0-1); Shaun Keane, Padraig Lucey; Billy Maguire (0-1), James O'Donoghue (1-5, 0-1f), Mike O'Sullivan (0-1); David Gleeson, Thomas Moriarty (1-0), Conor Keane (0-5, 2f). Subs: Kevin Breen for P Lucey (46), David O'Sullivan (0-1) for D Gleeson (48), Andy O'Sullivan for C Sheahan (60), Padraig Lucey for K Breen (ET), David McCarthy (0-1) for M O'Sullivan (ET), Aidan Slattery for S McCarthy (ET).
St Michael's/Foilmore: Jason O'Shea; Alan Smith, Mark Griffin, Adrian O'Connell; DJ Moran, Brian Galvin, Brian Smith; Sean O'Connor (0-1), Cian O'Connor; Sean O'Shea, Bernard Kelly (0-2), Padraig King; Damien Kelly (0-1), Sean Fogarty (0-2), Eanna O'Connor (0-11, 4f, 2 '45'). Subs: Darran O'Sullivan for C O'Connor (58), Darragh O'Sullivan for Sean O'Shea (ET).
Referee: Brendan Twiss (Milltown/Castlemaine)
Danny Sheahan (Legion). Both sides had candidates for this accolade – Eanna O'Connor kicked 11 points for St Michaels/Foilmore, while James O'Donoghue (1-5) and Conor Keane (0-6) impressed for Legion.
Danny Sheahan had a superb game both in defence and attack – he was brought down for the ultimately missed penalty and also chipped in with a fine point.
James O'Donoghue kicked magnificent points in the course of the game but the score of the game goes to Eanna O'Connor for his and the game's first score. There's just something about a player having the class to kick a sideline ball over the bar with the outside of his boot, from distance, and from the 'wrong' side.
Without doubt Thomas Moriarty's vital extra time goal. It put Legion ahead and drove that final nail in St Michael's/Foilmore's coffin. If Legion had lost this game, then the missed penalty would, in hindsight, have been a significant factor.