O'Connor fires Kenmare to final
FINALLY. A chance to draw breath.
It's been one hell of a rollercoaster for Kenmare this past three weekends. They've had leads. They've trailed. They've battled back. They've edged in front with the finishing line in sight and been pegged back. They've played 180 minutes of ordinary time. 40 minutes of extra-time. They've played a drawn game and two replays and, now, they stand victorious. On the cusp of the greatest day in the club's history. And they absolutey totally deserve to be where they are. Their resilience has been outstanding. Their football sublime.
This was a joyous occasion. A real free flowing, open game of football in the best traditions of Kerry and Dublin football. This was most definitely one of those occasions where the curtain-raiser put the main event in the shade. Both defences were under sustained pressure and, while Kenmare's defence was far from flawless, they frustrated the Castleknock's forward line far more than the Castleknock forward line did their own.
Tactically Pat O'Connor and his backroom team got it spot on. By dropping DJ Brennan back, Kenmare created space for Mark Crowley, Alan O'Leary and Paul O'Connor to exploit. Castleknock by contrast seemed at times to fall over each other up front. Close in passing went wrong, chances were wasted. Kenmare were far more clinical. By half-time they led by six with Paul O'Connor their star man.
He scored their first three points (two of those from play). He scored the goal. Don't be mistaken, he was absolutely vital to Kenmare. Kenmare aren't, however, a one man band. Alan O'Leary and Kevin O'Sullivan also got on the scoreboard in the first half. Kenmare started well. Castleknock took their time getting into the game. When they did they went toe-to-toe with the Munster champions. They were level at two all, three all and five all.
In the final eleven minutes of this half Kenmare began to show the kind of form which suggested this would be their night. O'Connor pointed a free to send them clear on twenty one minutes. He followed it up with a point from play, where he had time to slip and still recover and beat his man. He set a surging Dara Crowley up for a point and when Mark Crowley found himself in a good position out on the Cusack Stand side he spied O'Connor in space for the goal.
O'Connor didn't have it all his own way. He had to beat his man, Conor Prunty, and the keeper. It was an expertly struck goal. Further points from O'Leary and O'Connor gave Kenmare a six point lead at the break (1-10 to 0-7). No time to be counting chickens. Still one had to feel confident that Kenmare would have what it takes to deliver on the promise of a fine first half performance.
They needed their big players to stand up to deliver. They needed Jimmy Wharton to continue his fine form of the first half. They needed Aaron O'Callaghan and Tommy O'Sullivan to keep the pressure up on the Castleknock forwards. They needed O'Connor and O'Leary and Crowley to keep the scoreboard ticking over and that's precisely what happened, but not without a little drama thrown in (we've some to expect little else from these two sides).
Ciarán Kilkenny began to exert a greater influence on proceedings after a quiet first half. Inside the opening fifteen minutes of the second half he'd scored four points and set Kevin Kindlon up for a fifth. And yet it was fair comment to say that Kenmare were still in control of this game. A couple of pointed frees by O'Connor and DJ Brennan and a point from play by Alan O'Leary meant that they retained a four point lead, despite Castleknock's uptick in form.
Another twist arrived in this amazing saga with a Castlkeknock goal courtesy of Rory Corcoran (Eoghan Quinn the provider). If Kenmare were rattled it didn't show. They quickly reasserted control over this game. Mark Crowley scored a vital point to settle nerves just a few minutes later. Paul O'Connor followed up with a point to make it a three point game yet again. Alan O'Leary and Kevin O'Sullivan made sure of the victory with further scores.
And yet even then there was the potential for another twist in the tale. Castleknock fashioned a goal chance. Corcoran shot wide. Kilkenny was fouled in the box by Jimmy Wharton (who picked up his second yellow card for the incident), but Hughie Murphy stepped up to the mark and saved Corcoran's effort. Had he scored it wouldn't have made a difference at that stage. The whistle was already in the referee's mouth.
The final whistle blew and the saga, the seemingly never ending story, was at a close.
Kenmare: Hughie Murphy, Dara Crowley (0-1), Tommy O'Sullivan, Colm O'Sullivan, Aaron O'Callaghan, Seanie O'Leary, Aidan Crowley, Shane Dalton, Jimmy Wharton, Ritchie O'Sullivan, Mark Crowley (0-1), Alan O'Leary (0-4), DJ Brennan (0-1f), Paul O'Connor (1-8, 3f), Kevin O'Sullivan (0-2) Subs: Shane Duncan for S O'Leary, Paddy O'Dwyer for A Crowley
Castleknock: Alex Griffith, Colm Neville, Graham Hannigan, Tom Quinn, Thomas Shields, Vinny Turner (0-1), Stephen Lynch, Shane Boland, Eoghan Quinn (0-1), Ciarán Kilkenny (0-5, 1f), Jamie Tunney, Eoin O'Brien, Rory Corcoran (1-1), Des Carlos (0-3) Subs: Jack King for C Prunty, Kevin Kindlon (0-1) for T Quinn, Tommy Corcoran for S Lynch, Mikey Griffin for C Neville
Referee: Eamon McHugh (Tyrone)