FIFTY years of heartache and frustration were washed away in one glorious hour in Frank Sheehy Park, Listowel, last Sunday afternoon when Duagh captured the North Kerry Senior Football Championship title with a display, which owed much to their character, resilience and belief in a game, which ebbed and flowed at varying intervals and which remained delicately poised, right up until the final few minutes.
DUAGH 0-9 BEALE 0-6 at Frank Sheehy Park, Listowel
Sharper and faster for long periods of the encounter Duagh ultimately deserved to succeed, even if, many will point to the sending off of Beale's Paul Collins in the forty third minute as a significant factor in the eventual outcome. There's no doubt, but that it did make some difference, however, such was Duagh's application and attitude that they always looked like the side most likely to succeed.
Beale for their part, again, squandered too many scoring chances, especially in the first half, but a tendency, not just in this game, but in recent years, to depend on Ian Blake's returns from placed balls ultimately cost them dearly. By contrast Duagh had marginally a more potent scoring spread, with four of their starting forwards, scoring from play. Ian Blake with a point from play under pressure, afforded Beale a first minute lead, and indeed, they were denied of a goal six minutes later with Diarmuid Foley effecting the final stop on the goal line.
However, with Anthony Maher imposing his considerable presence on proceedings in all quarters of the pitch and Kieran Quirke providing leadership in the pivotal centre-back berth Duagh, settled and exerted a firm grip on proceedings for a period. Nigel O'Connor and Kieran Duffy pointed them into a one point lead after ten minutes but it was evident, that Beale, even in sporadic attacks were capable of opening up the Duagh defence, but couldn't transfer these chances into scores.
Three successive pointed frees from Anthony Maher (one) and a brace from Martin Scannell, meant that Duagh with Jer Kelly confident and composed between the posts and John O'Brien, rock solid at full-back, enjoyed a four point lead after twenty two minutes. It fairly reflected the proceedings up until this juncture, but with Paul Collins, providing the impetus with some surging runs, Beale, finished, the half with a flourish and were rewarded with two pointed frees from Ian Blake.
It reduced the margin to just two points (0-5 to 0-3) at half-time and when James McMahon, with a fisted effort, narrowed the gap to the bare minimum within a minute of the restart, questions were being asked about Duagh's ability to stay afloat. Martin Scannell and Ian Blake swopped pointed frees at opposite ends and despite scores being at a premium the intensity of proceedings and the admirable honesty of effort by each and every participant ensured that the contest remained extremely exciting and enjoyable.
Paul Collins' dismissal was followed shortly afterwards by a superb save at point blank range by Beale's Sean Dee from Nigel O'Connor after Kieran Duffy had created the gilt edged opportunity. A splendid individual score from Shane Joy, at the beginning of the fourth and final quarter, levelled matters on six points a piece, thereby setting the scene for a grandstand finish.
Jer Kelly continued to inspire with some confident handling between the posts for Duagh and with Beale struggling to cope with the extra man Duagh dug deep and sealed the victory with three magnificent scores from Maurice O'Connor, Joey Shanahan and substitute Jason Carmody.
Beale needed a goal to salvage the situation, but it was never likely, given, the heart-warming input of a Duagh combination who dug deepest when the need was greatest. The final whistle understandably brought about scenes of great joy and emotion, because, really, this occasion was more than just a game.
It was a story of a club, a community, who maintained belief in their objective, a pride in their parish. It was about the unsung heroes who kept the show on the road, through the many days and years of disappointment. Sometimes it requires a leader to initiate a period of success and in Anthony Maher Duagh have a player with all the right type of inspirational qualities. His value, for the second successive Sunday was once again very much in evidence this time round.
A wonderful occasion, a splendid, atmosphere, excellent organisation and presentation and for Duagh a famous day in the sun in the middle of winter. DUAGH: Jer Kelly; Terence McMahon; John O'Brien; Araon O'Connor; Tim Scanlon; Kieran Quirke; Diarmuid Foley; Anthony Maher (01 free); Denny Lane; Peter Sheeran; Maurice O'Connor (0-1); Joey Shanahan (0-1); Kieran Duffy (0-1); Martin Scannell (0-3 frees); Nigel O'Connor (0-1). Subs: Jason Carmody (0-1) for T Scanlon; Edward Stack for K Duffy; Stephen Moran for D Lane; Jer McCarthy for N O'Connor BEALE: Sean Dee; Jeremy King; Colm Kissane; John Griffin; Shane Joy(0-1); Paul Collins; Philly Blake; Padraig Murphy; Declan Bambury; Andy O'Connell; James McMahon (0-1); Jake O'Connell; Tom Joy; Barry O'Mahony; Ian Blake (0-4, 3f). Subs: Paul Horgan for J O'Connell; Cormac Walsh for P Murphy; Matthew Moran for B O'Mahoney; Brendan Brennan for P Blake REFEREE: Seamus Mulvihill (St. Senan's)