NORTH KERRY SFC SEMI-FINAL Duagh 2-7 St Senans 0-4 WHEN these two teams met just a couple of weeks ago, with their survival in Division 4 of the County League on the line, St Senans triumphed.
They were expected to do so again on Sunday afternoon. This time the prize on offer was a place in the North Kerry football final. A huge prize. Victory would see St Senans into their first final in ten years and Duagh their first in four. Perhaps, that was the reason this was such a cagey game. With some much on the line was it that neither team willing to go for broke? Possibly, but we suspect not.
No the reason why this game failed to spark to life in the opening thirty minutes is that the conditions were, quite simpy, terrible. There was quite an amount of surface water on the pitch, in one corner in particular. It was into this end that Duagh played into in the first half. It told. They struggled to create chances as the St Senans defence, with Sean Weir in brilliant form, dominated. It took Duagh until the final minute of that first half to get their first score from play. In fact Anthony Maher's effort was their first point.
Were it not for a somewhat fortuitous goal after just four minutes – a dipping Nigel O'Conor free from distance found its way into the back of Tomás Stack's goal – they could have been in real trouble in this game. They dominated large stretches of the first half with Maher and Stephen Moran well on top around the middle and yet they had very little to show for it. Senans would have been quite pleased with how they were absorbing the Duagh pressure and quite pleased with how they managed to attack on the counter.
Shane Nolan, Darragh Kennelly and Ronan Kerin looked lively on the half-forward line and ran at Duagh at pace, drawing a number of frees. Like we've said, after that shaky start they fought their way back into this game, but their problem was almost identical to Duagh's – they couldn't score with any sort of regularity. Going in at half-time having scored three points into the scoring end, the end without the surface water, having had the breeze at their backs, was far from an ideal position.
The breeze picked up even more during the halftime break. Advantage Duagh. The men from the Mall weren't shy about making use of that advantage.
The Duagh management team of John Halpin and Eamon Stack shrewdly allowed Stephen Moran more license to roam in the second half and it was he, operating in the full-forward position, who set up Martin Scannell for Duagh's second goal of the game.
The former Limerick Under 21 has been an integral part of the Duagh setup for the past couple of seasons and his loss midway through the year to emigration was surely a factor in their relegation to Division 5. It was a huge boost for Duagh to have him back for this game (and indeed, for next week's final). Scannell returned to Kerry on Friday and helped his club reach the North Kerry final less than 48 hours later. Not a bad weekend by anyone's standards.
The goal seemed to deflate St Senans. Not even Tomás Ó Sé's save of a Martin Scannell penalty just a few minutes after his goal was enough to reinvigorate the Mountcoal outfit. Just like Duagh had done in the first half they found the Listowel Road end of the ground tough terrain. Tim Scanlon was a colossus for Duagh on the half-back line all afternoon and especially in the second half.
Duagh's rearguard action was most impressive all afternoon. The one fly in the ointment here was the first half injury to full-back John O'Brien, who so often acts as a calming influence on his colleagues (particularly his younger colleagues) with his great sense of positioning and strength in the tackle. Should he miss the final Duagh will be the weaker for it. Having said that Diarmuid Foley deputised well for him.
By the 40th minute this game was run. Duagh stayed in control around the middle, St Senans struggled to break down Duagh's defence (the fact they too scored but a single point into the Listowel Road end was hardly coincidental) and Duagh, even when dropping men back the longer the game went on, remained potent on the counter. In doing so they reveresed the result of a few weeks ago.
They did so impressively. They'll be underdogs again for the the St Stephen's Day final. They wouldn't have it any other way. DUAGH: Jer Kelly, Terence McMahon, Kieran Quirke, Aaron O Connor, Tim Scanlon, John O Brien, John Sheeran, Anthony Maher (03), Stephen Moran (0-1), Peter Sheeran, Maurice OConnor, Joey Shanahan, Martin Scanell (1-2, 1f), Kieran Duffy, Nigel OConnor (1-0f) Subs: Diarmuid Foley for J OBrien, Dinny Lane for J Sheeran, Ger McCarthy (0-1f) for K Duffy, Eoin Kelly for T Scanlon, Tim Quirke for S Moran ST SENANS: Tomas Stack, Sean T. Dillion, David O Donnell, Sean Weir, David Foran, Padraig Somers, Philip Twomey, Jason Browne, Damien Somers (C), Ronan Kerin (0-1), Darragh Kennelly (0-1f), Shane Nolan, Padraig Quille (0-2, 1f), James Allman, Alan Kennelly Subs: Brendan O Connell for P Somers, Sean Dowling for A Kennelly, John Barry for D Kennelly REFEREE: John Hennessy (Ballyduff)