THIS senior club championship clash played under darkening skies in Kilcummin on Saturday evening was book-ended with moments of high drama.
Less than a minute had elapsed of a somewhat tetchy encounter when Laune Rangers struck for what ultimately proved to be the decisive score of the fame – a goal by corner forward Ryan Lucey. And, time was practically up when Kilcummin and Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy made the long journey upfield from his position to attempt to level the game from a '45.
Kealy's attempt fell just short; referee Ger Lynch called for time and it was Laune Rangers that just about emerged to secure a club championship semifinal berth. The final scoreline might suggest a dour struggle, given the wintry conditions on Saturday evening, however, this clash was anything but.
From first whistle to last it was a ding-dong battle; a flinty, sulphurous mix of great score-taking, and intriguing on-field matchups and flare-ups, either side of the white-line. For the hardy couple of hundred of souls that paid in to watch, it was well worth the money.
Visitors Laune Rangers really hit the ground running; Lucey's goal after 40 seconds put the homeside on the back-foot immediately. The score came following an incisive move that ended up with Lucey crashing the ball to the net after netminder Kealy had superbly saved from Shane Mcsweeney.
Kilcummin looked shellshocked and Laune Rangers strove to build on their excellent start. And, between the sixth and 15 minute they tacked on three further scores – two from the cultured boot of ace free-taker Mike Frank Russell and another from Mcsweeney.
A noticeable aspect of the opening quarter of the game was the midfield domination of Laune Rangers' duo, current and former county stars, Peter Crowley and John Sheehan. Crowley, in particular, caused Kilcummin all sorts of trouble with surging runs from midfield.
To be fair to Kilcummin, they never panicked and gradually began to gain a stranglehold at midfield through the efforts of Shane Mcsweeney and Kevin Gorman. As a result, the scores started to come and they notched up six points in a row in a 15 minute spell up to half-time. Kilcummin's scores came courtesy of DJ Fleming (3), Ian Devane, Gary O'leary (2).
As impressive as Kilcummin's fight-back was however, the gloss was somewhat taken away by the fact that they were extremely profligate in their shooting. At least eight times in the opening half – and four in the second – they drove the ball wide. And, to the consternation of the sideline, many of the home side's wides were the result of poor shot selection.
Laune Rangers were far more clinical. The Killorglin team had no wide in the first half, and at most, two wayward efforts in the second. The second half began with an ominous-looking bank of cloud looming overhead.
If there was a whirlwind start to the first, the second continued in much the same vein. There was little action to trouble the scoreboard keeper save for Shane Mcsweeney giving Kilcummin the lead with his long-range point, before Mike Frank Russell's point levvelled matters within three minutes.
The next score of the second period did not come until the 53rd minute, a battling score from Laune Rangers substitute Jerry Coffey. Kilcummin sub Kevin Mccarthy followed suit with a point to level again, before two points in a row from Rangers' Jeremy O'callaghan and Shane Mcsweeney put a little daylight between the sides.
Ian Devane reduced the margin to the minimum in the third minute of injury time and though Brendan Kealy had a chance to send the game into injury time, his difficult 45 attempt dropped short and Jamie O'sullivan's attempted punched goal was gratefully gathered by 'keeper Tony Lyons. KILCUMMIN: Brendan Kealy; Sean Brosnan, Tommy Brosnan, James Devane; Damien O'leary, Tommy Cooper, Chris O'leary; Shane Mcsweeney (0-1), Kevin Gorman; Noel Duggan, Daniel O'leary, Ian Devane (0-2); DJ Fleming (capt) (0-4), Jamie O'sullivan, Gary O'leary (0-1) Subs: Kevin Mcsweeney for S Brosnan, Kevin Mccarthy (0-1) for D O'leary, John Mccarthy for N Duggan LAUNE RANGERS: Tony Lyons (capt); Kieran Crowley, Johnny Carey, Chris Riordan; Michael O'sullivan, Jeremy O'callaghan (0-1), Aaron Gamble; John Sheehan, Peter Crowley; Tom Mcgillycuddy, Mike Frank Russell (0-3 frees), Geoffrey Mahony; Ryan Lucey (1-0), Pa Joy, Shane Mcsweeney (0-2) Subs: Liam Hassett for R Lucey, Jerry Coffey (0-1) for G Mahony, Johnny Lynch for J Carey, P Sheehan for T Mcgillycuddy REFEREE: Ger Lynch (Ballymac)