AFTER plenty of underachievement down through the years, Kenmare finally claimed some major silverware in Fitzgerald Stadium last Saturday afternoon against a plucky Na Gaeil side, who thought nothing of the difference in County League placings between the two teams.
KENMARE 0-13 NA GAEIL 0-10
While the Division Two side looked like taking their opponents apart at various stages of the first half, the Tralee side hung in throughout, so much so that with only three minutes left they were within one big score of turning the game on its head.
Substitute Ian McCarthy probably should have taken a point himself instead of looking to put David Culloty through for goal as the Kenmare defence intercepted and team captain Paul O'Connor would score the insurance point in the 63rd minute afterwards.
The Kenmare captain produced a far more mature and assured performance in the venue of his moment of madness in the district jersey two weeks earlier in the county SFC. His seven point total was crucial in keeping his side in front for the majority of a contest, while not high on quality certainly was tight and tense all the way to the final whistle.
Na Gaeil went with a high ball tactic into full-forward David Culloty that worked early on as they led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 15 minutes, but they were lucky not to have conceded a goal on at least three occasions in the first half.
Kerry Minor Jack Barry blocked a powerful strike by O'Connor in the 12th minute before keeper Adrian Quirke nearly carried the ball over the line from a Kevin O'Sullivan high ball soon after.
He was much more assured in intercepting a cross-field move from the Kenmare full-forward line of O'Connor, DJ Brennan and Stephen O'Brien in the 18th minute, but Mark and Dara Crowley were really dictating matters for Kenmare as they led by 0-5 to 0-3 coming up to half-time. A second free from the Tralee side's other inter-county minor Darragh Carmody left the bare minimum between the two sides at half-time.
Dan O'Connor had the sides level after the restart but Kenmare just seemed to have an answer for every Na Gaeil score and David Culloty's second point in the 41st minute would be the last for a crucial 12 minute period when a point for Kenmare's O'Sullivan, a fine effort from Jimmy Wharton and a free from O'Connor gave the Division Two side an 0-11 to 0-7 lead.
They should have had more of a cushion in the 49th minute, when the otherwise solid Alan O'Leary's effort at goal was blocked by Aidan Quirke for a '45, which O 'Connor drove wide. Despite
the controlled feeling from Kenmare's point of view, another free from Carmody reignited Na Gaeil and the Minor's fifth free along with a second point for Michael Griffin really gave Kenmare cause for concern at 0-12 to 0-10 in the 57th minute.
Then came the wrong option by Ian McCarthy in trying to pick out Culloty when a point seemed within his reach.
Na Gaeil did have two other efforts driven wide yet Kenmare managed to break out of their defence and although substitute Richard O'Sullivan's effort was blocked, O'Connor made no mistake in slotting over the rebound for the lucky 13th Kenmare point. Aaron O'Callaghan held onto the ball long enough to the sound of the final whistle and the immediate emotion was relief as opposed to outright joy by Kenmare as they knew they had dodged a very heroic comeback by Na Gaeil. They just had the bit of better experience and composure on the day but will know that they will have to improve ahead of the Munster Championship next month where they will be given similar tough examinations.
Finals are for winning as opposed to performances as they say and certainly Kenmare have the quality to improve if they can successfully negotiate a situation where they represent Kerry in both the Munster Junior Football and Hurling Club Championships.
Na Gaeil were a breath of fresh air this year in the fairytale they nearly created, they are a club on the rise and should get an opportunity to make amends in the coming years.
KENMARE: Hugh Murphy, Tommy O'Sullivan, Paddy O'Dwyer, Colm O'Sullivan, Aaron O'Callaghan, Sean O'Leary, Dara Crowley, Shane Dalton, Jimmy Wharton (01), Alan O'Leary (0-1), Mark Crowley (0-1), Kevin O'Sullivan (0-1), DJ Brennan, Paul O'Connor (0-7, 5f), Stephen O'Brien (0-2) Subs: Aidan Crowley for Brennan, Richard O'Sullivan for Colm O'Sullivan, Aidan Quinlan for O'Dwyer and Michael Randles for Dalton NA GAEIL: Adrian Quirke, Paul Daly, Kieran Dineen, David Ross, Jack Barry, Eoin O'Neill, Colm Lyons, Dan O'Connor (0-1), Robert Murphy, Seamie O'Neill, Michael Griffin (0-2), Kieran O'Donovan, Darragh Carmody (05, 5f), David Culloty (0-2), Diarmuid Herlihy Subs: Darragh O'Connell for Seamie O'Neill, Eamon O'Neill for O'Donovan, James O'Connor for Lyons, Ian McCarthy for Herlihy and Declan Doody for O'Connor REFEREE: James O'Sullivan (Firies)