WITH 10 minutes to go, the County Junior Football League Division One title seemed set to be making the relatively short trip across the road from Fitzgerald Stadium to the Dr Crokes clubhouse last Friday night.
COUNTY JUNIOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE
DIVISION 1 FINAL Dr Crokes 0-13 Spa 1-10
However an incredible fightback from the defending champions Spa saw them reel in an eight point deficit in the closing stages to earn what seemed to be a very unlikely replay.
It was just about deserved for their efforts in the second half, they missed a number of chances early in the second half that seemed to have undone their hopes of retaining the title but they never threw in the towel and punished the Crokes for some very sloppy play in the closing stages.
Crokes had looked the far sharper of the two Killarney sides in the firsthalf, Bryan O'Shea and Andrew Kenneally proving quite a handful for the Spa defence but they still needed PJ Lawlor to be alert in making a goal line clearance in the 26th minute with Spa seemingly set to walk the ball into the net.
Spa turned a 0-7 to 0-2 deficit in the 24th minute into an 0-8 to 0-5 deficit at the break thanks to scores from Cian Tobin as well as a good run by wing-back Mike Murphy.
The second half introduction of John Falvey for Spa saw him face his brother Brendan on the Crokes side but the second half restart was really about three good missed chances for Spa as they failed to score until the 51st minute.
Points from David Maloney, Keith O'Leary, Denis Galvin, a third from Kenneally along with a brilliant long ball from Keith O'Leary that found Edmund O'Sullivan seemed to have done enough for the Crokes at 0-13 to 0-5 ahead with 10 minutes to go but Spa weren't about to give up that easy. Andrew Fitzgerald became more prominent at midfield but it was the introduction of substitutes Jason Culloty and Padraig Courtney that earned them another night out.
Culloty ended their barren scoring period before two long rang efforts from Matthew Moynihan suggested the game was not quite over yet. Crokes had moved David Maloney into full-forward in the hope of getting an insurance score but the ball never came his way as Crokes' advantage deserted them.
Cian Tobin finished with a total of five points but when Mike Murphy put Courtney through for goal in the 58th minute, the Spa supporters sensed a dramatic revival was on. Amid a frantic finish, Courtney showed coolness to kick the equalising score on the 60 minute mark and with relatively little in the way of stoppages the final whistle was blown shortly after.
With the conditions beyond twilight in Fitzgerald Stadium extra- time was not feasible so both teams will have to do it again and both have plenty to ponder in the meantime for what should be another close battle. DR CROKES: David Neeson, Cillian Fitzgerald, PJ Lawlor, Sean Coppinger, Conor O'Neill, Brian McMahon, Gavin Tucker, David Maloney ( 0- 1), James Jones, Andrew Kenneally (0-3), Brendan Falvey ( 0- 1, 1f), Bryan O'Shea (0-2, 2f), Denis Galvin (02), Edmund O'Sullivan ( 0- 2), Keith O'Leary (0-2) Subs: Keith McMahon for Lawlor, Ciaran Ward for O'Shea, Shane O'Neill for Falvey and Ryan Kennirk for Fitzgerald SPA: James Devane, Paul Russell, Hugh O'Donoghue, Brian Lynch, Paul Kelliher, Brian Devane, Mike Murphy (0-1), Ivor Flynn, Andrew Fitzgerald, Matthew Moynihan (0-2), Cian Tobin (0-5, 3f), Colin Moynihan, Jason Ahern, Colm Tobin, Conor Glesson. Subs: Adam O'Reilly for Colin Moynihan, John Falvey for Colm Tobin, Rory O'Riordan for Devane, Jason Culloty (0-1) for Ahern and Padraig Courtney (1-1) for Glesson REFEREE: Jimmy O'Shea (Glenflesk)