'Pure elation' for O'Connor as Kenmare bag final spot
After 220 minutes of pulsating action, the semi-final 'trilogy' between Kenmare Shamrocks and Castleknock finally reached its conclusion as a 1-8 haul from Paul O'Connor inspired the Kerry champions to finally secure their place in the decider.
With so much effort expended over the course of three memorable games, Kenmare boss Pat O'Connor was just pleased that his charges got over the line after another absorbing encounter.
"I was sure they (Castleknock) were going to score the penalty (missed by Rory Corcoran), and I said, 'okay, there's going to be one more play.' That's the way these games have been going. It was pure elation (at the final whistle). I'm still buzzing. It was another magnificent game," O'Connor said.
That stoppage-time penalty miss by Castleknock's Corcoran finally brought an end to a truly remarkable saga.
Kenmare held a 1-10 to 0-7 lead at the break, thanks largely to a 1-6 contribution from All-Ireland medallist O'Connor, who finished coolly past Alex Griffith after 27 minutes.
Returned Aussie Rules rookie Ciaran Kilkenny spectacularly came to life on the resumption and four superbly constructed points from play by the teenage prodigy reduced the deficit to four moving into the final quarter.
A terrific team goal, finished by Corcoran, helped to bring the margin down to the minimum, but a series of unanswered points from Mark Crowley, O'Connor, Alan O'Leary and Kevin O'Sullivan helped secure Kenmare's passage to the final, along with Hughie Murphy's excellent save from the spot in the 62nd minute.
All that is left to determine now is exactly where and when their rearranged final encounter with Ballinasloe of Galway will take place, and O'Connor expressed his hope that Jones' Road will be the chosen venue.
"I would hope that it would be here. Not what people might think, that we would have an unfair advantage having played here.
"But Ballinasloe deserve to play here as well. Obviously, at the start of each year, teams come along, and it's not winning at Croke Park – the goal is to play in Croke Park.
"Certainly, they would deserve their chance of that," O'Connor concluded.
Scorers – Kenmare Shamrocks: P O'Connor 1-8 (0-3f), K O'Sullivan, A O'Leary 0-3 each, DJ Brennan (1f), M Crowley, D Crowley 0-1 each. Castleknock: C Kilkenny 0-5 (1f), R Corcoran 1-1, D Carlos 0-3, E Quinn, V Turner, K Kindlon 0-1 each.
KENMARE SHAMROCKS – H Murphy; D Crowley, T O'Sullivan, C O'Sullivan; R O'Sullivan, A O'Callaghan, A Crowley; S Dalton, J Wharton; S O'Leary, M Crowley, A O'Leary; DJ Brennan, P O'Connor, K O'Sullivan. Subs: S Duncan for O'Leary (49), P O'Dwyer for A Crowley (55).
CASTLEKNOCK – A Griffith; E O'Brien, C Prunty, T Quinn; G Hannigan, C Neville, V Turner; S Lynch, S Boland; T Shields, C Kilkenny, J Tunney; D Carlos, R Corcoran, E Quinn. Subs: J King for Prunty (h-t), K Kindlon for T Quinn (39), T Corcoran for Lynch (42), M Griffin for Neville (59).
REF – E McHugh (Tyrone).