Champions to complete the job and set up local final with East Kerry
County SFC semi-final replay: Dr Crokes v South Kerry, Sunday November 3, Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney. Throw in at 2.30pm
South Kerry manager John Shanahan said it was one of the best games of the championship so far, and his Dr Crokes counterpart, Niall O'Callaghan agrees.
Both men are fully aware of the brilliant game of football their teams served up last Sunday, and it almost feels that both would take the same again, and lose, rather than win a pig-eared replay next Sunday. We said almost.
Neither Dr Crokes nor South Kerry will be back in Fitzgerald Stadium next weekend just to entertain and add to the aestethic of the afternoon, but both will certainly try to win doing what they feel they do best: play open, fast football.
Shanahan certainly doesn't feel South Kerry left the win behind them last weekend, and when he's reminded that his team led by four points with five minutes to go, he counters - and not without justification - that his team were also down by five early in the second half and fought back.
"We were five points down in normal time, and we showed great character and substance in what we were trying to do. We could have faltered quite easily there, we could have sat down and let Crokes walk all over us, but we responded and we needed this. If I have brought one thing to the South Kerry set-up this year I think I've brought a bit of enjoyment into the boys' play, and I think that's showing out on the field when we're playing football," Shanahan said. "We needed to find out from ourselves, could we compete at this level. Crokes are three times champions, and it answered all of the questions for us last Sunday, that we could compete and drive on."
Take it that South Kerry won't be coming up the road just for the fun of it.
Dr Crokes won't be crossing the street just for the hell of it either. David Shaw is ruled out with a hamstring injury but the rest will be present, if, perhaps, not full correct. There are a couple of bumps and bruise to nurse, but when you hear that Micheal Burns played over 70 minutes with a dead leg - refusing to come off the field - you sense the purpose and desire in the county champions.
O'Callaghan certainly sensed it.
"I'd say we were maybe unlucky not to win it at the end of normal time. I felt we might have got a free in the 64th minute, but we'd have no major excuses really. At half time in extra-time our backs were to the wall and we were under real pressure. But they way our lads dug in, to come back and create a brilliant team goal, that showed me that we still have the hunger for it. Tony Brosnan actually started the move for the goal, he gave it to Daithi Casey who broke two tackles, he off-loaded to Micheal Potts, and who was coming through for the return pass, Brosnan. There aren't too many players in the county who can do that and finish they way he did.
"We might feel we got out of jail, but we also feel we have a lot to improve on. From our point of view we could have played wityh a bit more abandon, but you have to give huge credit to South Kerry. They were excellent, they are extremely wel coached and they gave us everything we expected from them."
Both teams will be quietly bullish about their chances in the replay, and there's no doubt that Shaw's loss will hurt Crokes a lot.
Jordan Kiely is missing too, through injury, and that levels the field in terms of where the scores will come from.
South Kerry now know they are at the level to compete with the champions, and a little more from every department and they are well capable of winning. Still, there's always the feeling that you get one chance to topple the favourites and that last Sunday was that chance for South Kerry.
Crokes won't be as forgiving again and should win.