Clifford inches from grabbing East Kerry win over Rathmore

County SFC Round 1: Rathmore 1-12 East Kerry 1-10

Although they appeared to be on the back-foot at times, Rathmore managed to grind out a narrow two-point win over their native district in Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday afternoon but they were more than grateful to the woodwork for lending them a helping hand.

After some speculation as to whether he would play, Kerry Minor captain David Clifford was brought on with 10 minutes left. Although he only touched the ball thrice, his second touch nearly proved to be a game winning goal as fisted the ball from a high hanging effort by Liam Kearney that came off the post on the stroke of 60 minutes.

In truth an East Kerry win wouldn't have been totally undeserved as they made a lot of the hard running in the game and were just caught out by the cohesiveness club teams usually have at the start of the campaign. Dara Roche proved to be tormenter-in-chief against the Rathmore defence as a brace of points from the Glenflesk player and a Ronan Buckley effort gave them the opening scores of the game. Mark Reen got Rathmore on the scoreboard after five minutes but they struggled to get any strong foothold in large parts of the first-half trailing as they did by 0-8 to 0-3 after 26 minutes.

Points from Shane Ryan and a Reen free had them within three however and a poor kick-out was punished leading as it did to George O'Keeffe scoring a goal in the 30th minute that levelled the scores. Incredibly Rathmore would take the lead at the break through a subsequent free from Ryan making it 1-6 to 0-8 at half-time. In fairness to East Kerry they didn't let that poor finish to the first-half affect them although Colin Myers was vigilant in saving a goal chance for Ryan right from the restart. Hogan Cup winning captain Dara Moynihan was introduced by the district at half-time as at the other end Jack Sherwood hit the underside of the crossbar in going through on goal and in the 42nd minute East Kerry found themselves back in front through Roche.

He nearly took too much time out of the ball in getting through the Rathmore defence but he just held his composure long enough to put East Kerry back in front at 1-9 to 1-7. A point from substitute Jeff O'Donoghue made the advantage three but crucially it was the last score of the game for the district with 17 minutes left. Aidan O'Mahony made his first appearance in a competitive match for the year as a sub soon after but it was a combination of Ryan (2) and O'Keeffe that had the game level at 1-10 apiece with seven minutes left.

Ryan's seventh point of the game had them in front once more but the crucial score came from an unlikely source in defender Michael John Kelliher as he kept a cool head in slotting over in the 58th minute. David Clifford's late cameo nearly turned the game on its head but Rathmore will be happy with the win as well as home advantage in their next game with Feale Rangers on Saturday evening.

Despite their young look there appears to be a bit of potential in East Kerry's ranks, something they will be hoping they can show again on Sunday afternoon when they head across to Lewis Road to take on Mid Kerry in the Losers Round.

Rathmore: Kenneth O'Keeffe, Michael J Kelliher (0-1), Brendan O'Keeffe, TJ Friel, Daniel O'Sullivan, Conor O'Sullivan, Brian O'Leary, Donal O'Sullivan, Mark Ryan, Mark Reen (0-3f), Paul Murphy, George O'Keeffe (1-1), Shane Ryan (0-7, 5f), Eoin Lawlor, John Moynihan. Subs: Aidan O'Mahony for Lawlor, Dean Fitzgerald for Reen, Brian Friel for Conor O'Sullivan, Brian Moynihan for George O'Keeffe

East Kerry: Colin Myers (Fossa), Darren Brosnan (Gneeveguilla), Matthew Moynihan (Spa), DJ Murphy (Gneeveguilla), Shane Cronin (Spa), Dan O'Donoghue (do), Daniel O'Brien (Glenflesk), Liam Kearney (Spa), Jack Sherwood (Firies), Paudie Clifford (0-1f) (Fossa), Padraig De Brún (0-1) (Firies), Ronan Buckley (0-1) (Listry), Evan Cronin (Spa), Stephen Foley (Firies), Dara Roche (1-6, 0-2f) (Glenflesk). Subs: Dara Moynihan (Spa) for Evan Cronin, Jeff O'Donoghue (0-1) (Glenflesk) for Buckley, Fintan Coffey (Fossa) for Foley, David Clifford (do) for De Brún, Mike O'Donoghue (Spa) for Paudie Clifford, Con O'Mahony (Firies) for Roche

Referee: Seamus Mulvihill (St Senans).