Football sure is a funny old game! In their quarter-final encounter with St Kierans, East Kerry emerged victorious after a classic contest where they were put to the pin of their collar before they scraped over the line. Somewhat fortuitously, it might be said, but it was a wonderful sporting occasion and the champions showed their resolve to pass the test.
Yet, leaving Austin Stack Park that evening, Jerry O'Sullivan would have been worried to some degree. Seeing star man David Clifford sent off on a straight red card in injury-time wouldn't have been the only thing keeping him awake that night either.
Conceding five goal chances to an ebullient St Kierans would have furrowed O'Sullivan's brow completely, as would the failure of his midfield to effectively function to a significantly-impressive level in the absence of injured county panellist Liam Kearney.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and, as the privileged few present in Tralee and the thousands watching at home and in the pubs on TG4 would confirm, Friday night's semi-final against St Brendan's was the damp squib to end all damp squibs.
Football lovers the length and breadth of the county and beyond will have spent the whole weekend bemoaning the standard of fare produced by East Kerry and St Brendans, and salivating at the unforgettable, one-for-the-ages confrontation that was produced the very next evening by Mid Kerry and Dr Crokes.
While the simple truth of the matter is that, while one game was undoubtedly rubbish and the other was unquestionably sensational, the end result remains the very same. East Kerry are now in the very same position as Mid Kerry heading into a county final on Sunday week.
And, as strange it may seem to say it, Jerry O'Sullivan and his backroom team will be more than satisfied with the weekend turn of events and, while they never hit the heights against St Brendans, it was a game that they will take much more solace from than the thriller against St Kierans.
East Kerry answered questions about their ability to roll up their sleeves and fight to defend their title going down the home stretch in the quarter-final. Against probably any other opposition, St Kieran's would have got their deserved reward.
Yet the champions answered a totally different set of questions on Friday night that will stand to them on September 27. In areas where they were perceived as being vulnerable, they stood up to be counted.
Midfield was the prime example of that. All the talk beforehand, and rightly so, was on the St Brendan's engine room pairing of county and club mates Jack Barry and Diarmuid O'Connor. With burgeoning reputations, this potential future green and gold midfield was expected to rule the roost in that sector on Friday night.
Thanks to the great homework done by the East Kerry management, the overall excellence of Ronan Buckley, the hard graft of Mark Ryan, and the impressive late cameo of Daniel O'Brien, the champions more than held their own in the middle of the park, as they quenched the huge threat that Barry and O'Connor possess.
Suffocating their ability to drive through gaps, O'Connor couldn't play his normal game and only proved effective in a late spell at full-forward, while Barry remained a peripheral figure throughout. With hope in the East Kerry camp that Kearney can make a return, the Spa man could strengthen their ball-winning abilities even further in the final.
Of course, David Clifford was missed up front. Especially in a second half where East Kerry hit nine wides, including seven in a row at one juncture. Any team would be weaker by the absence of the Fossa magician.
However, in saying that, it has to be acknowledged that East Kerry showed on Friday evening that they are far from a one-man band in attack. Players like Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford, Darragh Roche, Mike Foley and Evan Cronin all had their moments, with Spa's Cronin pretty much single-handedly deciding the outcome of the game with his 1-2 from play in the first half.
Paudie Clifford enjoyed a fascinating battle with the admirable John Mitchels defender, Thomas Kerins, who gave as good as he got, yet Clifford's strengthened physique that enables him to carry the ball through tackles, his passing and general play-making qualities, his ability to pick off scores, are a vital component of the East Kerry armoury.
It goes without saying that, as the Kerry squad resume inter-county training this week, Peter Keane has to be enthused about seeing what the elder Clifford brother could bring to the Kingdom half-forward line, especially as injury prevented him from any outing in the National League earlier in the year.
With his brother back in harness for the final, and chomping at the bit for action after his suspension on Friday night, East Kerry are clearly capable of going up another gear or two.
They will also take particular encouragement from their defensive display as well.
Jack Sherwood and Dan O'Donoghue are in great form in the central positions, Paul Murphy had his most effective game on Friday of the three played so far, and they will hope that Pa Warren will have recovered from injury to be available next day out.
All in all, the fully-merited plaudits that Mid Kerry are receiving at the moment will be music to Jerry O'Sullivan's ears. You wouldn't say they are in the long grass, but entering the county final somewhat under the radar is the ideal build-up for a two-in-a-row attempt.
What can you say about St Brendan's? As superb as they were against Legion, they were as sluggish on Friday night. And that is putting it mildly. They simply never got out of the stalls.
Did they freeze? You wouldn't think so, seen as they performed so much better at the same stage against the same opponents in 2019. Did they fail to handle the extra pressure put on them to win when they heard that David Clifford was ruled out? That may be closer to the truth.
All in all, there was probably too much of a reliance on their midfield for inspiration. They got no impact at all from the half-forward line, and little better inside where key forward Ivan Parker had a real off night. Indeed, it was only at the back where the likes of Kerins, Lawrence Bastible, Trevor Wallace and Jordan Conway raged against the dying of the light, that they can take a little comfort.
Kudos too to substitutes Thomas Lenihan and Andrew Barry, who made an impact when introduced, but this was a game to forget for St Brendans. They are young enough to recover, but these chances don't come around all the time, and while St Kieran's will have regrets for not seizing the moment in the quarters, St Brendans will be downright angry at not showing their true colours whatsoever.