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Kerry star Diarmuid O’Connor lights up Lewis Road as Na Gaeil take debut win over Kenmare

Kerry midfielder shoots 1-7 as Tralee club make winning start to life in the senior grade

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Kerry midfielder Diarmuid O'Connor shot 1-7 as Tralee club made a winning start to life in the senior grade Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Kerry midfielder Diarmuid O'Connor shot 1-7 as Tralee club made a winning start to life in the senior grade Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Kerry midfielder Diarmuid O'Connor shot 1-7 as Tralee club made a winning start to life in the senior grade Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

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SENIOR CLUB FC GROUP A ROUND 1

Na Gaeil 2-12

Kenmare Shamrocks 1-14

What a game this was. As an advertisement for the club scene – and perhaps even the split season – you couldn’t do much better.

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It had goals (three of them). It had drama (a fourth disallowed goal). It had more inter-county stars than you could shake a stick at. Guys like Diarmuid O’Connor and Jack Barry for Na Gaeil and the hero of the All Ireland semi-final Seánie O’Shea in action for Kenmare Shamrocks. Not to mention one of the heroes of the final, Stephen O’Brien.

There was even a last gasp save from the high-rated Devon Bourns from the aforementioned O’Shea. Yes, indeed, there was no taking your yes off this one. Nor was there any taking your yes off O’Connor who gave something akin to a masterclass, including an early contender for goal of the club season.

Oh yes, and it was Nail Gaeil’s first ever game at the senior grade. They were expected to to struggle too against a Seánie O’Shea-inspired Kenmare who contested last year’s final, but not a bit of it.

In hindsight, though, any side with an inter-county standard – not to mention All Ireland winning – midfield is always going to be in with more than a shot and so it proved in Lewis Road on Saturday evening.

The opening quarter was tit-for-tat with the Shamrocks edging just clear, 0-4 to 0-3 with three frees from O’Shea (plus a point from Kevin O'Sullivan). Na Gaeil’s response two sensational points from Diarmuid O’Connor – the guy was on it on Saturday evening – and a point from Mikey Griffin.

It could have been more for Kenmare, though, with a goal for James McCarthy ruled out for a square ball infringement. A ruling that would prove key by the end of sixty minutes. By the end of thirty it was all square at seven points each, Stephen O’Brien stepping up now for the Shamrocks. James O'Connor and Dara Reen keeping Na Gaeil in touch.

The first half, however, was but an aperitif for a stirring second with Diarmuid O’Connor really roaring into the game even more than his impressive first-half display. The Kerry midfielder really cut loose in the third quarter shooting three points on the trot before O’Brien brought the gap back to two for Kenmare.

O’Connor was just getting started and put Griffin through for a goal on 39 minutes. It was 1-11 to 0-11 following a pair of Seánie O’Shea frees, but disaster struck for Kenmare when Kevin O’Sullivan picked up a black card (following a yellow), which saw him sent off on 52 minutes.

There was still only two in it coming up on five minutes left, but this game, miraculously, seemed to be only ramping up at this stage. Damien Bourke – who had been shadowing O’Shea – dropped to the deck with an injury forcing referee Eddie Walsh to call a half in play.

A quickly taken free by O’Shea, however, caught the Tralee men completely off guard allowing Paul O’Connor to finish to the back of the net and leave it a one-score game, 1-13 to 1-12, on 58 minutes.

Diarmuid O’Connor, though, wasn’t about to leave this one slip away from Na Gaeil and with a powerful run two minutes later – taking a one-two along the way – finished to the back of Kieran Fitzgibbon’s net for his men to take command of the game again.

With six minutes of added time to go, Na Gaeil seemed to try and play down to the clock and it nearly cost them with O’Shea picking up a loose pass to force a save from the excellent Burns.

O’Shea did win and convert a late mark after that (having dropping his ‘45 just short), but Na Gaeil had done enough. For the effort that O’Connor had put it, he deserved to be and was on the winning side.

Like ducks to water at senior level.

NA GAEIL: Devon Burns; Enda O’Connor, Niall O’Mahony, Damien Bourke; Fergal Barry, Eoin Doody, Jack Doyle (0-1); Diarmuid O’Connor (1-7, 5f), Jack Barry; Kieran O’Donovan, Tomás Ó hAinifín, James O’Connor (0-1); Mikey Griffin (1-2), Dan O’Connor, Jack Sheehan Subs: Daragh Reen (0-1) for T Ó hAinifín (inj), 19, Luke Barrett for D O’Connor, 46, Declan Cooney for J O’Connor, 55, Dara Devine for D Bourke (inj), 56, Kieran O’Connor for M Griffin, 64

KENMARE SHAMROCKS: Kieran Fitzgibbon; Tommy Cronin, Tommy O’Sullivan (Arthur), Cian O’Sullivan; Dara O’Shea, James McCarthy, Jamie O’Regan; David Hallissey, Seanie O’Shea (0-8, 4f, 1 ’45, 1m),; Shane O’Sullivan, Kevin O’Sullivan (0-2), Stephen O’Brien (0-4); Pearse O’Brien, Tommy O’Sullivan (Atlantic), Paul O’Connor (1-0) Subs: David Cronin for C O’Sullivan, 12, Cian O’Connor for P O’Brien, 48, Griffin Wharton for D Cronin, 50, David Ciuciu for J McCarthy, 53

REFEREE: Eddie Walsh (Rathmore)


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