Gneeveguilla play their part in six-goal thriller only decided at the death
2020 COUNTY PREMIER JUNIOR FC FINAL
AN emphatically-dispatched penalty by man-of-the-match Paul Kennelly in the fifth minute of additional time at the end of extra-time was, ultimately, the decisive score, as Ballydonoghue edged out Gneeveguilla to annex the 2020 County Junior Premier Championship title after one of the most exhilarating contests ever witnessed at Austin Stack Park on Sunday evening.
After an end-to-end, rip-roaring, pulsating, hugely entertaining confrontation that ebbed and flowed from beginning to conclusion, and saw both outfits enjoy periods of spell-binding superiority, it was somehow fitting that the second period of extra time would encapsulate and, arguably, supersede, what had gone before, due to the genuine emotional tug-of-war that prevailed.
With both sides firing over two points each, it remained level pegging (Gneeveguilla 2-16, Ballydonoghue 1-19) at half-time in extra-time, setting the scene for such a sensational denouement. The East Kerry side, not for the first time, appeared to have gained the upper hand with points from Pádraig Doyle and Jack Cremin, as the clock ticked past the 78th minute.
With Jack Kennelly, surprisingly, missing two scoreable frees, Ballydonoghue must have felt that, having saved their bacons at the end of normal time, maybe the football gods had finally abandoned them at this late juncture. However, showing resilience and a refusal to accept defeat, the North Kerry men struck for a stunning goal.
From a Gneeveguilla kick-out, midfielder Brian Ó Seanacháin rose highest to pluck the ball from the clouds and the former Kerry underage star showed great composure to find the over-lapping Mitch Foley with a superb pass, with Foley providing the assist for corner-forward Paul Kennelly to rocket a left-footed drive to the corner of Patrick O’Riordan’s net.
Gneeveguilla were understandably shell-shocked. Yet what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and, summoning all their own remaining reserves of character and stamina, Eoin Fitzgerald sent in a speculative up-and-under that broke among a forest of bodies, and there was centre-back Darren Brosnan to blast the ball past Darragh O’Shea.
From agony to ecstasy in a matter of minutes! Gneeveguilla were now rejuvenated, Ballydonoghue were crestfallen, and, surely now with a two-point cushion (3-18 to 2-19) heading into injury-time, Seánie O’Leary’s side had at least one hand on the trophy. Surely there had been enough drama and excitement for one night!
Not on your life! With physically and emotionally-shattered bodies cramping up and falling to the ground on both sides, Jack Kennelly reduced the margin to the minimum again with a pointed free, and then, in one last Ballydonoghue attack, Mitch Foley was, once more, the instigator with a punched pass over the top to the afore-mentioned Kennelly, and the nippy full-forward hit the deck after a bone-shuddering collision with the advancing Gneeveguilla net-minder.
Much to the chagrin and disgust of Gneeveguilla, and the delight and relief of Ballydonoghue, referee Billy O’Shea didn’t hesitate in pointing to the penalty spot and issuing a yellow card to goalkeeper O’Riordan. A long delay ensued, with his brother receiving medical attention after the clash, but that didn’t deter Paul Kennelly in the slightest and, with the destination of the spoils in his hands, Kennelly made no mistake with a right-footed rocket to the net.
The final whistle soon followed, with Ballydonoghue delirious with joy and Gneeveguilla broken-hearted with despair. Such are the vagaries of sport. Having been tied at 1-9 apiece at half-time and again at full-time (2-14 to 1-17) after four unanswered points from Thomas Dillon’s side wiped out what looked like being a game-defining cushion for the East Kerry men, there really was nothing to separate them.
Until, of course, Paul Kennelly’s last-gasp penalty conversion. One side emerged victorious, the other were left vanquished, but the real winner was Gaelic football. After 44 scores, including six goals, and a pulse-throbbing finale that could not have been scripted, they will be talking about this extraordinary epic in Ballydonoghue, Gneeveguilla and countywide for many years to come.
BALLYDONOGHUE: Darragh O’Shea 1-0 (own goal); Mike Gogarty, Conor Kennelly, Tommy Kennelly 0-1 (‘45’); Jack Gogarty 0-1, Jason Foley, Micheal Foley 0-1; Kevin O’Donnell, Brian O Seanachain; Jim Cremin 0-1, Daragh Sheehy, Jack Behan 0-3 (2f); Jack Foley 1-1, Jack Kennelly 0-8 (3f), Paul Kennelly 2-4 (0-1 mark, 1-0 penalty) Subs: Stephen Foley for Cremin, 48, Declan Behan for T Kennelly, 56, Gearoid Kissane for J Gogarty (inj), 60, Liam Guiney for C Kennelly, 61 , Colin O’Mahony for J Behan, 69, Danny Power for M Gogarty, 80
GNEEVEGUILLA: Patrick O’Riordan; Patrick Brosnan, Darren Brosnan 1-0, Damien Cronin; Sean O’Keeffe 0-1, Connie O’Connor, Eoin Fitzgerald; Pa Warren 0-1, Conor Herlihy 0-1; Michael Murphy 0-1, Paul O’Leary, John O’Leary 0-3 (2f); Shane O’Sullivan 0-2, Padraig Doyle 0-3, Jack Cremin 1-5 (0-4f) Subs: Ronan Collins for Herlihy, 12, DJ Murphy for Cronin, 35, Herlihy for M Murphy, 50, Padraig O’Connor for O’Keeffe, 60, Philip Cremin for J Cremin, 60, Con Buckley 0-1 (f) for O’Connor, 61, J Cremin for Warren, 70, Danny O’Callaghan for Doyle, 80, Jamie O’Sullivan for D Brosnan, 80
REFEREE: Billy O’Shea (Keel)
There were so many different contenders as the pendulum of the game continued to swing from one side to the other, but when all is said and done, and when the need was at its greatest, it was Paul Kennelly who stood up and was counted when silverware was on the line. With four points to his credit earlier, his two goals in the second half of extra-time, especially the clinically-converted penalty at the death, made him the ultimate match-winner for Ballydonoghue.
At the end of the day, despite all the possible turning points that had developed over the course of such an eventful 80 minutes, and more, of football, it was the referee’s decision to award Jack Kennelly a spot-kick after his last-gasp collision with Gneeveguilla goalkeeper Patrick O’Riordan that was crucial. Was it a foul? Was it inside the small square? The match official answered in the affirmative, the penalty was dispatched, and Ballydonoghue were champions.
Where do you even start? From the very opening seconds when the ball was thrown in by Billy O’Shea, this was a match that had absolutely everything. Following Kerry’s shock defeat to Tyrone the previous Saturday, both teams only had a week’s notice to get themselves fully prepared for this delayed 2020 final. In those circumstances, both managements and sets of players deserve the utmost credit for what they produced in a game that really was for-the-ages.