O'Donoghue-inspired Legion see off disappointing West

County SFC Round 2A: Killarney Legion 2-15 West Kerry 2-9

James O'Donoghue, Killarney Legion. Photo: Sportsfile
James O'Donoghue, Killarney Legion. Photo: Sportsfile

Tadhg Evans, Kennedy Park, Annascaul

This wasn't the easiest of games to call beforehand. West Kerry had home advantage, some quality in their ranks, and a hard-fought first-round win under their belts.

Yet by half-time, their case for beating Killarney Legion had been whipped away by a whirlwind of fast, purposeful hand-passing; accurate kick-passing; solid man-marking and an inspired James O'Donoghue.

Legion still had to graft to secure the game in the second half; West Kerry played well in the third quarter, scoring 1-2 without reply at one stage, but there was never a sense in Annascaul that they could overturn a nine-point half-time deficit; Legion were better, end of.

It was hard to believe on 13 minutes that a third Dara Ó Sé free had the teams level, 0-3 to 0-3, because all the warning signs had flashed over and over, even by then. Tomás Mac an tSaoir had to make a treble save early on from Conor Keane and Thomas Moriarty (twice), and it seemed as if every time a Legion player had possession, there was at least one man ready in support, ready to attack.

O'Donoghue was like a bluebottle, West Kerry like a family running around trying, failing to swat him. He often sat deep, well inside his own half, setting counter-attacks in motion; then, like a flash, he was at the other end, either scoring or assisting. This was best highlighted by a point from 35 metres following a slick one-two with Damien O'Sullivan, which made it 0-2 to 0-0 in the eighth minute.

West Kerry may have been level on 13 minutes, thankful to Legion for three scoreable frees, as they weren't getting much else from the Killarney defence, but the westerners couldn't keep pace.

Less than a minute after Jamie O'Neill fisted over to put Legion 0-4 to 0-3 ahead, they pounced as West Kerry failed to take hold of a high ball in. O'Donoghue collected, passed it off to Jamie O'Sullivan, and while Mac an tSaoir got a hand to his shot, it was too powerful to keep out. At 1-4 to 0-3, the game had a scoreline reflective of goings on.

Legion kicked the next two points, including another one that featured slick interplay and an O'Donoghue finish, and if a Jamie O'Sullivan black card on 22 minutes was a small sign of encouragement for West Kerry, that's all it was.

Again playing deep, O'Donoghue kick-passed to Jonathan Lyne and had Legion advancing into open space again. Damien O'Sullivan played a high ball in for Conor Keane, who won the aerial contest with Brian Ó Beaglaoich, turned, and completed an easy finish to the net for 2-6 to 0-3.

The teams traded a free apiece for 2-7 to 0-4 at half-time, Legion worthy of a nine-point lead. The second half started much like the first with two quick Legion points, including an excellent strike by Conor Keane with the outside of the boot, but at 2-9 to 0-4, West Kerry finally found some form.

Dara Ó Sé kicked their first point from play on 34 minutes, and a foul kick-out by Brian Kelly would prove to be a lifeline. West Kerry won the throw-ball on the 21, and as the ball was played over to the left-hand side, the on-running Brian Ó Beaglaoich took possession and found enough space to shoot and find the net.

On 38 minutes, West Kerry had it back to 1-6 to 2-9, with Roibeárd Ó Sé providing a point to finish his team's best move, a surging run through the spine of the field, but from there, a hectic game fizzled out for a while to little more than an exchange of scoreable frees between the teams.

They traded two apiece in the next 12 minutes for 2-11 to 1-8, before the impressive Darragh Lyne sealed the game. He accepted two passes after finding space within the West Kerry cover, and while either chance could've been goaled, he wisely took his points for 2-13 to 1-9.

West Kerry were out of the game, but at least Pádraig Ó Sé's late strike might bag them the goal-of-the-championship award. A West Kerry free-kick was played out left to Ó Sé, who went route-one in trying to break the Legion cover, blasting and curling a shot to the top-right corner.

It was beautiful, but that's all it was. Even a six-point defeat was flattering.

West Kerry: Tomás Mac an tSaoir, Pádraig Ó Sé (1-0), Brian Ó Beaglaoich (1-0), Cathal Ó Lúing, Timothy Moriarty, Cian Ó Murchú, James Scanlon, Éanna Ó Conchúir, Roibeárd Ó Sé (0-2), PJ Mac Láimh, Dara Ó Sé (0-7, 0-6f), Jimmy O'Grady, Tomás Ó Sé, Cathal Ferriter, Jason Hickson Subs: Killian Falvey for Jason Hickson, half-time, Ruaidhrí Ó Beaglaoich for PJ Mac Láimh, half-time, Adam Mac Amhlaoibh for J Scanlon, 40, James Crean for J O'Grady, 42, Alan Fitzgerald for T Moriarty, 51

Killarney Legion: Brian Kelly, Darragh O'Doherty, Damien O'Sullivan, Cian Gammell (0-1), Podge O'Connor, Denis Sheahan (0-1), Jonathan Lyne, Pádraig Lucey, Shaun Keane, Jack O'Neill (0-1), Jamie O'Sullivan (1-0), Kieran Slattery, James O'Donoghue (0-5, 0-2f), Conor Keane (1-4, 0-3f), Thomas Moriarty Subs: Peter McCarthy for Thomas Moriarty, 20; Darragh Lyne (0-2) for Jamie O'Sullivan, black card, 22, Finbarr Murphy for P Lucey, 49, Billy Maguire (0-1) for P McCarthy, black card, 59, Kevin Breen for K Slattery, 60

Referee: Jer Lynch (Ballymacelligott)

The game in 60 seconds

Key man

This was James O'Donoghue in 2014 form. He scored 0-5, including 0-3 from play, but even that doesn't reflect the bother he caused West Kerry, particularly in the first half. Whether linking play or finishing moves by himself, he wasn't for stopping.

Talking point

It was just one game, and it's too early to say James O'Donoghue is back for good after a spell in the doldrums by his tremendous standards. But if he can maintain that kind of form, Legion are not to be taken lightly. They had plenty others who stood up well on Sunday, and combined with an in-form O'Donoghue, they looked really good at times.