Second half revival sees South overhaul Saints
County SFC Round 2A: South Kerry 1-12 St Brendans 1-9
In the proverbial game of two halves, South Kerry recovered from a seven-point first half deficit to power past St Brendans and advance to the quarter-finals of the county championship after an entertaining Round 2A encounter played under the lights at Austin Stack Park on Saturday night.
Tremendous credit is due to both sets of players for their courage, tenacity, determination and no little skill in absolutely atrocious weather conditions. Heavy rain fell from start to finish, making handling conditions treacherous, but the elements did not detract in one bit from the entertainment on offer to the paying public.
John Shanahan will be delighted with the spirit, composure and championship nous exhibited by his South Kerry charges because, after 25 minutes and trailing by 1-7 to 0-3 to an inspired St Brendans, the match favourites were staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat, which would have rocked, but not extinguished, their hopes of getting their hands back on the Bishop Moynihan Cup.
St Brendans manager Seamus Murphy, on the other hand, will have an important task this week in lifting his squad psychologically from this reversal for the weekend's do-or-die Round 3 collision with Shannon Rangers, and he will be perplexed how his team lost all momentum in the second half and failed to take advantage of what was a blistering opening to this hard-fought contest.
Two early points from Niall Sheehy (free) and Dáithí Griffin were followed by a St Brendans goal in the fourth minute when Diarmuid O'Connor contested a high ball with Brian Sugrue with the Kerry senior first to react to the dropping ball and hammer it to the roof of the net. Ivan Parker quickly added a pointed free to make it 1-3 to 0-0 and South Kerry were absolutely shell-shocked.
Ciarán Keating got the eventual winners off the mark with a point in the eighth minute but, with Ivan Parker giving Killian Young a serious hard time in the South Kerry defence, St Brendans led by 1-5 to 0-2 at the end of the first quarter with the improving Bryan Sheehan kicking an excellent score for the southerners.
Things actually could have been even worse for South Kerry as St Brendans were close to adding two more goals, with Parker again slipping Young but dropping the ball when he was clean through and then Daniel Daly foraging back from full-forward to prevent another possible green flag.
Magnificent points from play by Parker and Sheehy propelled St Brendans into that seven-point cushion (1-7 to 0-3) but, just like Dr Crokes in the earlier game, South Kerry steadied the first half ship by registering the last three scores, with Denis Daly hugely impressive (0-3 from play in the half), leaving it 1-7 to 0-6 at the interval.
Boosted by their strong finish to the first period, South Kerry were a completely different kettle of fish on the resumption with Sheehan taking control of the midfield battle and impressive substitute Brendan O'Sullivan making his presence felt in attack.
Three superb points from play from the afore-mentioned duo (O'Sullivan with two) had the gap down to the minimum (1-7 to 0-9) before South Kerry struck for the most important score of the night in the 46th minute when a high ball in by Denis Daly saw another replacement, Jack Daly, beat the St Brendans goalkeeper to the ball and bundle it into the net. What a transformation!
St Brendans finally ended a 26-minute scoring drought when Sheehy pointed a free for their first score of the second half in the 49th minute and they missed a goal chance a minute later when the rampaging Andrew Barry saw his goalbound effort superbly blocked by South Kerry defender Fionán Clifford.
With the vastly-improved Killian Young now anchoring an increasingly impenetrable rearguard, South Kerry managed their way to the finishing line with admirable confidence and composure and it was fitting that Sheehan had the last say with two fantastic pointed frees to seal the victory.
SOUTH KERRY: Pádraig O'Sullivan (Skellig Rangers); Fionán Clifford (Waterville), Killian Young (Renard), Padraig O'Sullivan (Dromid Pearses); Brian Sugrue (Renard), Mark Griffin (St Michaels Foilmore), Robert Wharton (Renard); Bryan Sheehan (0-4, 0-2 frees) (St Marys), Graham O'Sullivan (Dromid Pearses); Niall O'Shea (Dromid Pearses), Denis Daly (0-3) (St Marys), Conor O'Shea (St Marys); Barry O'Dwyer (0-1) (Waterville), Daniel Daly (0-1 free) (St Marys), Ciaran Keating (0-1) (Skellig Rangers) Subs: Brendan O'Sullivan (0-2) (Valentia) for Wharton, black card, 33, Jack Daly (1-0) (St Marys) for N O'Shea, 44, Chris Farley (Dromid Pearses) for Daniel Daly, 54, Darragh O'Sullivan (St Marys) for Sugrue, 58, Sam Dwyer (Waterville) for O'Dwyer, 60, Paul O'Sullivan (Valentia) for Keating, 60
ST BRENDANS: Eoghan O'Brien (0-2, 0-1 45, 0-1 free) (Churchill); Jack Myers (John Mitchels), Kieran O'Dwyer (St Pats), Thomas Kerins (John Mitchels); Fergal Barry (Na Gaeil), Andrew Barry (Na Gaeil), Pat Kearney (John Mitchels); Jack Barry (Na Gaeil), Paul McMahon (St Pats); Brandon Barrett (Ardfert), Dáithí Griffin (0-1) (Ardfert), Diarmuid O'Connor (1-0) (Na Gaeil); David O'Callaghan (St Pats), Ivan Parker (0-2, 0-1 free) (Churchill), Niall Sheehy (0-4, 0-3 frees) (John Mitchels) Subs: Trevor Wallace (Ardfert) for Myers, 34, Alan O'Donoghue (John Mitchels) for O'Callaghan, 39, Brendan Poff (St Pats) for McMahon, 43, James Duggan (John Mitchels) for Sheehy, 51, William Hurley (St Pats) for Parker, 60, Mikey Kelliher (John Mitchels) for F Barry, 60
REFEREE: James O'Sullivan (Firies)
The game in 60 seconds
Fionán Clifford, Killian Young (second half), Denis Daly and substitute Brendan O'Sullivan all did well for the winners, but it has to be Bryan Sheehan. The former Kerry star was an inspirational figure for the winners, scoring four points (from play and frees), and getting the better of his midfield battle with Jack Barry.
Remember Alex Ferguson making the Manchester United players change their jerseys when trailing 3-0 to Southampton at half-time many years ago? Well, St Brendans came out for the second half on Saturday night wearing the black and white of Ardfert. The numbers on their first half jerseys were impossible to decipher, so the change was definitely appreciated by spectators and those in the press box. However, after the end result, the losers will be wondering if they should have just stayed as they were!