St Brendans blow it as Coffey and Clifford goals send East Kerry through

County SFC Round 3: East Kerry 3-24 St Brendans 4-18 (after extra-time)

Paul Brennan

It's seldom in a football-hurling double-header that the former will eclipse the latter in terms of skill, drama, excitement and, indeed, scores, even in Kerry.

The mass exodus of Ballyduff and Abbeydorney hurling supporters from Austin Stack Park at 7pm last Saturday were probably satisfied that the 0-13 to 0-12 win for Ballyduff was as good as it was going to get at the venue, and any of them that stopped off to watch Kilkenny and Waterford slug it out in the All-Ireland Qualifiers would, with some justification, believed they made the right call to leave Stack Park when they did. How wrong they were.

The Round 3 county SFC match that followed also produced extra-time, but if Kilkenny's comeback against the Deise in normal time was exciting it was nothing compared to East Kerry's back-from-the-dead heroics against St Brendan. With almost three minutes of additional time elapsed after the regulation 60, East Kerry had trimmed a 10-point deficit back to three and could have taken some consolation from their second half efforts, despite going out of the championship. One last raid saw Con O'Mahony pitch the ball out to Fintan Coffey, and with little option other than to take a speculative shot, the Fossa man lasered a 25-metre shot into the far top corner of Eoghan O'Brien's goal to rescue an implausible draw for East Kerry.

It was the sixth goal of the match thus far but the seventh proved just as crucial and from an even more unlikely source, in a way. When one reads that Kerry minor whiz-kid David Clifford slammed home East Kerry's match-winning goal in the 73rd minute there is little surprise, but then consider that Clifford was scrubbed off the starting team through injury and wasn't expected to feature in any capacity against St Brendans. But desperate measures and all that...

St Brendan's will wonder and wallow over this defeat for days and months, having lead 4-6 to 0-10 at half time and by those three points when East Kerry woke up in added-time with Coffey's wonder goal.

Their very first attack produced a goal from Shane O'Connor after 40 seconds, and the Mitchels man found the net again in the 12th minute to put his side 2-4 to 0-5 ahead. East Kerry had scores from Jef O'Donoghue, Evan Cronin and Dara Roche to keep them in contention, but St Brendans carried huge threat every time they raided forward, with O'Connor, David O'Callaghan and Ivan Parker to the fore.

Roche did have a shot stopped on the St Brendans goal-line by Andrew Barry, but moments before the break Parker and then O'Callaghan struck for goals that looked to have put the Saints into an unassailable lead.

Early second half scores from Jack Sherwood, Roche and Cronin gave East Kerry a sliver of hope, but while St Brendan's found it hard to raise flags themselves, East Kerry looked a beaten docket without a goal by the 51st minute. They trailed by eight at that stage, 4-13 to 0-17, and when Sherwood finally beat O'Brien the goal seemed too little too late. Points from substitutes Brian O'Donoghue and Kieran Murphy made it a three-point game after 57 minutes but it took almost another six for Coffey to conjure up that magical score and send the game to extra-time.

O'Connor and Parker quickly restored a two-point lead for St Brendans, Jeff O'Donoghue levelled it again with a brace, before O'Callaghan's converted free edged St Brendans in front at the turnaround.

Sensing they needed something akin to divine intervention, East Kerry turned to Clifford, and after Sherwood and Mike Griffin exchanged points, Clifford took a pass from Shane Cronin and in his first meaningful touch drilled the ball low past O'Brien to put East Kerry in front for the first time in 73 minutes of scintillating football.

Dara Roche's point put three between the sides and with St Brendan's rocked and shocked, the best they could manage was trade a Parker free with an Anthony Kennedy point as East Kerry booked their place in the quarter-finals where they will be a tough prospect for whoever they are drawn to play.

East Kerry: Colin Myers, John Flynn, Matt Moynihan, DJ Murphy, Stephen Foley, Daniel O'Brien, Shane Cronin, Fintan Coffey 1-0, Michael McCarthy, Jack Sherwood 1-5, Jeff O'Donoghue 0-5 (1 '45'), Ronan Buckley 0-3, Dara Roche 0-6 (3f), Paudie Clifford, Evan Cronin 0-2. Subs: Kieran Murphy 0-1 for M McCarthy (29 mins), Padraig O'Connor for S Foley (ht), Michael O'Donoghue for P Clifford (38 mins), Brian O'Donoghue 0-1 for E Cronin (48 mins), Brian Lynch for D O'Brien (inj, 51 mins), Con O'Mahony for R Buckley (56 mins), David Clifford 1-0 for M O'Donoghue (ht, extra-time), Anthony Kennedy 0-1 for S Cronin (b/c, 18 mins extra-time).

St Brendans: Eoghan O'Brien, Sean Moloney, Laurance Bastible, Kieran Dwyer, Michael Griffin 0-1, Andrew Barry, David Griffin 0-1, Jack Barry, Kevin Shanahan 0-2, David O'Callaghan 1-4 (0-1f), Shane O'Connor 2-4, Brendan Poff 0-1, Diarmuid Herlihy, Ivan Parker 1-4 (0-1f), James Duggan. Subs: George Bastable 0-1 for B Poff (inj, 17 mins), Paul McMahon for M Griffin (40 mins), Iarla Courtney for K Shanahan (temp, 54 mins), Kieran Donovan for D Herlihy (60+2 mins), K Shanahan for Courtney (temp reverse, et), Cathal Rodgers for G Bastible (14 mins extra-time).

Referee: Tom McCarthy (Castleisland)