Stunning second half secures status for Kilcummin

County SFC Relegation Play-off: Kilcummin 1-15 Rathmore 0-12

Kilcummin’s Noel Duggan who scored five points before being black carded in the relegation
play-off against Rathmore on Saturday afternoon
Kilcummin’s Noel Duggan who scored five points before being black carded in the relegation play-off against Rathmore on Saturday afternoon

Jimmy D'Arcy, Lewis Road

A shell-shocked Rathmore exited Lewis Road in a dignified and dismal silence.

There was nothing they could say after their senior club status was stripped away by a ferociously hungry Kilcummin, whose explosive second half was the exact opposite of their County Championship exit.

Kilcummin manager Kieran Fleming and his players had known what they would be facing.

"After working so hard to get back up to senior level, we certainly didn't want to find ourselves dropping back down again so quickly. We had such a bad Club Championship in April that this became our target really after the summer.

"We had a lot of hard work done prior to today and it paid off out there. We had to do a bit of soul searching after the St Kierans game in the County Championship, particularly in how we never really came out for the second half that day."

Noel Duggan opened the scoring after Gary O'Leary was fouled, but Chrissie Spiers won and converted a similar one. Rathmore gobbled up Brendan Kealy's first few kick-outs in devastating fashion and rattled off points by Mark Reen (2f) and Spiers, while Kilcummin's Philip Casey picked up a black card under the pressure - a brave and correct early call by the excellent Seamus Mulvihill.

Rathmore's Brian Moynihan followed for a similar offence as Kilcummin began to get to grips with the game. Paul O'Shea won a free for Noel Duggan and pointed himself after a great turnover by Enda O'Sullivan. George O'Keeffe and Chrissie Spiers restored the three point advantage, 0-6 to 0-3.

Rathmore were attacking in waves, but a resilient Kilcummin were able to quickly punish overlaps, with Kieran Murphy notching a beauty. George O'Keefe was on the end of a good team move and high-fielding Shane Ryan won a free for Mark Reen, 0-8 to 0-4.

Kilcummin had to dig deep and they did, reeling in the leaders through Noel Duggan (2), Kieran Murphy's long range beauty, and Paul O'Shea to make it 0-8 apiece at half-time.

As Kieran Fleming noted afterwards: "It looked as if the game was slipping away from us at one stage there in the first period when Rathmore went ahead by three, twice, but we were very happy to go in level at half-time."

Kilcummin burst out of the blocks in the second half. Noel Duggan opened the scoring. Mark Reen replied in kind, but the floodgates were only opening. Seán O'Leary's runs from centre-back were doing damage.

He won a free, pointed by Brendan Kealy, Gary O'Leary added a point, and then the wily Kerry Under 20 captain was bursting forward again, slicing through the defence and rattling the top corner of the net. The barrage continued, hard-working Kevin McCarthy firing over twice. Having trailed at one stage by 0-8 to 0-4, Kilcummin were now ahead by 1-13 to 0-9.

Rathmore, even without the dynamic Paul Murphy, were not going to go down easily and they attacked relentlessly, desperately trying to forge the scores they needed.

"A goal in a game like that is always going to be crucial and we were just happy it came for us. We were very happy with how we defended near the end particularly as we knew that Rathmore would throw everything at us to try and get some goals to reduce the deficit."

There is a modesty underlining that statement. Rathmore's attacking was top drawer, but Kilcummin's defending was absolutely stunning. Unquestionably, the rock on which so many of Rathmore's surging attacks was Kevin McSweeney at full-back.

He was, metaphorically, and often literally, head and shoulders above every player on the field. The closest Rathmore came to the goal they need was a rasping rocket launched by Daniel O'Sullivan - McSweeney plucked it out of the air like a Marvel superhero.

Paul O'Shea stroked over to stretch the lead. Chrissie Spiers (f) and Shane Ryan cut it back, but Shane McSweeney had the last score to seal a precious victory and consign Rathmore to Intermediate status.

Fleming knows what it feels like - Kilcummin made the exact same drop themselves just two years ago.

"Our hearts go out to Rathmore at the same time in being relegated though. I think they are good enough to bounce back though like we did last year, and I would have no fear of them not making a quick recovery."

It won't be of much comfort to them today, but they have the youth and the talent to come back up. And in the meantime, it's worth noting that the last time Rathmore players lined out with East Kerry, they lifted the Bishop Moynihan Cup three times in-a-row.

Kilcummin: Brendan Kealy (0-1, 1f), Sean O'Leary (1-0), Donal Maher, Philip Casey, James Nagle, Kevin McSweeney, Daniel Moynihan, Kevin Gorman, Kieran Murphy (0-2), Kevin McCarthy (0-2), Gary O'Leary (0-1), Shane McSweeney (0-1), Enda O'Sullivan, Noel Duggan (0-5, 3f), Paul O'Shea (0-3) Subs: Oscar O'Connor for Philip Casey (b/c, 4 min), John McCarthy for Kevin Gorman (50), Matt Keane for Noel Duggan (b/c, 55), Damien O'Leary for Enda O'Sullivan (55), William Maher for Daniel Moynihan (55), Sean O'Leary for Kevin McCarthy (62)

Rathmore: Kenneth O'Keeffe, TJ Friel, MJ Kelliher, Colm Kelly, Cathal Murphy, Aidan O'Mahony, Brendan O'Keeffe, Daniel O'Sullivan, George O'Keeffe (0-2), Brian Moynihan, Chrissie Spiers (0-4, 3f), Darragh Rahilly, Mark Reen (0-5, 3f), Shane Ryan (0-1), John Moynihan Subs: Conor O'Sullivan for Brian Moynihan (b/c, 10), Dan Murphy for George O'Keeffe (40), Mark Ryan for Colm Kelly (50)

Referee: Seamus Mulvihill (St Senans)