St Marys show true grit to take the spoils
The latest instalment of the Star Wars movie franchise might be giving the Portmagee area some international attention but matters were a lot more local and tribal on St Stephens Day as for the first time in living memory a South Kerry SFC Final was played outside of Cahersiveen or Waterville at the home of Skellig Rangers GAA club.
South Kerry SFC Final - St Marys 0-9 Waterville 0-6
While the weather put pay to the pitches further up the road in the Mid Kerry decider, proceedings ploughed on down South with 'ploughed' the appropriate word to describe the condition of the pitch after it was all said and done.
Thankfully it didn't rain, but anyone expecting an open, free-flowing game of football was very naïve as it was a day for grit and determination as opposed to skillful endeavour.
Considering that there was a lot at stake personally for him with the Kerry captaincy nomination on offer to the winning club, it was fitting that Bryan Sheehan would make a telling, early contribution to proceedings.
He duly obliged when the first two dead ball opportunities were presented to him. A '45 followed by a 46 metre free brought forward for dissent saw St Marys cancel out Stephen O'Dwyer's opening free for Waterville.
There were some goal chances in the first-half, Austin Constable saving from Barry O'Dwyer before the latter put over the rebound in the ninth minute but there would be no score in the match again until the 23rd minute.
Niall O'Driscoll fired straight at Ciarán Dennehy for a goal chance two minutes previous to this but an Anthony Cournane point and a second effort from O'Driscoll put the Cahersiveen side three ahead approaching the break. Seamus O'Sullivan brought Waterville back within two at the break with a free in injury time, 0-5 to 0-3 St Marys' lead at half-time.
Another free from O'Sullivan four minutes after the restart put the bare minimum between the two sides before Oran Clifford took a nasty fall a minute later. Thankfully his injury was not as serious as first appeared but the sight of a team-mate being stretchered off didn't unduly deter Waterville as they kept up their ferocious charge against their more fancied opponents.
The ball nearly slipped through Bryan Sheehan's hands and into the net in the 41st minute, but Austin Constable was vigilant to the danger although Waterville were level two minutes later with a free from Barry O'Dwyer.
St Marys' first second-half score came in the 48th minute and it was a calming one in the face of Waterville's intensity as Anthony Cournane fisted the ball over the bar from close range to put them back in front.
Waterville drew level once more through O'Sullivan but the closing stages was where the more successful year for St Marys really started to show. A black card for Kevin O'Dwyer in the 54th minute saw Sheehan pounce with his third point from a dead ball and he was more comfortable in fisting another high ball from Waterville into the goalmouth away close to the 60 minute mark.
Paul O'Donoghue scored a breakaway point in the first minute of injury time to make the Munster Intermediate Champions breathe a little easier with Niall O'Driscoll capping off a Man-of-the-Match display in equalling Sheehan's three point total but all from play.
St Mary's 32nd South Kerry title was a successful retention against the same opposition as last year's decider and they head into county and countrywide matters in the New Year off the back of being kingpins in their own backyard again.
Waterville still await their first South Kerry title since 1999 in this new Millennium. Six losses in finals to decide the destination of the Jack Murphy Cup since a very disappointing statistic for the club as they look for redemption in 2016.
St Marys: Austin Constable, Ian Casey, Brian Curran, Liam Sheehan, Daniel O'Sullivan, Conor O'Shea, Conor Quirke, Bryan Sheehan (0-3, 2f, 1 '45') Denis Daly, Aidan Walsh, Niall O'Driscoll (0-3), Paul O'Donoghue (0-1), Sean Cournane, Daniel Daly, Anthony Cournane (0-2)
Waterville: Ciarán Dennehy, Micheál Cronin, Daniel O'Dwyer, Fionán Clifford, Fergal Cronin, Kevin O'Dwyer, Alan O'Dwyer, Oran Clifford, Cormac O'Sullivan, Alan O'Shea, Greg Gibson, Niall Fitzgerald, Barry O'Dwyer (0-2, 1f), Seamus O'Sullivan (0-3, 2f), Stephen O'Dwyer (0-1, 1f) Subs: Micheál Curran for Stephen O'Dwyer, Gary Galvin for Oran Clifford, Keith Moran for Fitzgerald and Adam O'Dwyer for Kevin O'Dwyer (Black Card)
Referee: Paul Hayes (Kerins O'Rahillys)
The game in 60 seconds
He's one of the elder statesmen in a very young team but Niall O'Driscoll showed great composure and endeavour in not only scoring three points but also giving his side a calming influence when Waterville pressed hard in Portmagee.
Probably both occasions St Marys responded to Waterville drawing level in the second period, first through Anthony Cournane's 48th minute point and Bryan Sheehan's third point of the day with six minutes left.
No denying the fact Skellig Rangers put in a great effort to have everything in order for the day with logistics both on and off the pitch. However the hard question has to be asked about whether the game should have gone ahead with the burden the recent weather placed on the pitch especially the added semi-final meeting between St Marys and St Michaels/Foilmore a week earlier at the same venue? Not in this observer's opinion.