Ugly scenes as Kerry rivals Legion and South Kerry draw after generous added time
Legion 0-9 South Kerry 0-9
Depending on your point of view, the outcome of this Kerry football final and the chaos a draw has created was either a ringing endorsement or a major setback to the fixtures and burnout document unveiled by the GAA earlier this week.
Jamie O'Sullivan's late equaliser for Killarney Legion, seeking their first county title since 1946, sparked a fracas but, more pressingly, triggered a fixture knot that has taken some unpalatable decisions to unknot.
The replay was fixed for next Saturday, the same day that St Mary's Cahirsiveen have a Munster intermediate semi-final against Clare's Corofin. But with Munster Council not in a mood to yield on that fixture, even by 24 hours, when discussions took place last night, the replay has now been pushed back an extra eight days to Sunday, November 22.
Kerry's representatives were due to play Nemo Rangers in the Munster senior club championship next Sunday. And that now creates an extra problem. Who is going to represent them?
After reaching the final of the county championship, Legion may feel entitled to that honour as the club that gone furthest in the premier competition which can't now be finished in time. But Kerry have an understanding that their senior club champions go forward to the Munster club championship if a divisional side win the county championship. It's an interpretation that must be teased out in the next 24 hours.
For the St Mary's players involved with South Kerry it will be an eighth consecutive weekend of championship action. Incorporate the replay and that will be nine in a row.
The desire to complete All-Ireland club finals in the same calendar year has an obvious appeal but some counties just aren't geared for it.
Still, the adjustments proposed are clearly aimed to remove the white-knuckle ride that a county like Kerry, with potential involvement every year for its minor and senior teams on All-Ireland final day, routinely engage in. There simply has to be a better way.
South Kerry will feel it should never have come to this anyway. When substitute Greg Gibson kicked their ninth point to give them the lead for the first time, much of the two minutes of added time signalled by referee Seamus Mulvihill had elapsed.
But when O'Sullivan floated over the leveller the clock was showing three minutes and 46 seconds of added time with no significant stoppages to account for that spike.
"I can't understand it because there was no break in play but that's the way the referee interprets it," said South Kerry manager John Sugrue afterwards.
"He's put in charge of the county final, I presume he's a good quality referee. But it doesn't seem to be the straightest call to call two (more) minutes of extra-time."
The equalising point triggered a melee and numerous more flashpoints as Brian O'Connor prepared to restart. Punches were thrown but whether Kerry's Competition Controls Committee investigates remains to be seen. "There's a lot of passion," said Sugrue. "It's a county final. There's a lot of emotion there when the final whistle goes."
Mulvihill was flanked by gardaí as he left the field but by then the temperature was cooling.
The timekeeping wasn't the only controversial aspect of the second half. On 41 minutes, a Conor Keane point from a free to give them a 0-8 to 0-7 lead after James O'Donoghue was fouled was hotly disputed by the South Kerry players.
Sugrue took the linesman to task and was requested by Mulvihill to remove himself from the sideline as a consequence.
"I had a very good view of it," he said. "So had the man I was disputing with. It certainly looked to have drifted out to the left of the posts in my opinion."
Once again, Bryan Sheehan was a towering presence for South Kerry. With his left knee strapped heavily the toll of games over the last seven weekends have surely been telling and for much of the opening half he was overshadowed by the energy and control that O'Sullivan brought to the game.
Flanked by captain Shaun Keane and backed by a big wind Legion had control of the middle and between them they picked off four long-range points with former Kilcummin man O'Sullivan hitting three including one gem off his less favoured left foot. Sheehan had to get to grips with that and he did. He was South Kerry's only first-half scorer with four converted frees and really turned the tide after the break.
Sugrue always felt there was a big second half in them.
"Legion are a quality side. You would have to expect with a wind they were going to get a lead on you. We felt we'd have a good shot in the second half. Three points was not an overwhelming lead."
And Sheehan? "He hasn't been beaten on seven weekends. That's my take on it."
South Kerry lost wing-back Robert Wharton after only six minutes to a black card when he obstructed Conor Keane off the ball, leaving Mulvihill with no option but to remove him. They pressed on and led by 0-7 to 0-3 at one stage before being pegged back to 0-7 to 0-4 at the break.
Both defences were on top, the quality of blocking and tackling in a game watched by 6,357 was good but otherwise it was a grind with space at a premium. Amazingly, James O'Donoghue's point was the solitary score from a forward from either side. The four starting midfielders hit eight points from play between them.
Legion manager Peter Keane contested that Kerry finals played so late in the year are generally like that but recent results haven't been. You have to go back to Feale Rangers' win over South Kerry in 2007 for a game that produced lower scoring.
South Kerry withdrew Conor O'Shea, named at corner-forward, to defence, and detailed Padraig O'Sullivan to sweep in front of O'Donoghue.
O'Donoghue is well used to this compression of space around him and knows when and how to drop deep but he struggled to penetrate here against a disciplined and organised rearguard.
The South Kerry withdrawal was a factor in midfielders Shaun Keane and Jamie O'Sullivan's kicking exploits. They also conceded Legion's kick-outs but, notably, when they pushed up in the second half, they got a better return.
Declan O'Sullivan came off the bench for the last 20 minutes and added steel but spurned one good chance, going for goal when a pass inside to Ian Galvin or a fisted point, one of the many strings to his bow, was a better option.
Scorers - Killarney Legion: J O'Sullivan 0-4, J O'Donoghue (f), C Keane (2fs) 0-2 each, S Keane 0-1. South Kerry: B Sheehan 0-7 (5fs), B O'Sullivan, G Gibson 0-1 each.
Killarney Legion - B Kelly; C Davies, Danny Sheahan, P O'Connor; D O'Doherty, Damien O'Sullivan, J Lyne; S Keane, J O'Sullivan; B McGuire, K Breen, D Lyne; T Moriarty, J O'Donoghue, C Keane. Subs: P Lucey for McGuire (46), Denis Sheehan for Breen (46), David O'Sullivan for Moriarty (51), J O'Neill for S Keane (56), C Sheahan for D Lyne (61).
South Kerry - B O'Connor (Valentia); Paul O'Sullivan (Valentia), K Young (Renard), B Sugrue (Renard); Padraig O'Sullivan (Dromid), B Walsh (Skellig Rangers), R Wharton (Renard); B Sheehan (St Mary's), B O'Sullivan (Valentia); A Walsh (St Mary's), D Daly (St Mary's), P O'Connor (Valentia); I Galvin (Sneem/Derrynane), P O'Donoghue (St Mary's), C O'Shea (St Mary's). Subs: C Farley (Dromid) for Wharton (BC,7), D O'Sullivan (Dromid) for B O'Sullivan (39), D O'Donoghue (Dromid) for Galvin (54), G Gibson (Waterville) for B O'Sullivan (56).
Ref - S Mulvihill (St Senan's)