Legion lions make history on special day

October 20th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

The old adage, " it's a long road that has no turning" was never more appropriately applied than for followers of The Legion club when excellent referee Paul Hayes (Kerins o Rahillys) brought proceedings to a close in this thrilling and hard fought Kerry senior football county championship semi-final at Fitzgerald's Stadium last Sunday. The townies had defeated Rathmore and in doing so reached their first county final since 1946 and years of defeat, frustration and heartbreak came to an abrupt end. Having travelled that afore mentioned long road myself with the club I first joined in 1955 I am fully aware of the significance of this achievement and indeed it is of huge importance to all clubs to now and again have their day in the sun as the amount of voluntary work conducted behind the scenes of all clubs is for the most part completely unknown.

Of course from a Rathmore perspective it is bitter disappoint as they were within a whisker of reaching a historic first ever Kerry decider and it was only in the final ten minutes that they yielded to the power and fitness and never say die attitude of a Legion side who simply would not surrender on the day. Conditions were as they have been for the past few weeks absolutely perfect and even the smoke from the chimneys of the houses surrounding the Stadium was rising straight into the blue sky, not even the faintest ripple of a breeze to be felt.

Rathmore got off to a blistering start and rocked The Legion with a superb goal from Daniel o Sullivan followed by a point in the first ten minutes. They were playing brilliant football, first to ever ball, they were simply on fire and their full forward line, three beautiful natural forwards, Eoin Lawlor, John Moynihan and the elusive Dean Fitzgerald simply tore holes in the winners defence. First to ever ball, they were receiving lovely dinky low passes into their chests and it was only thanks to the brilliance of Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly that Rathmore had not raced into a match winning lead.

Yes it was that serious for the town lads, first Kelly saved a point blank effort just getting his right hand to a bullet of a shot and prevented what appeared to be a certain goal, then in the 23rd minute when Eoin Lawors penalty send him diving the wrong way to he stuck out his left leg to save the goal bound shot. The Legion were just hanging on but Rathmore did not capitalise on their chances and three James o Donoghue frees and one from play and another minor from Connor Keane kept the winners within striking distance and as they retired to the dressing rooms at the short whistle Rathmore lead 1-5 to 0-6. 

The Legion upped their game considerably in the second half and their defence in particular got to grips with the rampant Rathmore forwards and in fact held them to just two points from play for the remainder of the hour, the outstanding Aidan o Mahoney at mid field getting the other point.

Then in the 48th minute as they Legion trailed 1-8 to 0-7, and a place in the final appearing more and more remote came the deciding score of the game, a goal for the winners, and what a superb score it was. First the brilliant James o Donoghue eluded his marker Paul Murphy for once and soloed through the heart of the Rathmore defence, passed to Billy Maguire who in turn found Connor Keane and he in the twinkle of an eye finished to the net low down to the corner giving goalkeeper Padraig McCarthy no chance. It was a cool calculated finish from the twenty one year old proving what a deadly finisher he is and in fact it was he more than anyone else in my opinion who literally dragged The Legion back into contention with his constant running at the heart of the losers defence, drawing fouls and causing constant problems.

This was the score which ignited the winners, Jameso equalised, wing back the excellent Darragh Doherty made a great interception and set up Jonathan Lyne for a massive long range point and the Legion were ahead for the first time in the contest. It was a lead they would never relinquish and every player grew in stature. Captain Shaun Keane and in particular Jamie o Sullivan at mid field were superb, corner back Podge o Connor got better and better, the towering figure of Aussie rules player Padraig Lucy (6ft 7in) in his stocking feet came on and caught a few great ball at a vital time, the townies brought all their players behind the ball as the end neared and they were never going to concede a goal despite intense Rathmore pressure. It finished 1-12 to 1-9 and a gap of 69 years since their last appearance in a county final, which they won had been bridged.

This tight knit bunch of Legion players richly deserve their victory, with their exemplary management team of Peter Keane Chris Flannery and Diarmuid Leen I have watched them closely over the last two years make all the necessary sacrifices needed to progress in to days world of Gaelic football. Reaching a county final for a club is a massive achievement and gives everyone the lift so necessary to progress, improve and elevate the club to greater things. The final against either Kenmare District or South Kerry will be another long awaited day for followers of the green and white, but that is all for another day.

While 1946 was the one and only time the Legion won the county championship defeating John Mitchels in the final the previous year they had been defeated in the decider following a re-play by a Shannon Rangers side powered by such great players as Mick Finnucan, the Dowling brothers Denis and Eddie, the legendary Johnny Walsh, Kevin Wiston and Sean Boland. Those Legion sides were backboned by the four Lyne brothers from Cleeney just outside Killarney Jackie, Denny, Mickey and Teddy. Jonathan Lyne of to- days side is a direct link to that blood line as is young Donal Lyne who came on as a sub last Sunday. "The apple never falls far from the tree". 


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