South Kerry prevail in an exhilarating County Final replay

November 24th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

Last week  previewing the game I reluctantly let my head rule my heart and opted for a South Kerry win over my own club in the re-played county championship final in Fitzgerald Stadium last Sunday and being brutally honest and wearing my heart on my selve its cold comfort indeed and a bitter pill to swallow to be proved correct in that prediction. Indeed I will go as far as to say having been deeply involved in all aspects of The Legion for over fifty years I would gladly give up my own four county championship medals won back in the sixties with East Kerry for just that one win for the club. Pride of club to me is everything, part and parcel of our family and our lives. However the dream is shattered for at least another year and from my own perspective if you are to lose to anyone it is South Kerry you would choose.

Football of the purest kind is the life blood of people down South and one need only look at the magnificent players that have come out of the region down through the decades to realise that it really takes something special to defeat them. They are passionate about their games and it's always a very special experience as an outsider to attend their district championships which are fought out at a frightening level of intensity, but mighty stuff nevertheless.   So well done to the victors and their exemplary mentors John Sugrue and William Harmon. They came from nowhere this year and were even written off at the start of the championship by "the experts".

It must not have been easy for them in their preparations as St Marys were also battling for the Intermediate title both in Kerry and Munster.  However in retrospect this has proved a blessing in disguise and by virtue of the fact that all of South Kerry's scores last Sunday, but one point, (from Killian Young) came from the Caherceiveen town contingent shows in no uncertain terms that both managers, John Sugrue South Kerry and Maurice Fitzgerald, St Marys, had their players well looked after, rested, fit, fresh and mad for road.

We have seen two epic battles plus extra time and while the pain of loss will linger throughout the winter for the Killarney boys they too must take great pride and satisfaction having been part of such an exhilarating contest and in my opinion when push came to shove and the title hung in the balance it was experience against youth and experience won out. It nearly always does. Peter Keane, Chris Flannery and Diarmuid Leen have achieved amazing things with the lads in two short years and the players in response have given everything asked of them.  From a Legion perspective and strictly from where I stand this is a work in progress and better more successful day can only be around the proverbial corner for the club.

All the analysis and after match debate was mostly centred around The Legions seven point lead in that second half and how it was lost, with 25min left, the winning line was in sight, but then everything began to unravel for them. The massive weight of history, 69 years without a title win and the magnificent display of Brian Sheehan in particular, Killian Young and that great warrior Declan o Sullivan conspired to whittle down the lead as the attendance watched in admiration as the drama unfolded.
For me the turning point came when some Legion players while in possession of the ball began to take all the wrong options and Brian Sheehan's brilliant goal and just before that a point came from poor play from Legion players. You simply cannot be making such mistakes at such a high level.  The goal was simply brilliant in its execution. The typical Sheehan solo through the heart of the Legion defence, two perfect dummies sold on the verge of the square and a low perfectly placed shot to the far corner of the net. It all appeared to be happening in slow motion and South Kerry was back in the game. They needed a goal, nothing less at that stage would have sufficed. This was where the game was won and lost.

It was heart stopping stuff from here on, Killian Young's point to tie the game from far out on the wing was a superb effort, and this followed Daniels Daly's point. Into extra time, Legion kicked three wide's, two from placed balls, Podge o Connor who had a superb game punched over the bar to edge the town side ahead but it was not to be as Daly once again tied the game from a free and then the losers came forward looking for that vital lead point. Then it happened, again, Legion gave away possession, South Kerry whose subs contributed greatly to their win broke up field, Aidan Walsh literally left men trailing in his wake as he sprinted half the length of the field to punch over the winning score, no tired legs here from a man who had seen action with St Marys and South Kerry over the last five weeks. 

Peter Keane seemed have his tactics spot on in that opening half as James O Donoghue as always now doubly marked kept well out to the wings thus opening up plenty of space, Connor Keane set up Jamie o Sullivan with a superb pass for The Legion goal while, Darragh Doherty, Billy Maguire Jonathan Lyne and in particular Podge o Connor exploited this space which saw them lead at the short whistle, 1-7 to 0-6.

Then we witnessed that dramatic second half and extra time, Declan o Sullivan was involved in everything, leading by experience, South Kerry threw caution to the wind, The Legion went eighteen minutes without a score, the winners just kept grinding away, no panic, experienced, that word again. Peter Keans men are young, they say (whoever they are) you must lose one to win one, small consolation I admit, but the club side must simply go away and learn from what has been a wonderful county championship voyage.

The burden of history can weigh heavily on young men's shoulders, lessons will be learned but at the end of the day despite my own personal disappointment my abiding memory will be of one man who throughout the draw, and re-play literally stood head and shoulders above one an all. Brian Sheehan is a magnificent player, possessing every single skill of the game. He literally dragged South Kerry to victory and while his team mates responded in style it was he who graced The Stadium from start to finish.  And in conclusion both side must be complimented on their exemplary sportsmanship last Sunday, it only added to the drama of a great occasion.

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