LOCC Solicitors Intermediate Football Championship

Last season’s Junior Football Champions Con Magees Glenravel face either Davitt’s or Sarsfields in the quarter final of the LOCC Solicitors Intermediate Football Championship, the two West Belfast sides one of the three preliminary ties drawn out of the hat. South West rivals Tir na nOg and Rasharkin meet in the first of them, while in the second one Dunloy and Moneyglass looks like the tie of the round. The winners of those two games meet each other in the quarter finals while All Saints take on Aldergrove and St Paul’s take on Glenavy.

Preliminary Round

Rasharkin vs Tir na nÓg                  Prelim 1

Moneyglass vs Dunloy                   Prelim 2

Davitt’s vs Sarsfields                       Prelim 3

Quarter Finals

Prelim 3 Winners vs Glenravel                    QF1

Aldergrove vs All Saints                                 QF2

St Pauls vs Glenavy                                         QF3

Prelim 2 Winners vs Prelim 1 Winners     QF4

Classy Kilcummin dash Naomh Éanna’s dreams

AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship Final

Naomh Éanna 2-9 Kilcummin 5-13

Saturday February 9th @ Croke Park, Dublin

Brendan McTaggart reports from Croke Park, Dublin

Naomh Éanna’s incredible championship dream came to an end under the floodlights of Croke Park on Saturday evening.  Kilcummin proved a step too far for the Hightown Road men with the Kerry side running out convincing 13 point winners in an entertaining game at headquarters.

The Antrim and Ulster champions got off to the worse start possible and after just seven minutes trailed by nine points.  Kilcummin came out of the blocks on fire and in Kevin McCarthy they had a game changer.  Playing on the inside forward line for the majority of the game, McCarthy finished the final with an incredible 3-7 from play in a performance fitting for the occasion. 

Naomh Éanna found their form eventually in the first half and when Ruairi Scott slotted home their second major of the match in the 21st minute, they had reduced the Kilcummin lead to just two points and playing the brilliant football that had seen them reach Saturday’s final.  But when the ball doesn’t roll for you, there isn’t much can be done.  The cheers of the large Naomh Éanna support were still ringing through Croke Park when Kilcummin fired another knock-out blow.  Noel Duggan was through on goal when he was fouled.  Penalty.  In the build up Conor McAuley was injured and had to be stretchered off while ‘keeper Paddy Flood was off with a black card.

Naomh Éanna would have been forgiven for thinking that it never rains but it pours.  With no recognised ‘keeper on the bench, Ulster semi-final hero Michael Morgan took the gloves but his first act of the game was to pick the ball out of the net with Kieran Murphy’s spot kick giving Kilcummin control of the final once again.

The Kerry men were in truth, a superior side to Naomh Éanna throughout.  McCarthy was the main man but Matt Keane and Noel Duggan played the supporting roll superbly.  Midfielder Keiran Murphy was a major contender for man of the match and while Naomh Éanna played well in the second half, they found Kilcummin ‘keeper Brendan Kealy impossible to beat.  The former Kerry shot stopper stopped the Glengormley side on three occasions after the break in an outstanding performance of shot stopping and a near flawless display from kick outs.

The Naomh Éanna defence couldn’t deal with the free-flowing attacking football from Kilcummin.  Their run to the final was built on a tenacious defence but on Saturday night they were pulled asunder by the side from the Kingdom.  Kristian and Peter Healy showed glimpses while Eoin Nagle’s performance was a highlight throughout the hour, adding to his growing reputation within the county.  Conan Lyttle with another all action display from half back but Naomh Éanna were second best for too long throughout the 60 minutes.

The first goal of the final came with just 90 seconds played.  Kilcummin had already a point on the scoreboard when Matt Keane found the back of the net.  McCarthy cutting through the heart of the Naomh Éanna defence and while Flood did well to deny his initial shot, Keane reacted quickest to pounce on the rebound.

Naomh Éanna responded instantly when Kristian Healy showed the Kilcummin defence a clean pair of heels.  Passing square he found Ethan Gibson in space but the Naomh Éanna man palmed his effort off the crossbar.

The second major came in the seventh minute, McCarthy this time the beneficiary and Shane McSweeney with the assist.  McSweeney unselfishly passing to McCarthy when he was through on goal himself.

It was the nightmare scenario for Naomh Éanna but they began to play their way into the final with Odhran Eastwood influential.  The Naomh Éanna man landed a brace of points before Nagle scored their first goal in the 15th minute.  Lyttle playing the cross field ball into Nagle and while he rounded his man, Nagle was still 25 plus yards from goal.  It didn’t deter the Naomh Éanna forward as he unleashed an unstoppable shot to the back of the net. 

Eastwood reduced the lead to three points with a free in the 18th minute and while McCarthy and Murphy split the posts for Kilcummin, Naomh Éanna were celebrating their second goal moments later.  Kristian Healy with another trademark run finding Ruairi Scott in space.  Scott got his shot away and although partially blocked from Kealy, full back Donal Maher couldn’t scramble the ball away on time. 

After the start from hell, Naomh Éanna were right back in the game with nine minutes of the first half to play only for disaster to strike almost immediately.  Seán O’Leary cutting through the Naomh Éanna defence with searing pace, off loading to Duggan but Flood dragged the Kilcummin man down.  Black card and a delay on the spot kick with Conor McAuley receiving medical attention.  Eight minutes later and with Morgan between the sticks, Murphy sent the Naomh Éanna man the wrong way to re-establish the five point Kilcummin lead.

Eastwood (free) and McCarthy swapped scores in the time that remained but Kilcummin controlled the closing stages of the opening half, retaining possession and frustrating Naomh Éanna to run down the clock.

Naomh Éanna needed a fast start to the second half to try and eat into the five point deficit.  What they got was more brilliance from McCarthy and Kilcummin and frsutartion at the hands of the Kerry sides keeper.  Kilcummin knocked over four points in the opening ten minutes of the second half while Kealy denied Kristian Healy.  Naomh Éanna weren’t firing in the opening exchanges after the break with three shots sailing off target, two dropping short and a missed goal opportunity in the same time the Kerry men raised four white flags.  Small margins.

The Hightown Road side managed to reduce the lead to six points with eight minutes remaining, Scott with two sublime scores with the outside of his boot and Eastwood (free) finding the target while Kealy denied Kristian Healy with another superb save as Naomh Éanna threatened to spoil the Kerry sides day but any hopes of a dramatic comeback were put to bed with Kilcummin’s fourth goal.  McCarthy with his second of the match to open a nine point lead with seven minutes remaining, McSweeney once again involved in the build up with Chris O’Leary.

Naomh Éanna continued to push and look for the goals that would bring them into the final once more and to their eternal credit they continued to play the attractive football that had got them so far but Kilcummin were relentless.  They continued to press all over the pitch and never let Naomh Éanna settle.  Substitute John McCarthy and Eastwood’s fourth free of the hour and seventh white flag of the match came either side of another Naomh  Éanna goal chance.  Nagle with the goal at his mercy before Daniel Moynihan produced a block similar to Conor Gormley’s of Tyrone in the 2005 All-Ireland final at the same end.

Eastwood’s 59th minute point proved to be Naomh Éanna’s last of the match though as Kilcummin and McCarthy finished in style.  Collecting a superb cross field pass, McCarthy showed composure to round and evade the challenge of Morgan despite being pushed wide and blasting to the back of the net in the third minute of injury time.

Substitute Ian Devane added gloss to the score line becoming the seventh different scorer for the Kerry men as they recorded a 13 point victory. 

Not the ending Naomh Éanna had hoped for but their journey to Croke Park has inspired.  The reception given to them at the final whistle will live long in my memory as they stood beaten on the Croke Park surface, the travelling thousands from Glengormely saluted their heroes.  Memories to cherish if not the result.  Onwards to 2019.

TEAMS

Naomh Éanna: Paddy Flood; Killian Jennings, Damien Gault, Mick McNamee; Conan Lyttle, James McAuley, Conor McAuley; Philly Curran, Joe Maskey; Peter Healy, Ruairí Scott (1-2), Kristian Healy; Ethan Gibson, Odhran Eastwood (0-7, 4 f’s), Eoin Nagle (1-00).

Subs: Ciarán O’Neill for P Curran (20); Michael Morgan for P Flood (black card 23); Ciarán Thompson for C McAuley (23); Cormac Eastwood for D Gault (43); Niall McKeown for E Gibson (53); Ryan Kennedy for R Scott (57); Donal Walsh for K Healy (60)

Kilcummin: Brendan Kealy; Seán O’Leary, Donal Maher, Daniel Moynihan; Philip Casey, Chris O’Leary, William Maher; Kieran Murphy (1-1, 1-00 pen), Kevin Gorman; Shane McSweeney, Gary O’Leary (0-2), Pádraig Nagle; Noel Duggan (0-1, 1f), Kevin McCarthy (3-7), Matt Keane (1-00).

Subs: John McCarthy (0-1) for P Nagle (44); Daniel O’Leary for W Maher (44); Ian Devane (0-1) for N Duggan (54); Damien O’Leary for G O’Leary (55); Kelvin Teahan for K Murphy (57); Mikey O’Shea for M Keane (60).

Referee: James Molloy (Galway)

Healy wants to seize the moment

AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Football Final

Saturday February 9th @ Croke Park

Throw In: 4:45pm

By Brendan McTaggart

Naomh Éanna have drawn acclaim from all corners of the county and beyond for their attacking play.  One man in particular who has been the curse of the defences in Antrim and Ulster.  Kristian Healy.  Naomh Éanna’s own sprint king.  The technique and guile to turn his man in a phone box while boasting the pace of a sprint athlete, Healy has played a major role in the Glengormley sides journey to Croke Park.

Healy gave us an insight into their mindset coming into the Antrim championship and how their first round win over St Paul’s was more significant than first meets the eye: “In Antrim the Moneyglass game was huge.  St Paul’s was a massive game to start with, they were a senior club who played Division One and Senior championship. 

“They were a senior club dropping down to Intermediate and that in itself was a massive challenge.  Granted they didn’t have the best of leagues but they have that pedigree.”

Healy continued: “Two years ago we had a great win against Moneyglass to get our of Division Two but they maybe thought to themselves that they were on a similar level to us and could maybe match us but we showed that day that we had kicked on a bit more than they had in the last year.

“For me the most satisfying win we had all year was the Doohamlet game.  When you come out of your county and into Ulster, you’re in completely unknown territory and Antrim teams have been historically written off. 

Kristian Healey thinks the win over Doohamlet was his favourite victory.

“I think we were 3/1 outsiders for that game and we ended up winning by seven points.  That was probably the sweetest victory of the lot as it showed we could compete with the lot and we took confidence from that.

“Antrim whether it be club or county sides are always completely written off but I think we’ve shown this year it’s about getting the right boys out on the pitch.”

The progress with each game has been incredible for Naomh Éanna.  With each game and win has come more belief and confidence.  That continual improvement has shown no sign of stopping.  Healy told us: “It’s a young team and new territory but with every game that goes by you’re getting more confidence and experience.  You’re learning a bit more and in Ulster you’re coming up against a different brand of football.  You continue to learn.

“The semi-final (against Tattyreagh) was probably one of our worse performances but the determination we showed in the last six or seven minutes and you’ve guys like Michael Morgan coming off the bench to kick two points and if he doesn’t do that then we’re not standing here.

“We’re going into matches now and we have complete confidence in each other.  I know that if we play 100% of our game then we’ll win, I don’t care who’s in front of us.  I had that confidence for the Doohamlet game and we’ve had that the whole way through.  We’re the only ones who can best ourselves.

“If we have our A game on any day, we beat anyone.”

Healy’s performances, especially in the Ulster championship have been electric.  The 24 year stock broker gave his own assessment of his championship: “My games based on getting the ball and running.  Naturally your going to open up space and get beyond people but I think I’ve probably improved as the season has progressed.

“At the end of the year I had an injury with Antrim and missed the whole summer.  It was a slow process and I was feeling my way into the Antrim championship but with each game I’ve got my sharpness back and fitness and confidence.

“I like to think I had a good game in the Ulster final and a decent performance against An Spidéal.  Hopefully I can bring that again for an All-Ireland final.”

Naomh Éanna had been knocking on the door in the Antrim championship for a number of years but the introduction of Frank Fitzsimons, Pat Hughes and Thomas McNulty for the 2018 season took them over the line.  Healy paid tribute to his manager when he added: “He’s got the best out of everyone.  We’ve got three lads with the county panel, four if you count Eoin Nagle as well and we probably could have more there. 

“A manager expects county players to turn up week in week out but what a club manager has to do is get the best out of everyone else and that what the best club sides do.

“There’s club sides out there who have six or seven county players but the rest maybe aren’t up to scratch.  Frank has given confidence to everyone else to go out there and play their game.  I think the difference is Frank has got the best out of everyone and not just four or five of the better players and that’s not just the starting 15.  There’s lads coming off the bench putting in performances and meeting the standard of the boy who he replaced. 

“The whole team is high on confidence and a lot of that comes from Frank and Pat (Hughes) and Thomas (McNulty).

“You go through runs and people pick up niggles but we’ve got our spine and a style of play.  Good teams should be able to set up that if one guy goes out another one comes in and it doesn’t effect the style of play at all.  That’s what we’ve got this year and that’s a testament to Frank, Pat and Thomas (McNulty), they’ve got the best out of everyone.”

With the prospect of winning an All-Ireland comes the dream of playing in Croke Park.  All thought of Kilcummin were put to one side as Healy paid tribute the bond they have developed within the Naomh Éanna squad: “To play in Croke Park for anything is a dream come true but anyone who has played in it for their club and their county have said playing there for your club is the best experience. 

“A lot of the younger lads have had a good bit of success at underage and that’s continuing up through.  In the Ulster final and An Spidéal match I was the third oldest in the starting 15 and I’m only 24.  I think that shows how young the team is but all those lads have come through and are only two or three years apart.  I’ve been kind of piggy backing off the back of that for the last few years but the run we’ve been on this year and promotion last year has bonded the squad incredibly and for the chance to play in Croke Park with these lads, your best mates and win hopefully as well, it’s once in a lifetime opportunity.  Hopefully it isn’t but it could be so you’ve got to go out there and seize the moment.”

Captain McAuley focused on the job ahead

AIB All Ireland Intermediate Club Football Championship final

By Brendan McTaggart

Collecting Antrim and Ulster championships, James McAuley now leads his team out onto Croke Park.  A dream come true for any player but for the Queen’s student, he’s taking it all in his stride: “It is unchartered territory for the club, but I don’t think we are out of our depth either.

“We are a good enough team to compete at any level. People are coming to training and everyone is buzzing and we are ready to go. Hopefully, on Saturday, we’ll be ready to let loose in Croke Park.

“We are enjoying the build-up as much as possible, but we are trying not to get too carried away at the same time.”

The atmosphere within the Naomh Éanna camp is incredibly relaxed, like it has been all season.  They are the epitome of the saying ‘one game at a time.’  In an interview after the Antrim final, Naomh Éanna manager Frank Fitzsimons told us he was promised an All-Ireland by his captain but McAuley said they’ve just been enjoying the journey: “Ah no, at the start of the year, we were just taking it step-by-step. We were looking to stay in Division One then build for the Antrim. Things went well and we moved on to Ulster and then into the All-Ireland. We are just enjoying it at the minute, the build-up has been unreal.”  The Naomh Éanna captain continued: “Everyone is enjoying their football and the games can’t come quick enough. We are playing good football and we are enjoying our football. All the hard work has been done over the winter.

Brendan McTaggart interviews James McAuley at Friday evening’s press conference at Jordanstown. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

“It was great to score three goals, but we weren’t completely happy with our first half performance. We conceded three points on the bounce going into half-time and we conceded seven frees out of a total of 11 points so we still have plenty to work on.”

The game plan Naomh Éanna have adopted during their campaign has been electrifying.  A resolute defence with tenacious tackling yet an attack with blistering pace.  McAuley agreed:“Any time I have been speaking to Frank (Fitzsimons) about it, he has been saying that, on paper at least, Croke Park would be built for our team because it is wide open and it will allow us to kick the ball.

“If it doesn’t come down to that, we are able to run the ball as good as any team in the country, I think. Hopefully we can show that on Saturday because we probably haven’t had that eight or nine out of 10 performance yet. We are hoping it comes next week.”

Kilcummin will obviously provide a stern test for the Hightown Road side but the Naomh Éanna defender is relishing and looking forward to the task:I was thinking about it after the Spideal game. It is kind of like your childhood dream – to be playing a Kerry team at Croke Park in an All-Ireland final.

“It will be an unreal experience and it would be great to bring the All-Ireland back up the road to Hightown.”

James McAuley in action in the Ulster quarter final win over Doohalet

It’s easy to see why McAuley is the Naomh Éanna captain.  He’s a leader.  Nothing fazes him and he doesn’t get carried away.  Saturday will be the biggest game in his career and if all goes to plan he’ll join the short list of Antrim gaels who have led their victorious side up the steps of the Hogan Stand.  With that prospect in mind, McAuley added: “How we’ve dealt with things all year has just been game-by-game, competition-by-competition.

“We’ll enjoy the build-up, but there’s a game to be played at the end of the day and we’ve a job to do.

“We’ll try and keep it as professional as possible and keep our head’s focused on the game and not get too carried away.

“We’ve learned with every game and our performance level has probably raised with every game, especially through the Ulster campaign. We beat Doohamlet, Tattyreagh then Mullahoran. Looking back, you’d probably say Spideal was our best performance. For a young team, we are learning with every game and we are learning from our mistakes. Hopefully, we’ll continue that progression.

Kilcummin will provide another stiff test for St. Enda’s

St. Enda’s opponents at Croke Park on Saturday are Kilcummin of Kerry. The Kerry champions have impressed on their way to Croke Park and Kerry clubs have fared well in this competition in the past so they will start Saturday’s final against St. Enda’s as favourites. Nothing new there then. St. Enda’s have been cast in the underdog’s role throughout their Ulster campaign and again in the All Ireland semi-final against An Spideal so Frank Fitzsimmons and his team are unlikely to be too worried by the underdog’s tag.

A recent post on the club website read “ Kilcummin GAA club would like to thank all those who have contributed in any way, be it financial or moral support, to the senior team and management in its preparation for the All-Ireland Intermediate Final next Saturday. That support is greatly appreciated and will be acknowledged but for now we would like to wish all our supporters a safe journey to and from Dublin and to those who travelled from abroad as far away as Australia and USA. This is a truly historic occasion and the messages of goodwill from neighbouring parishes and clubs has been overwhelming, so let’s make it a day to be proud of and one that we will always remember. Our young members have recorded a special song for the day, compiled by Martina O’Sullivan. Learn the words and let’s raise the roof in CROKER.

St. Enda’s have a team who are quite capable of putting an end to those celebrations before they have started and a support I expect to be singing their own songs as the full-time whistle sounds at Croke Park on Saturday but for now let’s take a look at the men from Kerry.

Munster Intermediate Quarter-Final  (Courtesy of Kilcummin web. Site)

Kilrush Shamrocks 0-7 Kilcummin 0-10

Kilcummin travelled to Kilrush with a little trepidation, expecting a hard battle but confident they would be up for the challenge. As it transpired their expectations were realised in the presence of a huge support who contributed greatly to the occasion with their burst of colour and encouragement.

Kilrush had many fine players on their team and played some really good football at times. Indeed playing with the wind they caused some concern early on but some good defending allied to a fine save from Brendan Kealy saw Kilcummin match them score for score. The Kerry side trailed at half time by a single point 0-5 to 0-4 with Noel Duggan, twice from frees Shane McSweeney and Gary O’Leary their scorers. That first half saw Daniel O’Leary and Matt Keane being introduced in place of Sean Brosnan and Kevin Gorman (Black Card).

The second-half started with Kilrush scoring first and leaving two points between the sides after five minutes but they were not to score again until well into injury time. This was due to a controlled performance and some good defending throughout. However scores were difficult to come by owing to a strong defence and difficult crosswind. Matt Keane brought the side’s  level after 10 minutes after Gary O’Leary had kicked a fine point to reduce the deficit to a single point three minutes earlier.

Chris O’Leary put Kilcummin in front for the first time in the 50th minute after they had wasted a number of chances and they kicked on after that with two great frees from Philip Casey. Despite being in complete control it was only when Noel Duggan kicked a fine score from a difficult angle that the Kerry men could celebrate and look forward to the next round of the competition against Waterford opposition. Kieran Murphy returned  from injury replacing John McCarthy after 45 minutes. Damien O’Leary and James Nagle were also introduced late on for Ian Devane and Sean O’Leary.

Team: Brendan Kealy, Sean Brosnan, Donal Maher, Daniel Moynihan, William Maher, Philip Casey, Sean O’Leary, Kevin Gorman, Chris O’Leary, Shane McSweeney. Gary O’Leary, Padraig Nagle, Ian Devane, John McCarthy, Noel Duggan.

Munster Club Intermediate Championship Semi-Final

Kilcummin 2-17 Kilmacthomas 0-1

A comprehensive victory against the Waterford champions in very difficult conditions saw Kilcummin now looking forward to the Munster final. The winners played against the breeze and picked off points on a steady basis, with Noel Duggan (0-2), Gary O Leary (0-2), Philip Casey, Shane McSweeney and Chris O’Leary accounting for those scores. When Noel Duggan finished off a great move to the net any chance of a rally by Kilmacthomas was ended.

The second-half saw much of the same as Kilcummin dominated possession and it became a damage limitation exercise for the outclassed losers. Ian Devane opened the scoring and Noel Duggan quickly followed up but it was another 10 minutes before Kelvin Teahan got the next score. Scoring opportunities were wasted as Kilcummin ran out convincing winners. Noel Duggan and Gary O’Leary added further scores before Mikey O’Shea found the net after a quick slick passing move.

The remaining scores were an O’Leary affair with Gary, Chris and Sean all scoring late points.

Team: Brendan Kealy, Shane McSweeney, Donal Maher, Daniel Moynihan, Sean O’Leary, Philip Casey, William Maher, Kevin Gorman, Chris O’Leary, Gary O’Leary, Matt Keane, Padraig Nagle, Ian Devane, Damien O’Leary, Noel Duggan Subs: Kelvin Teahan (black card) Kieran Murphy, Daniel O’Leary, Sean Brosnan, Mikey O’Shea and James Nagle.

Munster Final

Sunday 25th November

Kilcummin 1-11

Fermoy 1-3

Kilcummin collected their first Munster championship title by defeating Fermoy in Mallow. Noel Duggan opened the scoring with a free but minutes later Fermoy were awarded a penalty from which they scored to go ahead. After a number of missed chances by both sides Fermoy were awarded a second penalty and it wasn’t looking that good for the Kerry champions at this stage. This time Brendan Kealy shepherded the poorly struck effort wide of his right-hand post. A let off for the Kerry side and Noel Duggan responded with a fine point and when Matt Keane tapped over a beauty a minute later they were back on level terms 0-3 to 1-0.

Trailing by a point nearing the end of the half, Sean O’Leary had a goal chance cleared and then Gary O’Leary had a penalty claim waved aside. Kilcummin were unfazed however and added three points before the half time whistle. Firstly Noel Duggan levelled, Matt Keane added his second and then Kevin McCarthy shook off his marker to kick a sublime point to leave the half time score 0-6 to 1-1 in favour of Kilcummin.

The second half got underway with Kelvin Teahan replacing the injured Padraig Nagle and within two minutes Matt Keane kicked his third point to extend Kilcummin’s lead to three. Five minutes later Sean O’Leary increased that lead to four before they lost Noel Duggan to injury. Ian Devane entered the fray as Fermoy convert another free and it was back to three again. Fermoy continue to probe but the Kilcummin defence repelled their best efforts with Brendan Kealy saving superbly while William Maher cleared the follow up off the line. Donal Maher was having a blinder while the cousins Philip Casey and Daniel Moynihan had their opponents under their control.

With ten minutes remaining Kieran Murphy stepped up with a massive point however back came Fermoy with another free to keep their fading hopes alive but when the ever-reliable Philip Casey came forward to kick one of his trademark points the Kerry side were really starting to believe. With three minutes left Gary O’Leary landed a great score following an interception in defence. O’Leary was shown a black card to be replaced for the final minutes by Damien O’Leary

Kilcummin finished strongly however as Daniel O’Leary gathered in defence and set a move in motion that involves six Kilcummin players and culminated with Ian Devane finishing to the net.

Brendan Kealy as player and captain showed once more his All-Star class and leadership qualities. Philip Casey, Donal Maher and Daniel Moynihan were superb and kept their direct opponents scoreless from play. William Maher showed all his astuteness and ability to read a game so well and his clearance off the line was crucial.

Sean O’Leary and Chris O’Leary played a massive role in this victory as they mastered their illustrious opponents over the hour. Kevin Gorman gave an inspirational performance throughout and executed a marvellous catch under the crossbar late in the game. Kieran Murphy was crucial to Kilcummin and his return to form after a long layoff from injury was welcomed. The half forward line of Shane McSweeney, Gary O’Leary and Padraig Nagle put in a great shift helping in defence throughout and getting forward to create scoring opportunities for the full forward line. The inside line of Matt Keane, Noel Duggan and Kevin McCarthy were superb and accounted for seven points between them

Team: Brendan Kealy, Philip Casey, Donal Maher, Daniel Moynihan, Sean O’Leary, Chris O’Leary, William Maher, Kieran Murphy, Kevin Gorman, Shane McSweeney, Gary O’Leary, Padraig Nagle, Matt Keane, Kevin McCarthy, Noel Duggan Subs Used: Kelvin Teahan, Ian Devane, Daniel O’Leary, Damien O’Leary, John McCarthy.

All Ireland Semi-Final

Kilcummin 0-11 Two Mile House (Kildare) 0-10

Kilcummin booked a place at Croke Park on February 9th to contest the All Ireland Intermediate club final after an extremely hard earned but deserved one-point victory over an excellent Two-Mile House on Sunday last in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds. Their opponents came with a good reputation having won the All-Ireland Junior Club Championship in 2014 and it showed in the first 10 minutes of this game.

They started confidently and were three points up after eight minutes. However, the opposition lost a key performer in Peter Kelly for a drag back on Kieran Murphy as he was encroaching on goal and this gave a considerable boost to the Kilcummin lads. Kevin Gorman became very influential in midfield and the team responded with some fine positive play resulting in two points from Matt Keane and Noel Duggan to level things up at 3 points each after 15 minutes. Noel Duggan kicked the next two scores but another free from Two Mile showed they had no intention of lying down.

Indeed, it was a very physically demanding encounter and with space at a premium and both defences on top, scores were very hard to come by. Gary O Leary’s second point in the 20th minute saw Kilcummin lead by 0-6 to 0-4 but they needed big interventions from Sean O’Leary and Donal Maher to keep the advantage. The last 10 minutes of the half saw the Kerry men create several chances and play some fast and precise football but they had only two further points from Matt Keane and Noel Duggan to show for them while Two Mile House landed two long range efforts to stay in touch.

Half time arrived with the scoreline 0-8 to 0-6 in the Munster sides favour but as the two teams left the field to great applause, we knew that the second half was going to be a titanic struggle. The Kilcummin defence was particularly outstanding in that first half and despite a nervy start they settled well and every man played a part in them being ahead, having played against the breeze.

As in the first-half Two Mile started the brighter and were level after 40 minutes. Kilcummin missed a good number of scoring opportunities before they were dealt a serious blow in the 42nd minute when Kevin Gorman received a second yellow and they were down to 14 men. This seemed to be a huge wake- up call and the team responded accordingly. Kieran Murphy took a grip at midfield and showed his intentions with a fine long-range point to give his team the lead again after 45 minutes and settle the nerves of the supporters.

Shane McSweeney made some fine interventions when needed and the Kerry champions  appeared to have weathered the crisis of being a man short. The game was intense now with both set of supporters driving on their team and not afraid to let the referee know what they thought of him. Kelvin Teahan replaced Padraig Nagle as Dan Moynihan came to his team’s rescue once more in defence.

Kilcummin rang the changes with Daniel O’Leary and John McCarthy being introduced and both were to make telling interventions in the latter stages with driving runs at their defence. Despite having the greater share of possession they found it hard to break down a determined Two Mile defence who themselves depended a lot on breaking from the back. Chris Healy was their constant target and it took some great defending at times from Chris O’Leary to keep him at bay.

Approaching full time Philip Casey landed a difficult free to see Kilcummin push ahead again but Two Mile were awarded a free in front of the posts which they scored to level affairs at 10 points apiece. The tension was unbelievable as extra time beckoned.

Kevin McCarthy entered the fray in extra-time, but it was the lion hearted, yet cool Philip Casey that landed the winning score as the 1000 or so Kilcummin faithful held their breath many not even able to watch. When the referee blew his whistle there were tears of joy amid the marvellous realisation that their team were going to Croke Park.

Team: Brendan Kealy, Sean O’Leary, Donal Maher, Dan Moynihan, Philip Casey, Chris O’Leary, William Maher, Kieran Murphy, Kevin Gorman, Shane McSweeney, Gary O’Leary, Padraig Nagle, Noel Duggan, Ian Devane, Matt Keane, Subs used: Kelvin Teahan, Daniel O’Leary, John McCarthy and Kevin McCarthy.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT KILCUMMIN?

Matt Keane and Gary O Leary have received All Star awards at the East Kerry GAA Banquet. In July Kieran Murphy captained the Kerry Juniors to All Ireland success with Gary O’Leary also collecting his winner’s medal. August saw Kilcummin promoted to Division 1 following an 11-game campaign finishing second to Austin Stacks.

Sean O’Leary and James Nagle won County championship U-21 medals with East Kerry while in September Paul O’Shea and Keith O’Leary won All-Ireland medals with the Kerry minors with O’Shea captaining the side.

Brendan Kealy in goals is a former Kerry All Star and the team has talented players throughout the side but they are unlikely to have faced a side as fit, fast or deadly than the present St. Enda’s team. The vast expanses of Croke Park will suit the Antrim and Ulster champions and I expect them to repeat the fete of Moy last year and collect a first All Ireland title at this level for an Antrim side.