Table topping Mid Kerry, on their home patch, were put to the pin of their collar when seeing out a 1-09 to 0-11 points win where our profligacy in front of goal was our ultimate undoing.
We started without David Moran and Tommy Walsh but made light of the handicap when taking the game to last year’s beaten finalists.
The return of Jack Savage was a big plus and he along with Tom Hoare and Diarmuid O’Sullivan in midfield ensured a steady flow of ball to our forward sextet but a succession of missed chances from play and frees saw us trail at the short whistle by 1-04 to 0-04 points.
The Mid Kerry goal arrived in the 20th minute when Gearóid Hassett found his club mate Daire Cleary with a fisted pass and he shot high to the roof of the net. We responded well with scores from the Savage brothers, Gazza and Jack ( a “45”) before Eanna O’Connor raised the white flag for the homesters with a pointed free in the 31st minute.
Shortly after the Mid Kerry goal it looked like we were about to raise a green flag of our own when Jack won a great ball inside and instead of taking a mark he placed the overlapping Ben Hanafin with a beautiful pass but keeper Seán Coffey pulled off a stunning save.
Our defence was heroic in this first period with Con commanding at centre back and the full back line of Jake, Shane & Ross conceding little; half backs Chucky and Ben defended stoutly, using the ball to good effect and setting up many attacks.
The second half saw the introduction of Tommy at full forward with Ben being replaced in what was a tactical switch.
Tommy went on to play a huge role in proceedings pointing twice and ensured we had a physical presence in the forwards.
Tom Hoare’s free was negated by an Eanna O’Connor “45” but Jack again showed his class and composure when shooting 3 of the next four points and we were level with a quarter of an hour left - Fiachra Clifford and 2 points from Eanna O’Connor saw Mid Kerry push for home but Tommy and Jack continued to defy the odds and their minors left just the one between the sides as the clock ticked into the red.
Eanna’s final point resulted from an advantage played to Gavan O’Grady but his rising shot was superbly saved by Shane Foley - the tap over point garnered thereafter was to eventually prove to be the winning margin.
The final minutes were frantic with Mid Kerry defending in numbers ensuring there was no way through and a final attempt from Tom drifted wide of the posts.
The final whistle saw Mid Kerry progress as group winners and us exit the championship following the victory of Spa over Shannon Rangers.
The aftermath was one of huge disappointment given the display - we carried the game to our opponents, were defiant all through but the non conversion of chances ( we had 14 wides) proved our undoing.
We await the relegation decider now with Na Gaeil who, despite a defeat to Dingle, progress to the county championship quarter finals and hope that the injuries and niggles which deprived us of David and Darragh (McElligott) clear up ahead of this fixture.
Tonight was real championship football and we wish Mid Kerry the best for the future - we have much to be proud of, our honesty and integrity of effort evident in all of our 3 group games where a modicum of luck could very well have seen us progress to the quarter finals.
Shane Foley; Jake Foley, Shane Brosnan, Ross O’Callaghan; Ryan Carroll, Con Barrett, Ben Hanafin; Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Tom Hoare 0-1f; Gearoid Savage 0-1, Barry John Keane, Shane McElligott; Darragh O’Connor, Jack Savage 0-7 (4f, 1m, 1’45’), Conor Hayes.
Subs: Tommy Walsh 0-2 (1m) for Ben Hannifan (ht), Conor O’Sullivan for D O’Connor, 50, Paudy Griffin for G Savage, 50, Daniel Bowler for C Hayes, 55, Donagh Buckley for S Brosnan, 60