Limerick side score the game’s last three points but come up short against Kerry champions
Kerins O’Rahillys (Kerry) 2-6 Newcastle West (Limerick) 1-8
It is a trend that is not good for the nerves but one that Kerins O’Rahillys would happily take again going into next month’s All-Ireland club SFC semi-final against what will be a highly-fancied Kilmacud Crokes team.
See, for the third game in a row the Tralee club eked out a one-point win; this latest one earning them the right to call themselves the freshly-minted Munster club champions for the first time in their history.
Against Templenoe, in the Kerry final, and latterly against Eire Og from Ennis, O’Rahillys had the bare minimum to spare in the end, and this hard-earned, heart-in-the-mouth one-point win over Newcastle West sees the Tralee club join just seven other Kerry sides to win the Munster title.
All in all a good afternoon’s work, in which second half goals from former Kerry footballers Tommy Walsh and Barry John Keane cast the decisive dye at an always cold, sometimes fiery, Mallow Complex on Saturday.
It might not be remembered as one of the classic Munster Club finals but it certainly produced a thrilling finish that had O’Rahillys hanging on against a late surge from the Limerick champions. O’Rahillys managed just one point in the final 25 minutes of a contest that saw Newcastle West kick the last three points of the game, but they came up just short, and were left to rue too many good scoring chances wasted earlier in the day.
A dull and, at times, spiky first half – after which Newcastle West led 0-4 to 0-3 at the interval – evolved, almost in spite of itself, into a thoroughly engaging second half, with O’Rahillys flipping that one-point deficit into a one-point victory thanks, in the main, to those two goals.
Jack Savage – who was sent off for a second yellow card in the 59th minute – had converted a free after just 20 seconds to put O’Rahillys in front, but Newcastle West played more of the front-foot football in the first period, and deserved to be ahead at the interval, having held their opponents scoreless from play.
Points from play from Iain Corbett and Shane Stack, and a brace of converted frees from Eoin Hurley had the Limerick men shading it at the break, but their wide count was double that of O’Rahillys.
Walsh’s goal arrived in the 34th minute – after an early point from sub Ben Hanafin – via a route one ball in from Savage, with Walsh, the former Aussie Rules man, pulling down the ball, swivelling and crashing his shot past Michael Quilligan.
O’Rahillys defender Cormac Coffey extended his team’s lead to four points with an excellent point, but two minutes later Newcastle West full forward Mike McMahon had the ball in the net after the Limerick club’s best player, Cian Sheehan, saw his effort for a point come back off the post.
Less than a minute later the ball was up the other end, Walsh gathering David Moran’s long ball in, before passing across for Keane to drive in a goal to put the Kerry club four clear again.
O’Rahillys managed just more point in the remaining 25 minutes, from Tom Hoare in the 46th minute, but it was enough, despite Newcastle West’s best efforts to reel them in.
A first Munster Club title it is, then, for O’Rahillys, who now have that All-Ireland semi-final against Kilmacud Crokes to focus minds over the Christmas.
The early suspicion is that the Dublin and Leinster champions will be too good for the Tralee men, but Moran, Walsh, Keane and Savage – all All-Ireland medal winners with Kerry – will have plenty to say to dispute that theory. Another one-point win would be more than welcome on Strand Road.
Kerins O’Rahillys: Shane Foley; Darragh McElligott, Ross O’Callaghan, Cormac Coffey (0-1); Con Barrett, Karl Mullins, Padraig Neenan; David Moran, Tom Hoare (0-1); Gearoid Savage, Jack Savage (0-2, two frees), Gavin O’Brien; Barry John Keane (1-0), Tommy Walsh (1-1, one mark), Conor Hayes. Subs: Ben Hanafin (0-1) for G Savage (ht), Ryan Carroll for Barrett (38 mins), Diarmuid O’Sullivan for C Hayes (58 mins).
Newcastle West: Michael Quilligan; Michael O’Keeffe, Darren O’Doherty, Brian O’Sullivan; Ruadhan O’Connor, James Kelly, Iain Corbett (0-1); Emmet Rigter, Sean Murphy; Cian Sheehan, Shane Stack (0-1), Diarmaid Kelly; Seamus Hurley, Mike McMahon (1-0), Eoin Hurley (0-5, five frees). Subs: Todd O’Donovan for S Hurley (40 mins), Aaron Neville (0-1) for J Kelly (45 mins), Bryan Nix for S Murphy (51 mins), Thomas Quilligan for D Kelly (56 mins).
Referee: Sean Lonergan (Tipperary).