This Round 7 game was played at a sunny Gallarus this afternoon. It was a crucial game, with both sides sitting on eight points, just one point behind table toppers Rathmore who had drawn with Legion on Friday evening. However, with four other clubs also sitting on eight points, a victory would not only see the winners leapfrog Rathmore into top spot, but also give them serious momentum for the remaining four league games.
An Ghaeltacht had led the league table from the start, reeling off four consecutive victories, but came unstuck in their previous two games and were surely anxious to get back to winning ways. On a firm sod and with the advantage of a consistently stiff breeze for the first half at the glorious seaside venue, the West Kerry men would have been expected to grab the initiative, but it was O’Rahillys who started the better with Barry John Keane converting a 13-metre free in the first minute. By the 10th minute, the visitors had added another four points without reply courtesy of another pointed free from Keane and three more from play from the boot of young Conor Hayes, who was proving a real thorn in the homesters’ side. His first came after he was picked out by Keane, his second after good work from Shane Brosnan and Gearóid Dillane and his third when Keane again found him from a short placed ball. An Ghaeltacht finally broke their duck in the 12th minute with a lovely pointed free from all of 48 metres, but Strand Road countered immediately when centre back, Karl Mullins drove at the heart of An Gaeltacht’s defence and offloaded to Darragh McElligott who fisted across to Hayes and he finished to the net from point blank range to make it 1-5 to 0-1 in O’Rahillys’ favour. The sides then exchanged points, the Westerners with their first from play from 45 metres, but with Ryan Carroll in fine fettle on his return to the side, Con Barrett prominent and Sean Walsh fetching very well from Strand Road’s kickouts, they forced the concession of another free after a foul on Hayes and Keane slotted over. An Ghaeltacht were finding their feet though and they narrowed the gap to five points by the 24th minute with two superb pointed frees from 45 metres each and the margin was maintained over the next five minutes with both sides adding two points each, with Keane converting two frees after fouls on Hayes and Dillane respectively and An Ghaeltacht replying from play and a placed ball. Then, in the 30th minute, the home side rampaged down the left and although the move seemed to have broken down, the ball fell kindly to an inrushing attacker who first-timed it into the net giving Shane Foley no chance. O’Rahillys could be forgiven had they tried to batten down the hatches until the half time whistle in an effort to preserve their two-point lead, but instead they produced a fantastic response when Keane passed to Hayes who picked out the inrushing McElligott with a pinpoint foot-pass and although the shot was blocked down, the ball ran loose to the overlapping Ross O’Callaghan who diverted it into the far corner of the net to leave the score at 2-8 to 1-6 in O’Rahillys’ favour at the short whistle, the five-point margin being a fair reflection of the first half’s proceedings.
The wind seemed to have picked up on the resumption and now favoured the Tralee men, but An Ghaeltacht were fast off the blocks and pointed a free inside the first minute. Strand Road kept their composure though and after seven minutes, Danny O’Sullivan’s fine kick-pass found Hayes in space but this time the goalkeeper denied him at the expense of a ‘45’, which was expertly converted by Carroll. This was followed by another spell of possession that culminated in Keane swinging the ball over the bar from 40 metres with his left foot and Carroll then found the range from a 50-metres free that resulted from a turnover forced by Carroll himself. The sides then exchanged points from frees with Keane converting for O’Rahillys after a foul on Rory O’Connor and as we entered the final quarter the score stood at 2-12 to 1-8 in favour of the Blues, who introduced Johnny Keane and Shane McElligott into the fray. Sensing time running out, An Ghaeltacht started to turn the screw but due to fine defending from Mullins and Carroll in particular, ably supported by David Murphy and Sean Collins, the Westerners return was limited to two pointed frees as we entered the final minutes. This gave O’Rahillys a platform to lift the siege and it took a fine save from An Ghaeltacht’s keeper to deny O’Callaghan a second goal, but the home side countered straight away and it took an equally fine point-blank stop from Shane Foley to keep the Blues five points in front. O’Rahillys retention of possession was starting to take it’s toll on the homesters at this stage and they used it to move six points clear when Keane pointed a close-in free and extended their lead further when Aaron Roche and Carroll combined to set up Keane for another point from play. They then introduced Kieran Mangan and Brian Scannell to good effect and Keane swung over their final score after a fine long delivery. An Ghaeltacht had one last kick in them however and when a high ball into the small square broke in their favour, the resulting shot was superbly tipped away by Shane Foley and the final whistle blew seconds later with the scoreboard reading An Ghaeltacht 1-10 Kerins O’Rahillys 2-15.
Kerins O’Rahillys: S Foley; D Murphy, R O’Callaghan, S Collins; R Carroll (0-2,1f,1’45’), K Mullins, D O’Sullivan; C Barrett, S Brosnan; D McElligott , BJ Keane (0-10, 0-6f), R O’Connor; G Dillane, S Walsh, C Hayes (1-3). Subs: J Keane, S McElligott, A Roche, B Scannell, K Mangan, B Foley, D Fitzgerald.