Kerins O Rahillys 1-16 Rathmore 3-09
The crucial first round of this year’s club championship saw us travel to Killarney to face a Rathmore side that was surely buoyant following their recent win in the Credit Union Co League over All Ireland club runners-up, Dr Crokes. The fact that Crokes had previously beaten O’Rahillys in the Co League, perhaps more comfortably than the four-point winning margin suggested, put the extent of the challenge facing the Strand Road men in perspective. Also, the Blues supporters were surely even more nervous when they were informed prior to throw-in of the loss of Kerry county star Tommy Walsh, along with stalwart midfielder Con Barrett from the named starting lineup.
The grand old stadium was looking resplendent on a glorious day for football but both sides were guilty of shooting wides before Jack Savage converted two frees before the sixth minute, with a Rathmore point from play sandwiched in between. The East Kerrymen struck for the game’s first goal three minutes later. There was a strong suspicion of a pick-up from the ground by the corner forward in the build-up but there was nothing wrong with his delivery to the edge of the square, nor with the finish despite Gary Kissane getting a hand to the shot. Rathmore then spurned a glorious chance of another goal straight from the kickout, but it only took one more minute for them to raise another green flag when an O’Rahillys’ pass from defence failed to go to hand and the Reds exacted the maximum benefit. Two more Rathmore points followed in the next five minutes, one from a free and the other a superb effort from 40 metres from Kerry goalkeeper Shane Ryan, who lined out at full forward and was proving a real handful for the Strand Road defence. After just 16 minutes, the score now stood at 2-3 to 0-2 in the Red’s favour and although Jack Savage pointed a free, a similar score for Rathmore restored the seven-point cushion. Undaunted, O’Rahillys rattled off five unanswered points in a seven-minute spell, with two from placed balls by Jack Savage. The other three comprised Tom Hoare completing a lovely move from 35 metres, an overlapping Cormac Coffey kicking a fine score from the right-hand side and the keeper tipping over a blasting shot from Barry John Keane. However, in the last minute of regulation time, Rathmore lifted the siege when they pointed from play after once again engineering a two v two situation with the Strand Road full back line. Back came O’Rahillys and Keane was unlucky to see his fisted effort come back off the post, but Rathmore took full advantage in the second minute of injury time when Ryan beat his man on the inside and centered to an unmarked colleague who gave Kissane no chance from close range with the last kick of the first half. So, it seemed at half time that the O’Rahillys’ comeback was dead in the water as Rathmore went into the break with a six-point lead, the scoreline standing at 3-5 to 0-8 in their favour.
However, on the resumption Strand Road took control of the game, with county player Gavin O’Brien now more influential in the middle of the field where he was ably assisted by Tom Hoare. They declared their intentions within the first seven minutes of the half, which featured three more pointed frees from Jack Savage, including two superb efforts from close to the right-hand touchline – with Rathmore managing one pointed free in reply. By the end of the third quarter, the Tralee side had made it a one-point game, with the Savage brothers both landing 35-metre points from play, Gearóid with his left foot and Jack with a right-footed effort that was followed by another well-taken score by Barry John Keane. In between, O’Rahillys also posted two wides, one from Keane which saw himself and fellow Kerry player Aidan O’Mahony booked in the aftermath. Rathmore were then dealt another blow when they lost Kerry defender Paul Murphy to injury, but they rallied to convert another placed ball to forge two points ahead after 17 minutes. Back came Strand Road immediately though and good interplay between Karl Mullins, Ross O’Callaghan and Shane Brosnan was complimented by a superb take and swivel from Jack Savage who fired over the crossbar and we had a one-point game again. O’Rahillys’ high press was the dominant feature of the game now and it paid the ultimate dividend in the 20th minute when they forced a turnover close to the Rathmore goals. Firstly O’Brien’s effort was blocked, but the ball broke to Barry John Keane and although his initial effort was also deflected into the air, the skipper rose highest to fist the rebound into the net and Strand Road led for the first time since the ninth minute by 1-15 to 3-7. Two minutes later, Gearóid Savage kicked another beautiful point from 34 metres as the Tralee men tightened their grip on proceedings. The main feature of the game at this stage was their composed play, with John Ferguson and subs Danny O’Sullivan, Con Barrett and Seán Collins prominent, leaving Rathmore with it all to do in the final eight minutes. Their cause wasn’t helped by the loss of O’Mahony to a second yellow card two minutes later, but they persisted with the tactic of trying to organise two v two situations close to the O’Rahillys’ goals, although the Blues were quicker to funnel back now with Coffey and Ryan Carroll excelling in this area. Rathmore never threw in the towel though and in a pulsating finish, they managed to point two frees in the five minutes of injury time played. They were beaten by the clock in this quest however and ultimately were undone by the cocktail of pressure, firepower and composure exhibited by O’Rahillys, particularly in the second half of a most enjoyable encounter.
Kerins O’Rahillys: G Kissane; D Murphy, R O’Callaghan, C Coffey (0-1); D McElligott, S Brosnan, K Mullins; G O’Brien, T Hoare (0-1); R Carroll, J Ferguson, S Walsh; G Savage (0-2), J Savage (0-10, 0-8f), BJ Keane (1-2). Subs: C Barrett, D O’Sullivan, S Collins, T Walsh, S Foley , Rory O’Connor, J O’Leary, G Dillane, A Roche, B Scannell, D Nix, J Keane, D O’Brien, K Mangan, Rob O’Connor, G Hartnett, C Hayes.
Kerins O Rahillys 1-16 Rathmore 3-09