There is a feel good factor around the club since the win over Dr Crokes in round 2; it was not just about the result but the manner of the win when coming from 10 points down at half time to win by 5 at the finish – though the quarter final victory over St Brendans was not as exciting there is a genuine belief in Strand Road in this team and everybody seems to be enjoying it!
This team has been building towards this stage of the championship all season with the league seen as a stepping stone – players committed early to making themselves available for the league campaign and it has paid off with a final against ( Dr Crokes!!) secured to be played at a later date. The 11 game league saw us win 7 games, drawing with An Ghaeltacht and losing just 3 games, all close affairs. There were character building results away from home in Templenoe and Spa with an unbeaten home record. The road taken to the semi final has been the direct route, winning all of our 3 games, all away from Strand Road.
Goals win games and we have certainly been nothing short of prolific in this regard. The last 4 games have seen us raise 12 green flags, 3 per game with many more chances being created. The scoring has been spread throughout the team from midfielder David Moran ( 2), Gavin O’Brien (3), Tommy Walsh (3) and one apiece from John Ferguson, Tom Hoare, Padraig Griffin and the all important winner from Karl Mullins in the win over Sunday’s opposition. In addition we have had a goal disallowed vs St Brendans ( Gavin O’Brien again) and have been both unlucky and luckless in other games.
The case for the defence can be made with reference to the last four games where we have only conceded 3 goals, and kept two clean sheets. Dingle failed to register any goals in our final league game nor did Feale Rangers in the opening round of the championship – the two goals conceded to Dr Crokes and the lone major to St Brendans were about the only shots on target that Gary Kissane has had to contend with to date – in the league too Glenbeigh/Glencar and John Mitchels failed to rattle the net. As well as Gary’s good form, the performances of Ross O’Callaghan have been outstanding with the whole defence defending as a unit in all games.
Winning is a habit and we have not looked back since the meeting with Dingle in the final league of the year; as the only unbeaten club side remaining in the competition, we have learned to win along the way, eking out victory in tight situations – it all comes down to attitude, application and desire – we have learnt the hard way!
Tommy has shown tremendous leadership throughout the whole year and has been inspirational up front; our leading scorer in the league, he has accounted for approx. 40% of our scores as well as winning frees for other converted scores. His displays to date in the championship have been superb with his ball winning ability allied to his unselfishness being an integral part of our arsenal – his display in Fitzgerald Stadium in the win over Crokes left many wondering if a recall to the Kerry senior squad was in the offing – that’s for Peter Keane to decide but for now he is very happy turning out for Strand Road and looks to be enjoying every minute of it.
Youth and depth
Its fair to say that our strength in depth, once seen as a weakness has now been turned into one of our strengths with up to 20 players now playing their part in each game – this has evolved due to the continued graduation of our county winning U-21 squad of 2015 with the likes of Karl Mullins, Cormac Coffey, Jack Savage, Ryan Carroll and Gavin O’Brien now firmly established as senior footballers in their own right. Both Jack and Cormac have worn the county senior jersey in the Allianz league and Karl along with Tom Hoare were part of an extended Kerry U-20 squad last year. Add in the emergence of Darragh McElligott, the continued appearances of Padraig Griffin and Gearóid Savage from the bench and you get the picture. John C O’Connor continues to push for inclusion and his contributions from the bench have been vital in getting us this far in 2018. Competition for places is healthy with plenty of back up.
The exuberance of youth is balanced out very nicely with the vast experience of the likes of David Moran, Tommy Walsh and Barry John Keane. All three hold Celtic Crosses, have been around county squads since their minor days and all three have richly contributed to this year’s winning sequence. David has shown the kind of form that earned him an All Star in 2014, Tommy’s input has been immense as already mentioned whilst Barry John has been a constant threat up front.
To be a champ, you have to beat the champ – we came close in Strand Road in the club championship in April to gaining a win over Dr Crokes and the two point defeat did not do justice to the display – the presence of David ( Moran) that day could have resulted in a different outcome. The win four weeks ago in Killarney was the injection of self belief that this squad needed and the way the win was forged was sure to be a huge boost to the confidence and self belief within the squad.
Feet on the ground
The players remain grounded despite all the praise heaped upon them following recent displays and they will know better than anybody that you are only as good as your last game. The local derby win over St Brendan’s has seen many pundits install Dr Crokes as favourites for the next day solely on the basis that ” lightning does not strike twice ” and the return of both Gavin White and Tony Brosnan. The season ending injury to Cian Sayers will make the players realise that they are the lucky ones to be in a position to pull on the blue jersey next weekend – expect them to make it count and banish the heartache of last season when going out to South Kerry at the same stage of the competition by the slenderest of margins.