CHRISTMAS came early in the close-knit community of Gneeveguilla on Saturday when the parish footballers battled their way to a gritty win in the Kerry Junior Football Championship final to spark great celebrations in the village.
They were extra time winners over a plucky Skellig Rangers side, eventually triumphing on a 0-12 to 0-9 scoreline, in a no-holds-barred encounter at Fitzgerald Stadium, with the victory making amends for the heartbreaking 2020 final loss to Ballydonoghue just last September.
There were scenes of great celebrations in the village last night as a lone piper led a victory parade through the streets with the triumphant players displaying their silverware and chanting in celebration from the back of a truck.
Gneeveguilla, to be honest, were far from their best on Saturday, with too many leaving their shooting boots at home, and they were guilty of an alarming succession of wides which is something they need to address before their Munster JFC outing before Santa arrives in the village.
With Diarmuid Keating accurate from placed balls, Skellig Rangers were 0-3 to 0-1 ahead after 15 minutes but the decision to switch the hugely impressive Pa Warren from defence to attack had the desired impact for Gneeveguilla as he steadied the shop and ensured they were more competitive.
Rangers led 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time but they were soon level before Con Buckley edged Gneeveguilla ahead for the first time in the game.
A Skellig fightback saw the game tied at 0-8 each and extra time was required but, at that stage, Gneeveguilla flexed their collective muscle and four points in the first 10 minutes, courtesy of Sean O’Keeffe, Pa Warren, Jack Cremin and Paul O’Leary, ensured they got their hands on the cup and the piper was booked for the village parade.
Gneeveguilla will now play either Boherbue or Ballinhassig of Cork or Ballyvaughan of Clare in the Munster semi-final on the weekend of December 18/19.
Gneeveguilla scorers: Pa Warren 0-2, Conor Herlihy 0-2, Sean O’Keeffe 0-2, Paul O’Leary 0-2 (frees), John O’Leary 0-1 (free), Mike Murphy 0-1, Con Buckley 0-1, Jack Cremin 0-1.
Skellig Rangers scorers: Diarmuid Keating 0-3 (0-2 frees), Darragh O’Sullivan 0-3 (frees), Ciaran Keating 0-1, Aidan O’Sullivan 0-1, Keith Brennan 0-1.
Gneeveguilla: Patrick O’Riordan, Eoin Fitzgerald, Padraig O’Connor, Darren Brosnan, Paul O’Leary, Pa Warren, Pat Brosnan, Ronan Collins, Conor Herlihy, Connie O’Connor, Mike Murphy, John O’Leary, Sean O’Keeffe, Padraig Doyle, Shane O’Sullivan.
Subs: Damien Cronin for J O’Leary; Con Buckley for C O’Connor; Paudie O’Leary for P Doyle; DJ Murphy for P O’Connor; Jack Cremin (0-1) for M Murphy; Padraig Doyle for S O’Keeffe; Philip Cremin for P Brosnan; Mike Murphy for S O’Sullivan.
Skellig Rangers: Padraig O’Sullivan, Gerard O’Sullivan, Ronan O’Shea, Stephen O’Sullivan, Shamus O’Sullivan, Anthony O’Driscoll, Bernard Walsh, Aidan O’Sullivan, Ciaran Keating, Darragh O’Sullivan, Diarmuid Keating, Alan Devane, Micheal O’Sullivan, Martin O’Sullivan, John Murphy.
Subs: Brendan Murphy for A Devane; Keith Brennan for M O’Sullivan; Fionan O’Sullivan for M O’Sullivan; Adam Kennedy for S O’Sullivan; Danny O’Sullivan for J Murphy; Mike Keating for D Keating.