FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE KERRY INTERMEDIATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
1. Over the hour it developed into quite a sensational shootout between David Clifford and Eanna O’Connor and while it was the player of the year that stole the show with a stunning 12-points salvo, O’Connor had cause to be most satisfied at the final whistle with his eight points tally inspiring Milltown-Castlemaine to victory.
With his father, Jack, watching on from his usual perch in the back row of the stand, coach Paddy Tally by his side, O’Connor – now in his 14th season as a senior player – was doing his William Tell impression down on the field and, just as has done all through the intermediate championship campaign, and indeed in the senior championship with Mid Kerry, he gritted his teeth, caught the game by the scruff of its neck, worked tirelessly and led by example.
It was a privilege to watch two top class dead ball specialists displaying their craft on the big stage. And it really was a remarkable achievement for Clifford to kick six of his dozen points from play given that he was super-glued to four strong arms attached to two green jerseys all afternoon and his two designated markers were marshalling him with the alertness of two prison guards keeping tabs on a lethal assassin on suspicion that he had bullets hidden in his sock.
2. When generations to come in Milltown-Castlemaine reflect on the 2023 Kerry Intermediate Championship success and the quills are inked to record the great achievement in the club’s annals, one name will be inscribed with a heavier hand that most.
Brendan Casey made a real name for himself at Austin Stack Park this afternoon with two well-executed second half goals which, as it transpired, were absolutely essential given that the victory margin at the close was a single point, 2-13 to 0-18.
Casey was industrious all through but cometh the hour cometh the man and he pounced when the need was greatest to knock Fossa back on their heels just when Adrian Sheehan’s team was threatening to take hold of the game.
Casey wriggled and danced his way past several attempted tackles to set up his two clear shots at goal, giving Shane O’Sullivan no chance with both and his brace of three-pointers came as sickening punches to Fossa stomachs given that they both came when the East Kerry side was enjoying the better of proceedings.
3. One reason for Milltown-Castlemaine’s victory? Well, let’s offer two – and they’re linked. The ability and willingness of Mark Bourke’s side to run at pace at the Fossa defence – which was a tactic they deployed time and again – caused all sorts of difficulties and generated chaos for the All-Ireland junior champions and that was the main difference on the day.
To be honest, the black and red rearguard opened up all too easily and it was a tactic that led to the two decisive goals that, ultimately, won the match.
With the hugely energetic Donal Dennehy and Gavin Horan winning more than their share of ball around the middle of the park, and the likes of Eanna O’Connor, David Roche and Dylan O’Neill sweeping up anything that bobbled loose, Milltown-Castlemaine’s running game really caused problems for Fossa whose own brand of free-flowing attacking football was greatly curtailed, particularly with David Clifford being cut off as an option as he was so tightly marked.
Fossa were caught on the turnover on far too many occasions and Milltown-Castlemaine continued to make hay and while the sun didn’t exactly shine, a spectacular rainbow made an appearance over Austin Stack Park and the pot of gold was being placed at the foot of the Hanafin monument in Milltown for collection on the way to tonight’s celebrations.
Another reason for Milltown-Castlemaine’s success was that they had a superior bench and when a player of the calibre of Jonathon O’Sullivan can come on and boot over two points at cruicial stages, that’s what wins games. It’s not rocket science.
4. Normally rock solid and in complete control, referee Brendan Griffin’s performance, at times, was rather bewildering and there was a great deal of pulling and dragging going on in the latter stages of the tension-filled second half that he either didn’t see or he chose to ignore. And his linesmen didn’t seem to be of much assistance in that regard.
The big talking point, however, was an incident involving Paudie Clifford in the first half when the Fossa playmaker appeared to be hauled down in front of the Milltown-Castlemaine goal and Griffin didn’t hesitate for a split second when pointing to the spot.
One of his umpires, however, had a different version and Griffin overruled his own decision and threw up the ball which Clifford got on the end of and booted it to the net. That, too, was ruled, out, Milltown-Castlemaine were off the hook and Fossa supporters were left quite puzzled by it all.
Hard to blame them but, in the absence of any video evidence thus far, we’ll say no more for now.
5. So it’s Milltown-Castlemaine that will be filling the Fenian Cup this Sunday night and, following a wonderful campaign during which they hacked off some notable scalps, the club can look forward to playing senior ball next season.
The previously won the intermediate title in 2003 and 2011 so they will know only too well that being up there with the big boys – against stronger opposition that they have been accustomed to – will bring their players on in leaps and bounds and there is no doubt that Kerry boss Jack O’Connor, watching closely today just as he has done all season, will have jotted a few names in his notebook.
David Roche, Gavin Horan and Cillian Burke should keep a close eye on their smartphones once the turkey is digested but, prior to that, there is the Munster Intermediate Championship to contend with and Cork’s Cill na Matra – with former Fossa and Laune Rangers boss John Evans at the helm – are planning an ambush across the county bounds as I write.
Teams and scorers:
Milltown-Castlemaine: Cormac Leane, Gavin McKenna (0-1), Pa Wrenn, Anthony Kelliher, Kieran O’Carroll, David Roche, Jerome Flynn, Donal Dennehy, Gavin Horan, Brendan Casey (2-1), Eanna O’Connor (0-8, 0-4 frees), Dylan O’Neill, Cathal Moriarty (0-1), Cillian Burke, Donal Kelliher.
Subs: Kieran McKenna for Jerome Flynn; Jonathon O’Sullivan (0-2) for Donal Kelliher; Seán Hogan for Donal Dennehy (inj); Donal Kelliher for Gavin Horan; Ciarán O’Connor for Dylan O’Neill.
Fossa: Shane O’Sullivan, Dan O’Connell, Cian McCarthy, Brian Myers, Rian Colleran, Paddy Sheehan, Ruairi Doyle, Eoin Talbot, Matt Rennie, Harry Buckley (0-1), Paudie Clifford (0-2), Cian O’Shea, David Clifford (0-1,0-6 frees), Emmett O’Shea (03, 0-1 free), Tadhg O’Shea
Subs: Sam Buckley for Brian Myers; Fintan Coffey for Tadhg O’Shea; Dan O’Keeffe for Rian Colleran.
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