The stage is set for what has all the potential to be the GAA highlight of the year in Kerry when Fossa and Milltown/Castlemaine cross swords at Austin Stack Park, Tralee this Sunday afternoon.
Never before has an intermediate championship final whipped up such enthusiasm and excitement but that’s hardly surprising given the sheer quality that both sides have to call on which could result in a real battle of wits.
They have both produced a series of stunning performances, taking a few notable scalps along the way to tomorrow’s showdown, and the expectation is that this decider could go right down to the wire with several players equipped with all the credentials required to turn the tie in their side’s favour.
There is, of course, the Clifford brothers to factor in and it will surely be a 10-marker in table quizzes of the future to name the two players who played in an intermediate final less that two days after both won All-star awards and one of them was crowned footballer of the year.
Should David and Paudie even come close to reaching the heights of which they are capable, Milltown/Castlemaine will know they will be really up against it, particularly given than several top class inter county defenders have tried and failed to curb the almost telepathic understanding that exists between the two.
But Fossa are not a two-man operation – far from it – and should their opponents opt to concentrate their efforts on trying to curtail the Clifford crew, just watch the likes of Emmet and Tadhg O’Shea and Harry Buckley show what they can do in front of the posts.
Fossa are rock solid around the middle of the park with big Matt Rennie partnered by the industrious and versatile Rian Colleran while, defensively, the likes of the excellent Cian McCarthy, Ruairi Doyle, Dan O’Connell and Paddy Sheehan – with Shane O’Sullivan a safe pair of hands between the sticks – won’t let much through.
But speaking of being mean in defence, that’s a trait that has stood to Milltown/Castlemaine right through the campaign and it could well be a case of the irresistible force coming up against the immovable object when the ball is thrown in at 2.30pm tomorrow.
Mark Bourke’s charges have absolutely powerful in the backline, not least the hugely impressive David Roche who was one of the standout performers with Mid Kerry in their run to this season’s senior championship final.
Surely in line for a Kerry call-up for the new season, Roche is the full package – teak tough in the tackle, strong going forward and he possesses the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time. A quality act.
But they too are far from being a one-man show defensively with Pa Wrenn, Ciaran O’Connor, Anthony Kelliher and co all at the top of their game this season while the hugely impressive Gavin Horan is more than capable of bossing midfield on his day.
If Fossa have their aces in the pack up front then Milltown/Castlemaine have their diamonds too with performers of real star quality in Cillian Burke, Cathal Moriarty and the vastly experienced Eanna O’Connor who is lethal from placed balls and has contributed 33 points already in the campaign. Fossa know that if they give him half a chance he’ll plant it.
Fossa will take real heart from their dramatic victory over Austin Stacks in the semi-final having already overcome An Ghaeltacht and St Mary’s before being caught by Glenflesk in a classic.
They regrouped and overcame a fancied Castleisland Desmonds in a goal fest away from home before the agile Shane O’Sullivan made a name for himself in last four penalty shootout against Stacks.
Milltown/Castlemaine, meanwhile, had a much steadier journey to the final, just about seeing off Gneeveguilla before losing to Glenbeigh/Glencar and drawing with Beaufort in the group stages but they had four points to spare against Kilcummin in the quarter-finals and they were plus three against Peter Keane’s fancied Killarney Legion in the last four.
So the stage is set for what has all the makings of a classic final. Will the Cliffords and co be playing senior football in Kerry next season? Or will Gavin Horan, David Roche and Cillian Burke get a chance to impress Jack O’Connor at the highest level when the new season commences?
All will be known by this time tomorrow and, in the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, sit back and enjoy the show.
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