By Paul Brennan at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney
AFTER Rathmore overthrew Dr Crokes in an epic struggle in the opening senior club championship semi-final in Fitzgerald Stadium, Laune Rangers upstaged Kerins O’Rahillys to complete a marvellous afternoon for the underdog and set up a somewhat novel, and certainly unexpected, pairing for this year’s senior club final.
Laune Rangers manager Joe Shannon had stated before this match that his side were travelling to Killarney more in hope than expectation of a win but through a combination of factors the Killorglin side ground out a one-point win that will surely register as one of their most satisfying of the entire year.
O’Rahillys season has been producing mixed performances and results but there have been enough positive signs of late to suggest the Tralee club had enough in hand to win through here, and with Tommy Walsh in their starting team the expectation was that he, along with Barry John Keane, Declan Quill and John O’Connor, would keep O’Rahillys fighting on two senior championship fronts, at least until next Saturday night.
Rangers, whose season up until last Saturday morning looked like it would just be concerned with staving off county league relegation, are now one game away from winning a county title, and with three divisional sides still in the county championship there is the not unlikely prospect that the Killorglin club (or Rathmore) could represent Kerry in the imminent Munster Club championship.
If O’Rahillys were looking to the pace and power of Walsh to give them that extra cutting edge up front then Laune Rangers were quite happy to rely on the experience and guile of Mike Frank Russell to lead their attack and in the head to head battle Russell certainly came out on top.
Walsh worked hard between the two forward lines but his lack of work with the round ball was evident and the AFL footballer failed to dominate the game they way he so often did before heading Down Under.
Russell, meanwhile, was content to float around the middle third, playing off the midfield, and be as opportunistic as he was in his heyday with the county team.
The critical period in the match came in the last 10 minutes of the first half. O’Rahillys had enjoyed a small bit of superiority in the opening quarter, leading 0-3 to 0-1 and then 0-5 to 0-3, as Rangers shuffled around their line-up, confusing the spectators and press corp probably more than O’Rahillys.
Tom McGillycuddy was a third minute replacement for the injured Colm O’Shea, where the former partnered John Sheehan at midfield against Brian Moran and Micheal Quirke, with Johnny Carey minding the house and Tommy Walsh from his full back berth.
A brace each from John O’Connor, Barry John Keane (two frees) and Declan Quill (one free) had O’Rahillys 0-6 to 0-5 ahead when they struck for the game’s only goal. Keane’s effort at a point came down off the post to Walsh, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Tony Lyons, but Quill was waiting to lash the loose ball to the net. That put O’Rahillys four points ahead after 25 minutes but by half time Rangers would be a point up.
Russell was hugely involved in this period, scoring two great points, converting two more frees and setting up Shane McSweeney for a point as Rangers led 0-11 to 1-7 at half time.
Quill and Keane, with frees, and Brian Moran, from play, edged O’Rahillys back in front soon after the restart but from there on O’Rahillys knew Rangers were now here more in expectation than hope. Pa Sheehan scored a fine point, set up by Russell, and then Russell converted a free to level matters.
Keane, a free, and Walsh edged O’Rahillys two clear again by the 40th minutes but amazingly they wouldn’t score again. Seamie Foley and then Pa Joy dug out tough scores as the rain poured down and the scores began to dry up.
With Tommy Walsh’s threat diminshing Johnny Carey pushed forward and punched over what proved the winning point before Rangers engaged in a dangerous game of ball retention that almost back-fired on them as O’Rahillys pressurised them as they sought an equaliser. It never materialised as Seamie and Maurice Foley, McSweeney, Kieran Doona and Russell controlled those last few minutes as O’Rahillys lacked that little bit of composure to dig out a score when it mattered most.
LAUNE RANGERS: T Lyons, C Johnston, J Carey (0-1), K Crowley; P Sheehan (0-1), P Crowley, S McSweeney (02); J Sheehan (0-1), M Foley; S O’Connor, K Doona (0-2), C O’Shea; MF Russell (0-5, 3f), S Foley (0-2), P Joy (0-1). Subs: T McGillycuddy ( 0-1) for C O’Shea (inj); R Keane (0-1) for S O’Connor.
KERINS O’RAHILLYS: D Hennessy, D O’Sullivan, M OShea, S Brosnan, A Thompson, B O’Shea, R O’Callaghan, B Moran (0-1), M Quirke, T Walsh (0-1), BJ Keane (0-5f), C O’Mahony, D Quill (1-3, 0-2f), G O’Grady, J O’Connor (02). Subs: Jack Nolan for Thompson, David McLoughlin for O’Mahony.
REFEREE: Padraig O’Sullivan (Firies)
- Paul Brennan at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney