John O'Shea addresses a free kick in the second half of Saturday's win over Ardfert.
With Senior Status on the line, Laune Rangers and Ardfert met in Ballmacelligott on Saturday afternoon in Round Two of the County Senior Football Relegation Playoff. Conditions were difficult as heavy showers of rain fell at regular intervals throughout. Both sides were without key players, as Peter Crowley’s shoulder injury has ended his season and Mike Frank Russell was not yet fully recovered from illness to start, but took his place on the bench. Ardfert were without regulars Darren Dineen & Daniel Collins.
Ardfert settled into the game much quicker than Rangers, but couldn’t convert their period of dominance into scores. By the quarter mark, the sides were level at 0-2 each with John Egan & David Griffin pointing for Ardfert, and Shane McSweeney & Kieran Doona scoring for Rangers. Ardfert created a clear goal chance in the 13th minute, but David Griffin saw his shot towards the bottom corner of the net saved excellently by the fingertips of Tony Lyons for Rangers. Ardfert then took a two point lead with a quick John Egan brace, but Laune Rangers adapted better to the rain and scored four unanswered points through Kieran Doona, John O’Shea (free), Shane McSweeney and Pa Joy. Ardfert centre back Stephen Leen pointed on the stroke of the half time, to see the sides head for the shelter of the dressing rooms at the break with the score:- Laune Rangers 0-6, Ardfert 0-5.
A tense period at the beginning of the 2nd half saw yellow cards issued to John Sheehan for Rangers and Ardfert’s Iarla Courtney and Stephen Leen. However, this didn’t linger and attention quickly returned to football matters. Shane McSweeney finished a fine team move to slot the ball over the bar before Laune Rangers found the net in the 39th minute. Pa Joy rounded his marker and passed to David Costello, who surged forward and shot past Nicholas O’Sullivan in the Ardfert goal, only for the ball to hit the crossbar and fall to John O’Shea who tapped the ball into an empty net. A 40th minute free by John O’Shea put Laune Rangers ahead by 1-8 to 0-5. The reliable John Egan reduced the gap between the sides to 4 points with a brace (1 free, 1 from play) with 9 minutes to play. John Tyther and David Griffin traded points in the closing stages but Laune Rangers held out to win. Final score:- Laune Rangers 1-9, Ardfert 0-8.
Stephen Leen led his team from centre back while John Egan’s usual accuracy kept his side in touch throughout and finished with five points – four coming from play. However, Ardfert’s dependence on him possibly cost them as he and David Griffin were the only players that really threatened the Laune Rangers goal. Laune Rangers were possibly better value for their victory than the four point winning margin would suggest. Tony Lyons was rock solid in goal with an excellent first half save in particular while outside him, the six backs worked fantastically well together marshalled by Johnny Carey and Kieran Crowley. Shane McSweeney played a captain’s role, scoring 3 points while also helping out at midfield and John O’Shea’s goalscoring streak continued with another goal from all of 2 yards out. However, it was the wing forwards Pa Joy and David Costello who both caused persistent torment to the Ardfert defence, and the latter stood out in particular as the 19 year old continues to develop into a senior player.
Following Austin Stacks’ 0-15 to 1-2 victory over St Michael’s Foilmore, the South Kerry side and Ardfert will now fall to the Intermediate Championship, while Kerry’s two most successful and storied clubs – Laune Rangers and Austin Stacks – will meet in the Playoff Final with Senior Championship survival on the line.
Laune Rangers: Tony Lyons, Chris Riordan, Johnny Carey, Michael O’Sullivan, Kieran Crowley, Ronan Sayers, Ryan Keane, John Sheehan, Maurice Foley, David Costello, Shane McSweeney (0-3), Pa Joy (0-1), John O’Shea (1-2, 2f), Colm O’Shea, Kieran Doona (0-2). Subs used: John Tyther (0-1), Michael F Russell, Shane Daly, Liam Quirke, Aidan Cox.
Ardfert: Nicholas O’Sullivan, Stephen Leen (0-1), Rory Horgan, Mike Moloney, Eoghan Courtney , Trevor Wallace, Fionán Horgan, John Dowling, Kevin Shanahan, David Griffin (0-2), Darren Wallace, Bobby O'Regan, Iarla Courtney, Kevin Skinner, John Egan (0-5, 1f). Subs used: Fionan Mackassey, Paudie Carroll, Eric Reen, Jack McCarthy.