There were plenty of talking points after this Mid Kerry Championship Semi Final between Keel and Laune Rangers, which took place in Keel on Sunday last in perfect conditions. Shane McSweeney opened the scoring for the visitors, but it was soon cancelled out by a fisted point by Keel’s Aaron Murphy. Mike Frank Russell slotted a free for Laune Rangers to give them a short lived lead, before Terry O’Sullivan pointed for Keel. The home side then took the lead for the first time when Aaron Murphy pointed a free, before Russell tied up the scores again with a free of his own. The scores were level after a quarter of the game, at 0-3 apiece. Keel dominated the second quarter, and scored four unanswered points to take a healthy lead into the break – Gary Sayers with three (two frees) & Martin Burke with a point. Rangers also lost Kevin O’Sullivan to a black card before the interval. The half time score was Keel 0-7, Laune Rangers 0-3.
Laune Rangers improved at the beginning of the second half. Mike Frank Russell applied the finishing touches to continued pressure in the opening minutes & pointed two frees to halve the deficit. An Aaron Murphy free halted the comeback slightly, but a quick reply from Shane McSweeney cancelled out the effort of the Keel full forward. Gary Sayers & Mike Frank Russell traded frees to leave two points between the sides at 0-9 to 0-7 with a quarter remaining. However, the Keel captain Martin Burke saw the line with a black card. A well taken Liam O’Shea point was matched by an equally well taken point by Rangers wing back Chris Riordan. Keel’s sharpshooter Gary Sayers continued to cause havoc and scored another point for the home side, but Rangers’ own sniper Russell kept his side in the game with yet another free. When Aaron Murphy pointed to put a goal between the sides, Keel may have thought they had done enough but there was another twist in the tale. A great long ball into the danger area was caught by Pa Joy, & when he turned towards goal, the home defence was left with no option but to haul him down inside the square & a penalty was awarded. The evergreen MF Russell stepped up and executed perfectly to the ‘keepers right. Scores were now level at 0-12 to 1-9 and when time expired, the referee blew for full time and extra time was necessary.
Extra Time was an equally tight affair. Points from Gary Sayers (free) & Terry O’Sullivan for Keel, & two Russell frees for Rangers left scores level, but substitute David Costello gave Rangers the lead for the first time in an hour – the Minor with a well taken point after a pacy run to receive the ball. As the break in extra time beckoned, Keel won a penalty of their own affording them the chance to take the lead into the final ten minutes of play. Gary Sayers stepped up to take it and it was saved by Tony Lyons in goal for the Launesiders. Confusion fell on all looking on as the rebound that came out to Sayers was tapped in to the empty net, only for the goal to be disallowed – the whistle had been immediately blown by the referee after the original save as it was deemed the last kick of the half with Rangers leading 1-12 to 0-14.
The disappointment felt by the home side and support was compounded when, in the first minute of the final period, the best move of the game led to Russell to find the net for his 2nd goal & put Rangers 4 points in front. Keel didn’t let their heads drop though and dominated the final stages, though they lost Shane Prendiville to a black card. Gary Sayers scored 3 points (2 frees) to bring his side back to trail by the minimum. Rangers had a chance to ensure the win when they won a free near the right touchline as time expired. They reintroduced Russell who had been withdrawn earlier in the half to take the kick & it went close… but wide. There was enough time to tie the game up though, as over 3 minutes of injury time had expired when Sayers took his opportunity to level the game. Rangers Goalkeeper Lyons was adamant this kick had gone wide and his objections were seemingly enough to receive a black card. It was irrelevant to the game though as the final whistle was blown with scores level – Keel 0-18, Laune Rangers 2-12.
The statistic of four black cards did not paint a true picture as the game was in no way bad-blooded. There were many good performances but it wouldn’t take a lot of guessing to pick out a man of the match candidate – Gary Sayers and Mike Frank Russell scored 0-10 & 2-8 respectively. After 80 minutes of play these sides could not be separated & will now go head to head again on Sunday next, December 7th at 2pm in JP O’Sullivan Park in Killorglin.
Laune Rangers Team: Tony Lyons (bc), Kieran Crowley, Johnny Carey, Kevin O’Sullivan (bc), Chris Riordan (0-1), John Sheehan, Ryan Keane, Maurice Foley, Padraig Murphy, Colm O’Shea, Shane McSweeney (0-2), Shane Daly, Michael F Russell (2-8)(1pen, 8f), Pa Joy, John Tyther. Subs Used: Keith Sheehan (bc replacement), Shane O’Connor, Tommy O’Callaghan, David Costello (0-1), Michael O’Sullivan.
Keel Team: Luke Flynn, Gavin Evans, Emmet Ashe, Donal O’Neill, Shane Prendiville (bc), Martin Burke (0-1) (bc), James Nagle, Thomas Ladden, James Long, Gary Sayers (0-10)(6f), Liam O’Shea (0-1), Eoin O’Neill, Terry O’Sullivan (0-2), Aaron Murphy (0-4)(2f), Aaron Cahillane. Subs used: Francis Ahern (bc replacement), Ronan Sayers, John Lawlor (bc replacement)