Kilmoyley 2-12 Causeway 1-14
Kilmoyley are Kerry senior hurling champions for a record-equalling 25th time, but they needed to call on all their reserves to see off champions Causeway in a dramatic, nerve-shredding final in Tralee this afternoon.
Just 200 supporters can genuinely lay claim to having been in Austin Stack Park for what will, in time, become known as the 'Covid final', but by half time the Causeway contingent surely felt they would have been better taking in the sunshine down on Kilmore Strand.
The champions trailed by 10 points at the break and hopes of back-to-back titles seemed as likely as thousands being allowed to attend inter-county fixtures next month; zero.
Most of the pre-match form suggested Causeway would make it successive titles, but Kilmoyley don’t come to finals just to make up the numbers and bidding for a 25th county title.
At the interval however their chances of collecting the Neilus Flynn Cup appeared remote. The champions looked out on their feet and out of ideas, while Kilmoyley were hurling like champions-elect.
The first quarter was a tight affair as both sides settled in under glorious sunshine, but there was a manic work-rate to Kilmoyley that had the champions rattled from the start. Kilmoyley led 0-04 to 0-03 at the first water break, and they were 0-06 to 0-03 ahead when the game’s first goal arrived.
Maurice O’Connor found himself running on to the loose ball behind the defence but with no hurley. He took a solo, dropped the sliotar and then booted a shot high to the net past Tadhg Flynn.
Six minutes later, in additional time, O’Connor gathered a long pass, turned his defender and beat Flynn for the second time with a fierce shot. Ten ahead at the turn on a scoreline of 2-08 to 0-04, it was Kilmoyley’s final to lose.
Causeway threw Brandon Barrett, who wasn't fit enough to start, into the fray, and within six minutes of the restart he had scored 1-02 – his miss-hit free making its way all the way to the Kilmoyley net in the 34th minute.
Sean Leahy was also sprung from the bench and his three points from play helped drag Causeway right back into the game.
By the second water break it seemed that Causeway had engineered hurling’s equivalent of the rope-a-dope. A goal and seven points without reply had the champions level and playing with the same mojo that delivered them a rare and long overdue title last year.
Just as Leahy levelled it up at 1-11 to 2-08, the water break intervened to save Kilmoyley. Replenished and resuscitated the challengers kicked on again.
It took almost 20 minutes of the second half before Kilmoyley got their first score – a Daniel Collins free – and it was like getting a shot of adrenaline; suddenly all that first half vim and vigour returned to the men from Lerrig and they found a few precious points to get the job done.
Despite that third quarter assault on them, Kilmoyley never went behind and, perhaps, that's what saved them. They only managed four points in the second half - hardly the stuff of champions - but they had put just enough space between the sides in the first half to compensate.
In the end that was just enough.
Kilmoyley: John B O’Halloran, Seanie Nolan, Colman Savage, Flor McCarthy, James Godley, Dougie Fitzell, Tom Murnane, Matthew Flaherty 0-01, Paudie O’Connor 0-01, Kieran McCarthy, Daniel Collins 0-08 (0-06f, 0-02 ‘65’), Robert Collins, Maurice O’Connor 2-02 , Sean Maunsell, Philip Maunsell. Subs: Jordan Brick for S Maunsell (45), Daire Nolan for R Collins (48).
Causeway: Tadhg Flynn, Tommy Barrett, Muiris Delaney, Sean Sheehan, Evan Murphy, Jason Diggins, Anthony Fealy, Joseph Diggins 0-01, Keith Carmody 0-01, Tommy Casey, Bryan Murphy, Colm Harty 0-02, Gavin Dooley, Billy Lyons 0-02 (0-01f, 0-01 ‘65’), Dan Goggin 0-02. Subs: Brandon Barrett 1-03 (0-02f) for T Casey (ht), Sean Leahy 0-03 for G Dooley (35), Gearoid Mahoney for B Lyons (55), Tommy Casey for D Goggin (58).
Referee: Donnacha O’Callaghan (Limerick)