TOM LYONS REPORTS
‘IT’S absolutely brilliant, amazing, the best feeling ever when that final whistle sounded. I just can’t describe it’ – the reaction of Richie O’Sullivan after Kilmacabea created football history last Sunday.
Man-of-the-match O’Sullivan played a starring role, kicking 2-2, as Kilmacabea finally landed the South West junior A football title for the first time, defeating Kilbrittain in Ahamilla, Clonakilty.
Founded in 1888, the Kilmacabea club had waited 129 years for this proud day and it took only nine blistering minutes to lay the foundation for this first-ever junior A title win. A golden burst of scoring when they kicked 2-4 without reply between the 15th and 24th minutes really set up the Kilmacs.
Even though they saw that ten-point lead being whittled down to two by a gallant Kilbrittain side by the 42nd minute (2-6 to 2-4), they never panicked and safely steered their ship to shore in the closing stages.
‘It was a tough game but we were expecting that from Kilbrittain as they are a tough, hard team to beat always,’ explained Richie O’Sullivan.
‘We were slow to get going, it’s been something of a trend with us this season, but then when we did get going, we caused a lot of damage in about ten minutes. Kilbrittain never give up though, they battle hard and they pulled out a goal and a few points before half time. We knew we had our hands full but we regrouped at the break and drove it on in the second half.’
Credit Kilbrittain, trying to win the title for the first time since 1926, as they battled back in that second half but it was then that we saw the real hunger emerge on the Kilmac side as 130 years of frustration gave them the drive and the determination not to let this game slip from their grasp.
The opening quarter of this final, sponsored by Rowa/Rowex Pharma, was as near to a chess game as you could get as tension and nerves ruled and both sides seemed possessed with not yielding a score. Nil all was the unlikely score on the board after 15 minutes, Kilbrittain looking the more determined side but missing some chances, including frees, while the Kilmacs invariably found their short-passing moves breaking down against a tigerish Kilbrittain defence well-marshalled by Cian O’Leary, Ivan Burke, David Desmond, Chris Hickey and veteran goalkeeper Owen Sexton.
Then, like a bus, when one comes along, half a dozen appear. A pointed free from Damien Gore in the 16th minute opened the floodgates and in the space of nine minutes Richie O’Sullivan had the ball in the net twice, two superb efforts in the 17th and 21st minutes, and Gore (free and play) and Donncha McCarthy added points.
A shell-shocked Kilbrittain hardly knew what hit them as Gore, O’Sullivan, McCarthy, Diarmuid O’Callaghan, Timmy Nyhan and Ger O’Callaghan ran rampant. Martin Collins’s work rate at midfield was phenomenal, with great support from Declan O’Sullivan.
As quickly as it came, Kilmac’s golden burst disappeared with courageous Kilbrittain responding with their own scoring burst before half time. Inspired by the ageless Noel Griffin at full forward and the dashing young Josh O’Donovan in the corner, the Kilbrittain men had their opening point from O’Donovan in the 25th minute, followed by Maurice Sexton fisting home a superb soccer-style cross from Declan Harrington in the 28th minute. Two more points from O’Donovan and it was game on again as the Kilmacs led by 2-4 to 1-3 at the break.
‘We were genuinely worried when they got that goal in the second half, cutting the lead to two points, no point in saying we weren’t,’ admitted Richie O’Sullivan.
‘But we have a lot of experienced lads in the team and there was no panic. The defence was outstanding in the last quarter.’
The second half wasn’t quite a dour struggle but scores were again scarce as the Kilmacs re-started with quick points from Richie O’Sullivan and Damien Gore. They might have been six points behind but Kilbrittain refused to throw in the towel and, with Ross Cashman, Maurice Sexton, sub Thomas Sheehan and Philip Wall giving their all, Noel Griffin’s point was followed by an opportunist goal from O’Donovan in the 42nd minute, inevitably set up by Griffin.
Sub Pat O’Mahony also pointed but it was disallowed as Kilbrittain had 16 men on the pitch at the time.
Digging deep the Leap/Glandore men managed to hold Kilbrittain scoreless for the remainder of the game while kicking two vital points themselves, from Ger O’Donovan and Richie O’Sullivan to widen the final gap to a safe four points, 2-8 to 2-4.
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t classical but it was heart and character at its best. And Kilmacabea finally reached their Promised Land, sparking memorable celebrations.
Kilmacabea: Richie O’Sullivan 2-2, Damien Gore 0-4 (1f), Ger O’Donovan, Donncha McCarthy 0-1 each.
Kilbrittain: Josh O’Donovan 1-3, Maurice Sexton 1-0, Noel Griffin 0-1.
Kilmacabea: Tim O’Donovan; Mark Jennings, Ciarán O’Donovan, Thomas Jennings; Donie O’Donovan, Clive Sweetnam (captain), Sam O’Driscoll; Martin Collins, Declan O’Sullivan; Timmy Nyhan, Diarmuid O’Callaghan, Ger O’Donovan; Donncha McCarthy, Richie O’Sullivan, Damien Gore.
Subs: Oisín O’Sullivan for D McCarthy (45), Liam Thompson for T Nyhan (55), Eoin O’Donovan for G O’Donovan (59).
Kilbrittain: Owen Sexton; Sean Crowley, Cian O’Leary, Ivan Burke; David Desmond (captain), Chris Hickey, Nick O’Donovan; Ross Cashman, Conor O’Donovan; Philip Wall, Tom Harrington, Maurice Sexton; Dec Harrington, Noel Griffin, Josh O’Donovan.
Subs: Thomas Sheehan for T Harrington (15), Pat O’Mahony for C O’Donovan (38), Eamon Lyons for C Hickey (56).
Referee: Mick O’Leary (Diarmuid Ó Mathúna).