An unanswered 1-2 in the space of three second-half minutes turned the AIB Munster JHC final Kildorrery’s way at Mallow yesterday.
For much of the contest, St Kieran’s of Limerick had edged a tight and tense affair, holding a precious 0-9 to 0-8 lead at the start of the fourth quarter. All of a sudden a goal, quickly followed by two points, put Kildorrery into the game’s biggest lead, and though Kieran’s never fell away, they had lost their momentum and could not pull level again.
The identity of Kildorrery’s main man was wholly unsurprising. During their campaign, from divisional championship through to county and onto provincial, Peter O’Brien has been the main score-getter and that was the case again.
Despite being hindered with an injury which meant he was sited at full-forward for most of the game, O’Brien finished with 1-6, the goal coming in the 48th minute after Will Fouhy’s mazy run.
That was followed by an inspirational point from the left corner and then O’Brien turned provider for Richard McEniry to open up a four-point lead. It was hardly surprising that Kildorrery selector Pat Fenton was so fulsome in his praise for O’Brien.
"Peter did the business, even though he was struggling," he said.
"He has great heart, he’s a never-say-die guy.
"There are no bad hearts in Kildorrery, after all the tough games we’ve had!
"It’s a wonderful feeling to think that we are Munster champions, going back four or five years we were struggling to win a first round in North Cork. All the parish, to a man and woman, supported us, there were people coming up to me who I thought didn’t know me and were wishing us well."
It matters little now, but Kildorrery took a while to settle, and trailed by 0-3 to 0-1 in the first 10 minutes, Johnny McCarthy instrumental for Kieran’s while Jack Ben Harnett had been unlucky with a goal effort.
Kildorrery could not get O’Brien on the ball enough but he did what he could with limited supply and three from him, including two frees, had them 0-4 to 0-3 in front.
The momentum was going one way and then the other, though, and Kieran’s again seized the initiative as Donie Nolan scored two points but injured himself in executing the latter, when a goal was on,
That made it 0-6 to 0-5 and they could have pushed even further in front when Ray Cahill was fouled for a penalty but James Muckell fired his shot over the bar. Nevertheless, when sub Ian Mackessy added a free in injury time, it meant that the Limerick side led by three at half-time.
While an O’Brien brace in the second half’s formative moments had Kildorrery back in touch, poor shooting generally was letting them down despite enjoying much of the play, with Michael Walsh dominant at centre-back.
After Mackessy and Kildorrery’s Dave Kelly had exchanged points, Eamonn O’Connor and then Finbarr Stapleton had goal chances for the North Cork side, denied by John Greaney’s double-save, before O’Brien struck.
With a 1-10 to 0-9 lead and 10 minutes left, Kildorrery were clear favourites, but Kieran’s plugged away and Mackessy, Cahill and McCarthy all scored to bring the deficit back to a point.
Stapleton gave Kildorrery some breathing space again, though, and the late pressure was withstood to set off wild celebrations and extinguish the bad memories of recent football losses.
"I think we can finally put to bed the heartache of the last few years and move on," O’Brien said.
"The last four or five years, the talk has been about the finals that we have lost but now we can talk about how good this team is.
"We have three trophies this year and hopefully we can add another, we have Thomastown next. It’s a dream come true, I never thought I’d be playing for Kildorrery in December!"
Scorers for Kildorrery: P O’Brien 1-6 (0-4f), E O’Connor 0-2, D Kelly, R McEniry, F Stapleton 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Kieran’s: J McCarthy, I Mackessy (0-3f) 0-3 each, D Nolan (0-1f), J Muckell (0-1 penalty) 0-2 each, R Cahill, D Treacy 0-1 each.
KILDORRERY: J McEniry; N Kelly, S Fitzgerald, L Kelly; J Howard, M Walsh, M Lillis; C Ó Baoill, J McCarthy; E O’Connor, R McEniry, W Fouhy; D Kelly, P O’Brien, F Stapleton.
Sub: S Kelly for Fouhy (52).
ST KIERAN’S: J Greaney; B McCarthy, P McCarthy, M Windle; S Windle, P Windle, M Flynn; A Molyneaux, JB Harnett; R Cahill, J McCarthy, D Treacy; D Collum, D Nolan, J Muckell.
Subs: I Mackessy for Nolan (27, injured), T Doyle for M Windle (55).
Referee: Damian Fox (Clare).
By Denis Hurley