Marketing campaigns, by their nature, tend towards vacuous twaddle but the one about the club championships being the toughest is more accurate than most. This was illustrated down at Cusack Park, Ennis, this afternoon when unfancied Westport slugged it out in the rain with Kenmare, eventually winning their All-Ireland IFC club semi-final after extra-time by 1-10 to 0-11.
Kenmare started this tie far stronger, justifying those 1/6 pre-match odds by racing into a four-point lead early on. It took Westport a full fifteen minutes to register their first score, though by then they’d shot a few bad wides and had fluffed at least one good goal chance.
At half-time, the Mayo lads were just a point in arrears. I think it was then that Mickey Ned O’Sullivan first said on the Local Streaming broadcast that the longer this battle went on, the more the odds would favour Westport. His logic – prescient as it transpired – was that Kenmare had no experience of extricating themselves from a proper battle and he reckoned that if it became a real tussle, then the battling Coveys could have the edge.
When the Kerry lads moved three clear with less than ten minutes to go, though, it looked like they’d done enough to seal the deal. All the more so when Westport passed up on yet another goal chance, with Kenmare’s possession game getting ever more confident with every passing minute.
Then, however, came the moment that altered the course of this contest. With time running out, Westport were awarded a hotly-disputed penalty (I was watching the action on Local Streaming and I’ve no idea, I’m afraid, what it was for), which was dispatched to the net to bring the match level. The Mayo lads then went in front, only for Kenmare to secure extra-time with a late, late leveller.
Kenmare were a point to the good at half-time in extra-time but coming down the closing stretch it was Westport who found the extra-gear. With five minutes to go and the teams level, Lee Keegan won a stirring turnover in the Kenmare half to set up the lead score.
Kenmare threw everything at Westport from there to the end but they kept getting snared in the Westerners’ well-organised blanket. Then, when a Kenmare attack broke down with just seconds left, a swift counter-attack ended up with a 3 v 2 at the other end. Westport opted to take the point, with the final whistle sounding once the ball was kicked out again.
This was a massive win for Westport. Kenmare were huge favourites to win today – with only eight senior clubs in Kerry, the Intermediate champions in the Kingdom are always serious contenders for All-Ireland glory, as a quick look at the honours list for the club IFC title shows.
By felling such illustrious opposition, Westport will now head to Croke Park with justified confidence in their ability to finish the job. In that decider in three weeks time, they’ll face St Colmcille’s of Meath, who overcome Tyrone’s Pomeroy by 3-11 to 2-13 in today’s other semi-final.
In today’s curtain-raiser at Cusack Park, Louisburgh enjoyed a great start against Glenbeigh-Glencar in their All-Ireland JFC club semi-final, leading by 0-8 to 0-2 at one stage. The Kerry side reeled them in, however, and their ability to find the net repeatedly (Darran O’Sullivan’s wonder-goal is here) saw them run out winners by 4-14 to 0-13.
Hard luck to Louisburgh, who clearly gave it everything and who did so well to go so far in this competition. They can be justifiably proud of their achievement in doing as well as they did.
In ladies football, meanwhile, Mayo were narrowly beaten by Galway in today’s opening round League meeting at Swinford. Galway won by 2-8 to 0-10, all but two of the Mayo scores coming from, you’ve guessed it, Cora Staunton. A round-up of of today’s LGFA action is here and photos by Michael Maye of today’s match are here.
Finally, Galway came out on top in today’s FBD League final, beating Roscommon by 2-14 to 0-15 at Kiltoom this afternoon. That’s two defeats in a week for the Rossies, who now have to prepare for a tough League opener up in Healy Park against Tyrone. The Tribesmen, meanwhile, start their Division Two campaign next weekend with a tasty fixture against Cork at Pearse Stadium.
Today, though, belonged to those wonderful Westport lads. The photo below sums up the magic of club football and what it means when you realise that it’s you and your teammates who are able to show that you’re the toughest:
Photo: @Sportsfile/Diarmuid Greene