St Senan's wing back Ray O'Flaherty
Saint Senan’s never make it easy for their supporters. Sunday’s Munster intermediate club 2-11 to 2-8 win over Kilmihil in the semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds combined the same mixture of the brilliant, the awful and the nervous that has typified not just this season but their last two decades of football.
2017, though, has been a year of victories and the good outshone the bad as they maintained their unbeaten with a win over Clare’s Kilmihil that was more emphatic than the final scoreline suggests. However, for long periods of a game of manic depressive moodswings, any result was possible.
A tame start was followed by the Bannermen stepping on the gas to run up a seven point lead which could have been more had a lucky goal not pulled Senans back from the brink coming up to half-time.
The margin was back to five after the Limerick club restarted with the same turgid deliberation before Ollie Wallace’s point lit the spark that turned the game on its head. Discarding their caution, Senans tore into their opponents and steamrolled the remaining twenty-five minutes.
Yet even then, they couldn’t escape their addiction to drama. After six explosive minutes put them in front, scores dried up and they were rocked by a rare Kilmihil attack ending with a fluke goal. However, Senans, who always appeared to have the edge in fitness, immediately regained the lead and, despite a superb save keeping them in front, found the composure to run home in comfort.
It took five minutes to see the first shot in anger before an exchange of frees from Richard Hayes and Declan Downes got the teams off the mark. Hayes then could have goaled off James Naughton’s lay-off but had to settle for converting the ‘45’.
The snail’s pace continued with errors breaking up the continuity until Martin O’Leary rounded his marker and found David Egan whose piledriver catapulted the Claremen into the lead. A Downes free and an untroubled David Ryan strike followed before Senans could catch their breath and Egan’s unchallenged shot put them further behind.
It could have been worse moments later when Egan fetched high at the edge of the square only for Anthony Russell to deny him a second goal. David Lernihan sent over the ‘45’ and the Limerickmen were on the ropes when Mark Coughlan pointed on the turn.
Their nightmare looked like continuing to the break when fate took a hand. An attempted shot dropprd on the edge of the square for Hayes to flick on and, while no team-mate ran on to collect, the ball dribbled over the unguarded Kilmihil line. Ian Ryan then added a free before Seán Crowley pointed off a solo run to leave the Bannermen leading 1-7 to 1-3 at half-time.
Both sides attacked on the restart but Kilmihil’s greater speed and ambition provided an O’Leary point. That finally provoked the Shanagolden side to cast off the shackles. Pressuring the kickout, committing themselves to support and coming onto the pass at speed, they launched into a blistering six minute spell that yielded points from Ollie Wallace, Hayes’s free, Stephen
O’Connell’s shot on the run that skimmed over the crossbar, Wallace again, another Hayes free and a second O’Connell shot just inches over that turned a five-point deficit into a one-point lead.
The momentum wobbled as the next three efforts went wide before Hayes struck of a pass and return from his ‘45’. It was still all Senans but possession wasn’t converting into scores. Then disaster struck. A high O’Leary shot came back off the upright and rebounded off Egan’s back to plop over the goal line for an unlikely Kilmihil lead. Senans’ answer was immediate. Sub Adam Kearns bombed in from the left to let loose a rasper to the far corner of the net.
Kilmihil could have pounced on the Estuary club’s nerves and almost rescued their day when when Egan’s diving fist off was stopped on the line by Russell. When they failed to send over the ‘45’, shape and belief deserted their game and Andy Lane’s point allowed Senans to run down the remaining minutes with increasing confidence.
SCORERS, SAINT SENAN’S: Richard Hayes 1-5 (0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘45’), Adam
Kearns 1-0, Ollie Wallace, Stephen O’Connell 0-2 each, Ian Ryan
(free), Andy Lane 0-1 each; KILMIHIL: David Egan 2-1, Declan Downes
0-2 (2 frees), David Ryan, David Lernihan (‘45’), Mark Coughlan, Seán
Crowley, Martin O’Leary 0-1 each.
SAINT SENAN’S: Anthony Russell; Dan Conroy, James Bridgeman, David
Finnerty; Ger Hanlon, Ian Ryan, Ray Flaherty; Anthony Mulvihill,
Stephen O’Connell; Ollie Wallace, Darren Kavanagh, Séamus McSweeney;
James Naughton, Conor Mullane, Richard Hayes. SUBS: Adam Kearns for
Maurice Fitzgerald (25 minutes), Kevin Doody for Anthony Mulvihill (55
minutes), Dale Fitzgerald for David Finnerty (56 minutes), Niall
Guiney for Ollie Wallace (58 minutes), Andy Lane for Dan Conroy (60
KILMIHILL: Timmy Ryan; David Coughlan, Jack Browne, Conor Crowley;
Anthony Downes, Stan Lineen, Mark Cougholan; David Lernihan, David
Egan; Declan Downes, David Ryan, Ciarán Downes; Seán Crowley, Paul
Reidy, Martin O’Leary. SUBS: DAN Keating for Anthony Downes (49
minutes), Pa Joe Connolly for Ciarán Downes (51 minutes), Shane Egan
for Paul Reidy (51 minutes),
REFEREE: Séamus Mulvihill (Kerry).
MAN OF THE MATCH: He mightn’t have got on the scoresheet himself but corner-forward James Naughton laid many of them on for his team-mates as well as drawing the fouls as his endless workrate kept Senans in the game when little else was working for them up front.