It might only be regarded as a minor surprise to most that O’Dempsey’s ended Arles-Killeen’s interest in this year’s Senior Championship, but the manner of the win will certainly have raised more than a few eyebrows.
After a closely fought first half O’Dempsey’s simply blew the Arles men apart in the second, keeping them scoreless from play after the break and if they can keep all their players fit and well they will fancy their chances of repeating the trick in a fortnight’s time against Timahoe. The return of Michael Finlay and Conor Meredith played a huge part in the win, but this was an impressive all-round team display that shone all the brighter when compared to an unusually lacklustre Killeen side.
It was a blistering start, with both sides performing in the first ten minutes with such energy that it looked like there was a real cracker in store. After just seven minutes it was all square on 1-2 apiece, with O’Dempsey’s striking first through the returning Michael Finlay only to be pegged back almost immediately with a goal of the highest quality.
Donie Kingston drove a ball into his half-forward line and Donie Brennan got the better of Robbie Keogh to gain possession brilliantly. Brennan played a sublime pass into Jason Enright and he laid it off to Billy O’Loughlin who dispatched in style to cap an exceptionally orchestrated goal.
O’Loughlin then traded scores with Brian Nugent as the sides remained on terms until O’Dempsey’s put two between them with a Nugent free and a well worked Barry Kelly point. The pace of the game had fallen flat by that stage, and after nine scoreless minutes Shane Byrne pointed for Killeen with his first touch of the game. He had just been introduced after Donie Brennan was replaced with a hamstring injury, and it was that loss as much as the one point lead that must have given O’Dempsey’s plenty of heart as they retreated to the dressing rooms.
Byrne’s involvement was shortlived however, because Brennan returned for the start of the second period, albeit very heavily strapped. Undeterred, O’Dempsey’s looked to build on their lead and that they did with the first two scores of the half through Brian Nugent and Michael Finlay.
Donie Brennan lasted just nine minutes before being replaced by Shane Byrne for the second time, but Killeen had looked like a shadow of them selves for a long time prior to that and when O’Dempsey’s struck their second goal a minute later it had the feel of a game that was already beyond Killeen.
Their keeper Mick Leigh pulled off a fine low save to deny Michael Finlay but as they looked to break back up the field Pat Moran’s shrill whistle called a halt to those intentions. Confusion abounded in the stands as to the cause of the stoppage but Moran had done well to spot Leigh’s post-save kick aimed at Finlay and a penalty was awarded. Leigh accepted his yellow and took his position on the line to try to thwart Stephen O’Leary, but even if he had have known where O’Leary was aiming he still wouldn’t have got to it such was the venom in the strike as it arrowed into the top right hand corner of the net.
That vicious conversion put six points between them and with Killeen labouring for any real scoring chances there was no way back. A few minor altercations flared up which served only to slow the footballing side of things down to a mere crawl and by the time the next score came, a Jason Enright close range free, there was only six minutes left on the clock.
That was the one and only time that the umpires at that end of the field were required, and O’Dempsey’s rounded off a fine win with two late points. Brian Nugent’s exhibition of free-taking continued and after the impressive Stephen O’Leary almost shattered the crossbar with a stinging drive, Michael Finlay collected the rebound to tap it over Mick Leigh’s bar and signal an end to the evening’s action. A miserable evening was rounded off when Dermot Julian picked up his second yellow of the night, having been extremely lucky to have escaped with just the yellow for the earlier offence, and Killeen limped out of this year’s championship race.
SCORERS - O’Dempsey’s: Michael Finlay 1-3, Brian Nugent 0-4 (all frees), Stephen O’Leary 1-0 (pen), Barry Kelly and Ed Kelly 0-1 each; Arles-Killeen: Billy O’Loughlin 1-1, Jason Enright 0-2 (one free), Donie Brennan and Shane Byrne 0-1 each.
O’DEMPSEY’S: Podge Bannon; Thomas Finlay, Peter O’Leary, Conor Kavanagh; JP Kehoe, Robbie Keogh, Barry Kelly; Liam Finlay, Rory Bracken; Conor Meredith, Brian Nugent, Darren Finlay; Stephen O’Leary, Ed Kelly, Michael Finlay. Subs: Liam Finlay for D Finlay (58 mins), Billy Walsh for S O’Leary (59 mins), Eoghan Finlay for M Finlay (60 mins)
ARLES-KILLEEN: Michael Leigh; Brian Kennedy, James Mahon, Niall O’Rourke; John Mahon, Joe Mulhare, Brendan O’Shea; Shane Julian, Donie Kingston; Conor Keightly, Donie Brennnan, Dermot Julian; Billy O’Loughlin, Jason Enright, Brian McDonald. Subs: Enda O’Rourke for Kennedy (28 mins, inj), Shane Byrne for Brennan (29 mins, inj), Brennan for Byrne (30 mins), Byrne for Brennan (39 mins, inj), Arnie Mahon for Keightly (52 mins), Eamon Mahon for D Julian (53 mins),
Referee: Pat Moran (Graiguecullen)