St Enda's dream run ends with final blow
St Enda's, Glengormley 2-9 Kilcummin 5-13
The dream season of St Enda's Glengormley came crashing down with a nightmare first seven minutes, in the most public theatre of them all as they went 2-3 to no score down in the All-Ireland Intermediate final on Saturday night.
There is a chance that Kevin McCarthy's 3-7 from play was the finest individual display at this level in a final, and it will surely attract the Kilcummin man into Kerry manager Peter Keane's plans.
To their eternal credit, St Enda's refused to fold, even allowing for the catastrophic start. While they tried four different markers on McCarthy they never took a backward step and after goals from Eoin Nagle and Ruairi Scott, came within two points before the final sucker punch.
Noel Duggan carried the ball toward goal and St Enda's goalkeeper Paddy Flood took him down. A penalty conceded, a black card for Flood, and with another goal shipped with Kieran Murphy's successful conversion, it left too much of a mountain to climb.
While McCarthy was a late replacement for Kilcummin, St Enda's manager Frankie Fitzsimmons said they expected he would play.
"There were rumours going around that his hand was ok. There wasn't much to it during the year because he played with a broken hand but he missed a lot of games," said Fitzsimmons.
"We knew he was a quality player and as you saw out there, he was top-notch.
"We are a very young side and I thought after that they came back very well and showed a lot of courage. You could have walked off at half-time absolutely hammered but we went in at half-time with a chance.
"The 'keeper, the black card and the penalty was massive for us too, and young Conor McAuley going off was a big loss. But those are the sort of things you need to run with and their 'keeper made some unreal saves too. But to keep in the game against a Kerry team like that, they need to be all going over."
After keeping the Antrim men waiting out on the pitch for a prolonged period after half-time, Kilcummin notched four consecutive points at the start of the second half to put things beyond the reach of St Enda's. Even at that, they had to rely on former Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy - who was also outstanding from kickouts - to avoid any nervous moments.
"The whole thing is a bit of a blur to be honest," said a dazed looking St Enda's captain James McAuley.
"We enjoyed the build-up and stuff but we always knew the game was going to go by in a blink like all finals do.
"I just feel we only got a foothold in the game for two periods of five minutes. That's all we played for. But they are a very, very good team so that's maybe the only consolation."
Possibly the most surprised man in Croke Park to be in this position was former Kerry All-Ireland winner, Kilcummin manager Willie Maher. He was handed the job of finding a manager, and ended up taking it himself.
"If you go back 12 months the club had been relegated. The lads, six or seven of them contacted me and one of them contacted all the players in early January," he explained.
"Twenty-five turned up for training and for the first seven weeks there was no manager. I was involved in trying to pick the manager and ended up being manager."
He led a fine team to a great victory. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up, and with a team of an average age according to McAuley of 22, they have serious potential to go on and give the Antrim senior championship an earnest rattle in 2019.
ST ENDA'S: P Flood; K Jennings, D Gault, M McNamee; C Lyttle, J McAuley, C McAuley; P Curran, J Maskey; P Healy, R Scott 1-2, K Healy; E Gibson, O Eastwood 0-7, 5f, E Nagle 1-0
Subs: C O'Neill for Curran (20m), M Morgan for Flood (22m - black card replacement), C Thompson for C McAuley (25m), C Eastwood for Gault (43m), N McKeown for Gibson (53m), R Kennedy for Scott (57m), D Walsh for K Healy (60m)
Yellow cards: P Curran (17m)
Black cards: P Flood (22m)
KILCUMMIN: B Kealy; S O'Leary, D Maher, D Moynihan; P Casey, C O'Leary, W Maher; K Murphy 1-1, 1-0 Pen, K Gorman; S McSweeney, G O'Leary 0-3, P Nagle; N Duggan 0-1f, K McCarthy 3-7, M Keane 1-0
Subs: J McCarthy 0-1 for P Nagle (44m), D O'Leary for W Maher (44m), I Devane 0-1 for Duggan (53m), D O'Leary for G O'Leary (55m), K Teahan for Murphy (57m), M O'Shea for Keane (61m)
Yellow cards: K Murphy (64m)
Referee: James Molloy (Galway)