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Kilmaley take group top spot

Kilmaley 1-16   Smith O’Brien’s 1-9

FOR 15 minutes in O’Garney Park on Saturday afternoon, Smith O’Brien’s hurled like a team determined to keep their destiny in their own hands. Needing to avoid defeat to guarantee their senior status, their early play was laced with plenty of energy and enthusiasm.
They hit the ground running and they could hardly have believed their luck when gifted a goal at the end of the opening quarter, to supplement four early points.
Kilmaley keeper Seamus Hurley gathered possession and then, in his wisdom, decided to head out the field on a solo run. However, with his options narrowed down, Hurley was eventually dispossessed and Shane O’Brien capitalised to rifle the ball to the net.
The opportunistic strike had them 1-4 to 0-2 in front but instead of driving on, Smith O’Brien’s merely flattered to deceive. The goal, in fact, served as a stimulant for Kilmaley, who finally got their act together and they began to assert their dominance in key positions about the field.
Winning a lot of possession, no one more so than the recalled Conor Clancy, Kilmaley were somehow afflicted with a form of paralysis when they got within striking range. Conscious of their profligacy in previous games, they were loathe to shoot, opting instead to try and engineer a nailed down opportunity before taking a pot at the posts.
Nonetheless, with Ken Kennedy always a threat at full-forward and Conor McMahon chipping in with some excellent points from midfield, they outscored their opponents by four points to one in the second quarter. They still, however, found themselves adrift at the break, when they trailed 1-5 to 0-6.
With news filtering through that Corofin were in arrears in Clarecastle, a result if it remained that way was to their benefit, perhaps Smith O’Brien’s were content to let others do the business for them because their work rate dropped and when Kilmaley upped the tempo, they were left lagging behind.
In near total control, Kilmaley proceeded to clinically close out the game in the third quarter. They fired over a succession of excellent points, before Ken Kennedy, with fleet of foot, slipped his marker to hammer home a goal. It was a score that hammered the final nail in Smith O’Brien’s coffin, as the gap had stretched to seven points, 1-12 to 1-5.
Smith O’Brien’s scoring drought, which had spanned 33 minutes, eventually ended when Liam Walsh converted a 65’ but by then the game was beyond the point of rescue.
The final quarter petered out as Kilmaley, with the victory safely in their keeping, were content to run down the clock. Truth be told, they won this game at their ease and, for good measure, events elsewhere ensured that they were elevated to top spot in their group.
However, there was an unsavoury ending to the game. Smith O’Brien’s were awarded a free close in, which resulted in a yellow card for Seán Hehir. However, when Liam Walsh decided to seek retribution, his off-the-ball incident led to referee Damien Fox issuing a straight red card, thus making him ineligible for their play-off game with Corofin. That, in the final analysis, was probably worse that the poverty of their performance.

Seamus Hurley; Seán Talty, Anthony Cahill, Noel Casey; Eoin Burke, Alan Markham, John Clohessy; Conor McMahon, Stephen McNamara; Conor Neylon, Conor Clancy, Diarmuid McMahon; Padraig Talty, Ken Kennedy, Brian McMahon.
Subs: Seán Hehir for Burke, inj, Brian McDonnell for Padraig Talty and Dermot Neylon for Brian McMahon.
Scorers: Ken Kennedy (1-5, 0-2f), Conor McMahon (0-4), Alan Markham (0-2f), Stephen McNamara, Conor Neylon, Diarmuid McMahon, Conor Clancy and John Clohessy  (0-1) each.
Frees for: 10 Wides: 12
Yellow cards: Alan Markham, Seán Hehir and John Clohessy.
“We struggled in the first half but won the second half convincingly. We’d have to be satisfied enough with the performance and the position we have now arrived at as group winners.” Eugene McMahon, manager.

Smith O’Brien’s: Mark McInerney; Mike Flynn, Shane Tuohy, John Culhane; Paul McKeogh, Seamus Gleeson, Brian McInerney; Pat Vaughan, Trevor Howard; Seán Conway, Pat Ahern, Liam Walsh; Shane O’Brien, Kevin McCarthy, Anthony O’Sullivan.
Subs: Keith Stritch for O’Sullivan and Brian McKeogh for Paul McKeogh.
Scorers: Shane O’Brien (1-3), Liam Walsh (0-4, 0-1f, 0-2 65s) and Pat Ahern (0-2).
Frees: 8 Wides: 5 65s: 3
Yellow cards: Pat Ahern and Trevor Howard.
Red card: Liam Walsh.
“We are very disappointed with the result. We got the start we wanted but were unable to sustain our effort or build on it. All year we’ve been fading out of games in the second half and it happened again today.” Brendan Foley, manager.

Referee: Damien Fox, Wolfe Tones.

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