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Russell at the centre as Kilkee advance

Kilkee 1-8   Kilrush 1-7

THE experience of David Russell proved a key factor in the first of the Clare senior football championship semi-finals at Cooraclare on Saturday evening.
Playing at centre-back, Russell made a vital interception as Kilrush mounted an attack in the closing minutes and from the counter-attack, the Seasiders scored through Barry Harte. In the final minute, he won a vital line ball before he fielded superbly in front of goal as Kilrush came in search of an equaliser.
In a game in which both sides enjoyed periods of dominance, Kilkee’s greater experience just about won the day but Kilrush will know they had enough chances to have, at least, earned a draw.
Kilkee’s victory is all the more praiseworthy given the fact they lost experienced defender Darragh Kelly as early as the third minute. Only recently back in action following keyhole surgery to his right knee, the full-back injured his left ankle when he challenged Peadar McMahon for possession.
The winners still managed to dominate the early exchanges and points from Brian Clancy and Kevin Larkin had them two clear by the 10th minute. Indeed it took a good save by Tony Burke in the Kilrush goal to keep out a Gearóid Lynch effort, during this spell of dominance by the Kilkee men.
As the first quarter drew to a close, Kilrush came storming back into contention and three points in as many minutes from Peadar McMahon (2) and Alan Daly put them into a lead which they held until the first minute of injury time at the end of the half.
Early in the second quarter, Kilkee introduced Jimmy Larkin, just back from a term in Australia, who went on to play an important part in their victory.
After 15 scoreless minutes, the winners regained the lead when Gearóid Lynch managed to punch the ball to the net from a Kevin Larkin cross. The goal put Kilkee 1-2 to 0-3 ahead as Michael Rock sounded the half time whistle.
When the second half got underway, Kilkee were forced to make more changes as Christy Kirwan was unable to resume due to injury. He was replaced by Jack Fitzgerald who went to wing-forward, with Jimmy Larkin now in defence.
Jim Young and Gearóid Lynch exchanged points before a Peadar McMahon effort left the minimum between the sides, five minutes into the half. Young was now causing some problems for Kilkee and Kevin Harte came to his side’s rescue with a fine save in the seventh minute. A minute later, however, he could do nothing to prevent a deft flick by the Kilrush full-forward from ending up in the net. Great work by midfielder Patrick Clancy created the opportunity from which Young scored.
Kilrush had the upperhand at this stage and Kilkee goalie Harte again came to his side’s rescue when he saved from Cathal Lyons who, shortly afterwards, provided the pass to Patrick Moloney who pointed. A Barry Harte point reduced Kilrush’s lead to the minimum with 15 minutes remaining as the Kilrush management team decided to introduce Stephen Sweeney and Patrick McGrath to their attack.
Following 10 scoreless minutes, Michael O’Shea who had been guilty of a number of misses from frees, struck for his only score when he converted a 30m free which tied up the game. At the same time, the winners introduced the vastly experienced Ger Keane to their attack.
With the game delicately balanced, experience was vital and it was now that David Russell’s value to the Seasiders was, once again, emphasised. He dispossessed Rory O’Connor as Kilrush looked to have the advantage going forward and Russell then got the ball to Barry Harte to kick a great point. Kilkee again won possession from the kick-out and another attack ended with Kevin Larkin kicking a point to put two between the sides with one minute of normal time to play.
A Peadar McMahon pointed free brought the margin back to the minimum and the Shamrocks piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser. It was now that Russell really stood tall and he made a couple of vital catches to keep their neighbours at bay and steer his side to a county final date on Sunday week.
In addition to Russell, Brian Clancy, Kevin Larkin, Noel O’Shea, Gearóid Lynch and substitute Jimmy Larkin all made valuable contributions to the victory.
John Hayes, Patrick Clancy, Con O’Brien, Jim Young, and Peadar McMahon were prominent throughout for Kilrush.

St Senan’s: Kevin Harte, Christy Kirwan, Darragh Kelly, Thomas Galvin, Brian Clancy, David Russell, Micheal Keane, Kevin Larkin, Derek De Loughrey, Noel O’Shea, Michael O’Shea, Chris Williamson, Gearóid Lynch, Barry Harte, Conor King.
Subs: Brendan Smith for Kelly; Jimmy Larkin for Williamson; Jack Fitzgerald for Kirwan; Ger Keane for De Loughrey; Kieran De Loughrey for King.
Scorers: Gearóid Lynch (1-3); Kevin Larkin, Barry Harte (0-2) each; Michael O’Shea (0-1, free).
Frees For: 24; Wides: 9; 45s’: 3
Bookings: Noel O’Shea (21 minutes), Gearóid Lynch (29 minutes), Micheal Keane (32 minutes).
“The decisive moment was with about 10 minutes to go when David Russell dispossessed the Kilrush forward going through. It led to a point and it was the changing point in the game…It’s great to be in the final when our team of 25 years ago will be honoured on the day.” Kieran Marrinan, Kilkee

Kilrush: Tony Burke, Chris Dixon, Martin Griffin, Danny Lynch, Con O’Brien, John Hayes, Matthew Moloney, Donal O’Sullivan, Patrick Clancy, Cathal Lyons, Brendan Crowley, Alan Daly, Rory O’Connor, Peadar McMahon, Jim Young.
Subs: David O’Shea for Griffin; Stephen Sweeney for Lyons; Patrick McGrath for Crowley; Martin Griffin for Lynch; Eoghan O’Kelly for O’Sullivan.
Scorers: Peadar McMahon (0-4, two frees); Jim Young (1-1); Patrick Clancy and Alan Daly (0-1) each.
Frees For: 18; Wides: 7
Bookings: Matthew Moloney (22 minutes); Rory O’Connor (33 minutes); Patrick Clancy (47 minutes).
“We have come a long way since February 8 when the club was on its knees. They are a great group of players and they are going to go on to better things…A few mistakes we made today cost us and they are the winning and the losing of games.” Aidan Daly, Kilrush

Referee: Michael Rock, Ennistymon.

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