By Peter O’Connell
A LIGHTNING start helped Kilrush into the quarter-final of the senior football championship. After less than seven minutes, the 2012 county semi-finalists led 2-1 to 0-0, following neat goal finishes from Chris Dixon and Rory O’Connor.
The winners led 2-4 to 0-2 at half-time and while their level dipped appreciably in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, they were never in real danger of being reeled in by Kilkee.
Kilrush’s ploy of using corner-forward Jack Browne in a free outfield role worked very well, as the Kilrush youngster picked up plenty of possession and used it intelligently. It was Browne’s lovely cross-field pass, changing the direction of play, which set up corner-back Niall Clancy for a nicely taken left-footed point.
Dixon scored Kilrush’s first goal in the fourth minute, his finishing resembling that of Robin Van Persie. The ball broke to the Kilrush midfielder, after a Stephen Sweeney shot was blocked.
Sweeney also played a pivotal part in O’Connor’s goal, winning the ball in front of goal after a Darragh Bolton shot ballooned towards the Doonbeg skyline.
Jim Young put over two first-half points, with O’Connor adding the remaining point from play.
Chris Williamson scored Kilkee’s first point, an excellent effort, while Barry Harte was the only other Blue to find the target, just before half-time.
Kilkee kicked the first four points of the second half to reduce the gap significantly, 2-4 to 0-6. Brendan Smyth, from play, substitute Evan Garvey and Michael O’Shea (frees) found the target. Kilrush were now wobbling slightly but a 15th minute John Hayes point steadied The Shams, for whom O’Connor, Young, Hayes and Padjoe McGrath added further points.
Six minutes from full-time, Kilkee’s Chris Williamson was shown a second yellow card, following a clash with Niall Brennan.
John Hayes’ second point was one of the highlights of the game, as the Kilrush centre-back was found by a delightful Rory O’Connor chip, more regularly seen in the Maracanã than West Clare. The moment was added to when Kilkee goalkeeper Kevin Harte deflected Hayes’ shot over his crossbar.
The Kilrush full-back line looked solid, while John Hayes attacked incisively from centre-back. Niall Brennan also played well at wing-back, while Jack Browne worked exceptionally hard. However, Kilrush’s main man in attack was Rory O’Connor, whose movement and finishing bamboozled Kilkee.
Kilrush manager Aidan Moloney was content with his team’s display.
“We got a great start with the two goals. Kilkee played well after half-time but the two goals were the difference. At half-time we knew Kilkee would raise their game and that’s really the way it worked out but as the game went on, we kicked a few more scores,” he said.
Moloney felt the Kilrush substitutions worked well.
“Donal O’Sullivan came in and made a good impression, as did Con O’Brien. We were struggling a bit around the middle of the field and Donal settled us down there.”
Meanwhile, Kilkee mentor Kevin Shalloo felt his side found it impossible to recover from their poor opening half.
“We showed a bit of spirit at the start of the second half but we were playing for pride at that stage. Kilrush really over-ran us in the first 10 or 15 minutes. When the second goal went in, it was curtains for us. We didn’t have the work done to dig ourselves out of that kind of a hole,” he said.
Kilrush: Tony Burke; Niall Gilbride, Danny Lynch, Niall Clancy; Matthew Moloney, John Hayes, Niall Brennan; Chris Dixon, Paddy Clancy; Darragh Bolton, Cian Murray, Stephen Sweeney; Rory O’Connor, Jim Young (captain), Jack Browne.
Subs: Con O’Brien for Stephen Sweeney (40), Donal O’Sullivan for Paddy Clancy (40), Padjoe McGrath for Darragh Bolton (58) and Eoghan O’Kelly for John Hayes (60).
Scorers: Rory O’Connor (1-3), Jim Young (0-4, 3f), Chris Dixon (1-0), John Hayes (0-2), Niall Clancy and Padjoe McGrath (0-1 each).
Wides: 7; frees: 22; 45s: 1.
Yellow cards: Paddy Clancy and Matthew Moloney.
Kilkee: Kevin Harte; Darren Clarke, Darren Owens, Gavin Melican; Christy Kirwan, Thomas Galvin, Brian Clancy; Darragh Kelly, Conor King; Ronan Browne, Michael O’Shea, Kevin Larkin; Barry Harte, Chris Williamson, Micheál Keane.
Subs: Evan Garvey for Conor King (35), Diarmuid Keane for Brian Clancy (52, inj) and Brian Clancy for Christy Kirwan (58, inj).
Wides: 9; frees: 28; 45s: 0.
Yellow cards: Chris Williamson and Christy Kirwan.
Red card: Chris Williamson.
Referee: Gerry Keane (O’Curry’s).