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Enda the road . . .

Kilcummin’s Ciaran Thompson finds the Naomh Éanna net during Saturday’s final at Croke Park

Photo credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry Kilcummin’s Ciaran Thompson finds the Naomh Éanna net during Saturday’s final at Croke Park Photo credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry
By Paddy Tierney

AIB All-Ireland Club Intermediate Football Championship final

Kilcummin (Kerry) 5-13
Naomh Éanna (Antrim) 2-9

From Paddy Tierney at Croke Park

FRANK Fitzsimons was right all along. It would take a great team to beat his Naomh Éanna side in Championship football this season. On Saturday night, they went toe-to-toe with a fine Kilcummin outfit and came off second best as the Kerry men ran out emphatic 13-point victors.
Central to Kilcummin’s success was the scintillating performance of Kevin McCarthy – who scored a remarkable 3-7, all from play.
As his team made their way off the pitch to a remarkable ovation from their large travelling support, the Naomh Éanna boss praised their efforts after a long season which still yielded two Championship titles.
“We said coming down here we could live with playing our best and getting beat by a better team. I don’t think we played our best, but we were beaten by a better team,” said Fitzsimons.
“Their goalkeeper (Brendan Kealy) pulled off two or three great saves and you need to be getting those scores at this level.
“They are a super team. I said to the boys at half-time that we were still on the bus. This is a very young side – Eoin Nagle is only 19 and he was as good as anyone.
“There is a bright future in front of those boys if they all stick together and continue to work the way they have been.”
In truth, the North Belfast men never really recovered from a nightmare start which saw them concede 2-3 inside the first eight minutes with Matt Keane and McCarthy finding the target.
A stunning goal from Eoin Nagle kick-started Naomh Éanna’s challenge following a couple of good points from Odhran Eastwood and a Ruairi Scott major on 21 minutes left just two points between the sides.
However, their good work was swiftly undone at the other end in a counter attack which halted their progress.
Goalkeeper Paddy Flood fouled Noel Duggan as the corner-forward was bearing down on goal following a great pass inside from Seán O’Leary. Referee James Molloy awarded the penalty and issued a black card to Flood for the take-down.
To add insult to injury, defender Conor McAuley picked up an ankle ligament injury in the goalmouth scramble which ended his evening.
With substitute ’keeper Conor Devlin unavailable due to his soccer commitments with Larne, Michael Morgan donned the number one jersey for the remainder of the contest, but, following a lengthy stoppage, he couldn’t prevent Kieran Murphy from scoring the penalty.
With Kilcummin moving into a 3-6 to 2-4 lead at the break, the Antrim and Ulster champions needed a fast start to the second half, yet an unanswered salvo of 0-4 put the game firmly beyond Naomh Éanna. Former Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy pulled off a smart save to deny Kristian Healy early in the half, but current Kingdom panelist McCarthy stole the show with some majestic scores.
He dovetailed well with the industrious Noel Duggan while Murphy and centre-back Chris O’Leary pushed forward with abandon. As Naomh Éanna continued to chase the game, their defence was exposed.
When Healy tested Kealy’s reflexes once again midway through the half, Kilcummin went straight down to the Davin Stand side and with McCarthy splitting the posts in ruthless fashion.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Kilcummin bagged their fourth major with McCarthy applying the finish following a wonderful move involving Shane McSweeey and Gary O’Leary with McCarthy turning past the advancing Morgan in the Naomh Éanna goal before driving the ball into the net.
In injury-time, he completed his hat-trick with his easiest finish of the night after being left unmarked in front of goal to round off a brilliant individual display.
It wasn’t to be for Naomh Éanna, but they’ll quickly turn their attentions to the new season and tonight’s Antrim Championship draws when they will learn who there opponents will be when they make their Senior Football Championship debut later this year.

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 (0-2), P Nagle; N Duggan (0-1, 0-1f), K McCarthy (3-7), M Keane (1-0).
Subs: J McCarthy for Nagle (44mins), Daniel O’Leary for W Maher (44mins), I Devine (0-1) for Duggan (53mins), Damien O’Leary for G O’Leary (55mins), K Teahan for Murphy (58mins) M O’Shea for Keane (61mins).

NAOMH ÉANNA: P Flood; K Jennings, D Gault, M McNamee; C Lyttle, J McAuley, C McAuley; P Curran, J Maskey; P Healy, R Scott (0-2), K Healy; E Gibson, O Eastwood (0-7, 0-5fs), E Nagle (1-0).
Subs: C O’Neill for Curran (20mins), M Morgan (black card replacement) for Flood (21mins), C Thompson for C McAuley (25mins), C Eastwood for Gault (43mins), N McKeown for Gibson (52mins), R Kennedy for Scott (57mins), D Walsh for K Healy (60mins).

REFEREE: J Molloy (Galway)

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