PODCAST: St Enda's searching for perfect final chapter against Kilcummin
All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship final: St Enda’s (Antrim) v Kilcummin (Kerry) (today, Croke Park, 4.45pm, live on TG4 Youtube)
A DREAM season can come to a glorious end at Croke Park today as St Enda’s try to gain entrance to a very exclusive group.
Frank Fitzsimon’s side come up against Kerry outfit Kilcummin in the All-Ireland Intermediate Football final and if they win, they will become just the fifth Antrim club to win an All-Ireland title with St Gall’s (2010) doing so previously in football while Loughgiel (1983, 2012), Kickham’s, Creggan (2014) and O’Donovan Rossa (2015) managed it in hurling.
No Saffron side has ever triumphed in this particular competition though and a quick glance at the roll of honour gives weight to Kilcummin’s favouritism.
Since officially sanctioned, there have been 15 finals played and Kerry sides have come out on top in a third of those. The history belongs in Munster.
History is in the past though and St Enda’s are a club for the present and the future - and one thing for certain is that they have the talent to win this game.
Much has been made of their forward line, and with good reason. Fitzsimon’s side have played eight championship games this year and are averaging two goals a game.
The 3-9 they managed in the All-Ireland semi-final win over An Spidéal was actually slightly below their scoring average for the season.
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Ruairi Scott and Odhran Eastwood have scored in all eight games while Eoin Nagle has only failed to raise a flag in one match this season.
It’s not surprising that the forward unit has grabbed the headlines but the hard graft from the defence, midfielders Ethan Gibson and Joe Maskey and the Healys, Kristian and Peter, ensure that they are just as solid at the other end too.
Doohamlet’s 3-5 in the Ulster quarter-final was the most they have conceded this season.
If there was one slight blip, albeit an expected one given the rise in opposition quality, it is that they have coughed up more scores outside Antrim. Within their own county, their opponents managed 5, 7, 5 and 8 scores. Since then it has been 8, 9, 11 and 11.
Willie Maher’s Kilcummin will be yet another step up in class with players such as goalkeeper Brendan Kealy, Sean O’Leary and Matt Keane driving them on.
Kevin McCarthy is another vital player and while a hand injury limited him to a brief cameo in the semi-final win over Two Mile House, he is expected to play a larger role here.
The team showed brilliant resilience in that last-four win against the Kildare champions as they found a way to win by a point despite finishing the match with 14 players after Kevin Gorman’s red card.
An early black card for Two Mile House’s star Peter Kelly did help their cause, but the sides were level when Gorman was dismissed and they still found a way to edge in front with Phillip Casey landing the winning free.
While St Enda’s can boast a potent attack, Kilcummin seem to gain strength from a mean defence.
They have prevented seven of their nine opponents from finding the net and their concession tallies have included 1-3, 0-7, 0-8, 0-9, 0-10, 0-11 and the scarcely believable 0-1 that Waterford’s Kilmacthomas managed in the Munster semi-final.
It’s up to St Enda’s to penetrate a rearguard that has been steely solid thus far, but they have the tools to break through and complete the final chapter on a remarkable story for the Glengromley club.
The match will be preceded at Croke Park by the All-Ireland Junior Football final between Kerry’s Beaufort and Sligo side Easkey (3pm).
This competition has been a Kingdom specialty since its inception in 2002 and eight of the last 14 winners have come from the county.
Beaufort are expected to keep that tradition going and have looked very impressive this year. Their first two Munster games produced 5-16 and 5-23 although Cork’s Dromtarriffe pushed them hard in the provincial final while Dundalk Young Irelands got within two points in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Easkey, meanwhile, were the semi-final conquerors of Donegal’s Red Hugh’s with James Lindsay grabbing the crucial goal in the 1-8 to 0-9 win.
The Junior final will also be broadcast live on TG4’s Youtube channel.
Preliminary round: St Enda’s 2-8 St Paul’s 1-4
Quarter-final: St Enda’s 5-17 Michael Davitt’s 0-7
Semi-final: St Enda’s 2-10 St Ergnat’s 1-4
Final: St Enda’s 0-15 Gort na Mona 1-7
Quarter-final: St Enda’s 2-15 Doohamlet (Monaghan) 3-5
Semi-final: St Enda’s 0-13 Tattyreagh (Tyrone) 1-8
Final: St Enda’s 2-11 Mullahoran (Cavan) 1-10
Semi-final: St Enda’s 3-9 An Spidéal 0-11
Round One: Kilcummin 0-12 Glenbeigh/Glencar 0-11
Round Two: Kilcummin 1-14 Milltown/Castlemaine 0-9
Round Three: Kicummin 3-11 Brosna 0-8
Semi-final: Kilcummin 1-10 Templenoe 0-12
Final: Kilcummin 4-13 Glenflesk 2-13
Quarter-final: Kilcummin 0-10 Kilrush (Clare) 0-7
Semi-final: Kilcummin 2-17 Kilmacthomas (Waterford) 0-1
Final: Kilcummin 1-11 Fermoy (Cork) 1-3
Semi-final: Kilcummin 0-11 Two Mile House (Kildare) 0-10