Rathmore just too good for Galbally Pearse's as Paddy Crozier rues missed chances for goals
2023 AIB All-Ireland Club IFC Final: Rathmore (Kerry) 1-11 Galbally Pearse's (Tyrone) 0-11
A MISS is as good as a mile, two even more so – but it was actually two stunning saves that played a huge part in Rathmore's victory over Galbally.
Kerry goalkeeper Shane Ryan earned the 'Man of the Match' award for his 1-3 from play at corner-forward, but Kenneth O'Keeffe showed why he wears the number one jersey at club level by preventing what seemed set to be two certain goals for the Pearse's, in the 15th and 55th minutes.
Galbally boss Paddy Crozier felt that little else separated the sides apart from those major moments, and what he termed Rathmore's "lucky goal", which came in the 23rd minute and put the Kingdom team back into a lead that they would never lose.
The view from level seven was that Rathmore were fairly well in control for much of this match, but there's little doubt that it could have been a very different game had the Pearse's found the net even once.
Instead, Rathmore got the only goal, that ultimately decisive score the result of an error. In a classic example of 'goalkeeper-turned-poacher' Shane Ryan bravely finished to the net from close range after Galbally goalie Ronan McGeary had palmed down a high, dropping shot from Chrissy Spiers.
Crozier seemed almost stunned afterwards that Galbally hadn't scored at least one goal themselves, having averaged an astonishing three per Championship match:
"They're a quality team, there's no doubt about that. We had a great run…
"I don't know whether they're that much superior to us or not. Every ball broke for them, a lot of breaking ball went for them.
"We had three goal chances…" he trailed off, with a sigh.
"Every other day we were getting them goals, right through the eight [Championship] games that we have played. [The late chance] fell to the right man, Daniel [Kerr], and they got their lucky goal and that was the difference in the end. I know it went to seven [points] at one stage, but they never give up that Galbally team."
Indeed the Pearse's battled to the end, but Rathmore showed impressive resilience themselves, including corner-back James O'Sullivan coming back on late on having been forced off after a collision which necessitated a lengthy stoppage in place.
Shane Ryan also got hurt in the process of scoring the goal, but recovered to add two more points from play in the second half, having earlier struck the score which levelled matters at 0-3 each a few minutes before finding the net.
Crozier felt the moment after O'Sullivan's injury was another one tat went against his charges, saying: "There was one time we were through, Daniel I think, and he [the referee] stopped it for a blood sub, but them's the little things, you're nit-picking." In fairness, the game had to be stopped as the Rathmore man looked decidedly groggy, indeed his re-appearance was questionable.
Overall, this was a much more measured, cagey, tactical affair compared to the frenetic finish of the Junior Final which preceded it – a case of 'After King David's Show'.
Yet one moment of indiscipline from Galbally was another factor in their defeat, with midfielder Enda McGarrity in the sin-bin for the last 10 minutes of normal time after foolishly body-checking Rathmore substitute Cillian O'Connor. "You need all players when you go onto a pitch like that, especially against a team like that," accepted Crozier.
The Pearse's fell seven points behind in the moments after that, 1-9 to 0-5, but showed serious spirit to register six of the last eight scores of the match.
They might have got even closer had Daniel Kerr finished from a long kick-pass by Conor Donaghy, but the 44-year-old O'Keeffe reacted brilliantly to divert his low effort away with an outstretched right foot.
Donaghy converted the subsequent '45', as he had done when O'Keeffe denied McGarrity midway through the first half – but two points is far short of what two goals would have brought, both on the scoreboard and in terms of lifting confidence.
Galbally looked like they needed such a lift, appearing very flat for large parts of this game, whereas Rathmore started strongly, with their captain Mark Ryan winning an aerial challenge in the opening minute and kicking them ahead.
Shane Ryan then took a mark and when his kick was blocked by an opponent the ball was brought forward for an easy free converted by Derry native Chrissy Spiers.
The Pearse's did respond well, though, and even went ahead, with a point from Kerr and then Conor Donaghy sending over a free and a '45'. Yet the latter seemed scant reward after a superb save from O'Keeffe demonstrated why he dons the club gloves, keeping out a certain goal after McGarrity had burst through and fired a left-foot shot across him.
Shane Ryan levelled matters, but Galbally again had sight of goals when Kerr did well to smuggle the ball out to Ronan Nugent, but the hat-trick hero of the All-Ireland semi-final shot weakly.
Those failures to get goals hurt even more when Ryan forced the ball into the Galbally net from close range, and although the unerring Conor Donaghy scored a free, the Kerrymen finished the half as they had begun it, with a Brendan O'Keeffe point and then an added time free from Spiers, to lead by double scores, 1-5 to 0-4.
Rathmore extended their advantage to six early in the second period and all that Galbally produced in reply was another free from Conor Donaghy.
Throughout, the Kerry side defended resolutely, and Crozier noted that they had largely negated the scoring threat from Ronan Nugent and Liam Rafferty, closing off any channels for them to run from deep.
When the Pearse's went a man down and seven points behind, 1-9 to 0-5, the game seemed over, but they committed more men up in attack, and made a match of it at last.
In the end, though, they fell short, and Crozier accepted that they hadn't done enough to bring the trophy back to Ulster after Steelstown's triumph last year: "If we played half an hour's football that was the most of it, to tell you the truth of it."
Rathmore did more over the hour and a bit, and, as Crozier concluded, "They did their homework, they got their match-ups right, no complaints.
"When you don't take goal chances, goals win matches, and that's the long and the short of it."
Galbally: R McGeary; C Quinn, Conor Donnelly; M Lennon, C Morris, L Rafferty, J Hetherington; E McGarrity, Cormaic Donnelly; S Wylie, S Murphy, R Nugent (0-1); D Kerr (0-3, 0-1 free), C Donaghy (0-7, 0-5 frees, 0-2 45s), B Carberry.
Substitutes: A Carberry for B Carberry (h-t); F McGarrity for Cormaic Donnelly (50); S Og Mulgrew for Wylie (57).
Black card: E McGarrity (51-61).
Rathmore: K O'Keeffe; J O'Sullivan, A Moynihan, D Murphy; A Dineen, P Murphy, F Holohan; M Ryan (capt.) (0-1), C Ryan; B O'Keeffe (0-1), C Spiers (0-3 frees), B Friel; J Moynihan, J Darmody (0-2), S Ryan (1-3).
Substitutes: C O'Connor for O'Sullivan (35); M Reen (0-1) for J Moynihan (55); O'Sullivan for Dineen (58); A Darmody for J Darmody (61); D Rahilly for Spiers (66).
Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin).