Marvellous Moyvane

The Kerryman – (December 18th, 2003)

At the beginning of this year’s Bernard O’Callaghan Memorial SFC, there weren’t many people (if any!) who gave the Newtownsandes men a chance of lifting the winners’ trophy in the middle of December.

When they barely got over St Senans in a pretty miserable quarter-final clash and were then drawn against Finuge, conquerors of the hotly-fancied Listowel Emmets, the odds on Tomás Keane’s charges lengthened even further.

However, with a display of character and ferocious commitment, that obstacle was overcome and, on Sunday at O’Rahilly Park, Ballylongford, Moyvane stood up for their severest test yet, a meeting with the defending champions and Division One County League outfit, Castleisland Desmonds.

Once again, Moyvane were written off in several quarters. How could they compete against a side like Desmonds? Once again, their critics were left eating humble pie.

With a performance of outstanding determination, wonderful teamwork and an amazing never-say-die spirit, inspirational captain Jackie Mulvihill ended up the man to lift the Eamon O’Donoghue Cup and give his team a record 18th divisional championship.

Individuals not present at the game or North Kerry sceptics in general will be wondering how the hell did this happen? Was it a fluke result? How has a team who struggled to stay in Division Four of the County League beaten a side from the top flight who play in the county championship every year (until 2004, anyway)?

To be bluntly honest, this was no freak scoreline. Far from it, in fact. The statistics don’t lie. Moyvane shot 15 wides to just four from the losers. They were worthy winners and would not have been flattered by a much larger margin of victory.

Indeed, they must have been killing themselves to go in at the break only leading by three points (0-6 to 0-3) as they had shot nine wides in the opening 30 minutes to zero for their opponents.

With wind advantage in the second half and with swashbuckling wing-back Martin Horgan sauntering upfield to shoot three quick points on the resumption, Desmonds soon drew level.

The pendulum was swinging in their favour, Moyvane were starting to pay the price for their wastefulness in the first half and you would have expected Derry Sheehan’s charges to just step up a gear and propel themselves to back-to-back titles.

However, this Moyvane team is made of stern stuff. They refused to wilt, didn’t panic, composed themselves once more, fired over four unanswered points to move 0-10 to 0-6 clear by the 46th minute and, basically, that was that.

The quick response of the winners to the Desmonds’ opening burst of the second period was the key moment in the match. That was where the contest was won and lost.

As for the key man, well, that was the most predictable thing. Skipper Jackie Mulvihill has been the virtual heartbeat and driving force of this Moyvane team throughout the competition. Man-of-the-match displays against St Senans and Finuge had set up the captain for a potential fall on Sunday.

Surely, he could not be that good again!

The truth is that he was even better in the final than in the previous clashes. With a stamina that is hard to match anywhere in this county, Mulvihill must have covered nearly every blade of grass on the field. Whether it was in defence, around the middle or in attack, wherever the ball went, so did the Moyvane skipper.

The savage spirit, the fearless aggression, the frightening fitness, the ball-playing wizardry, this was just another complete performance from the undisputed man of the championship.

Not that the others in green and gold were found wanting. They all played their part in a wonderful triumph for the club and, having lifted the North Kerry League title earlier in the year, this just completes an unbelievable season for the club of the County Board Chairman Sean Walsh.

It was actually Desmonds who got off to the better start with Kevin Lynch (who else?) in razor-sharp form up front. He pointed a free and then burnt his marker for pace to fire over a beauty from play to really settle the Castleisland men by the third minute.

However, the pattern of the half soon took shape with Moyvane crowding the midfield and scavenging nearly every single break. DJ Mulvihill (out from full-forward), Tom Sheehy, Jackie Mulvihill and John ‘Jack’ Mulvihill were all very effective at this stage and soon a regular supply of quality ball was driven into the dangermen, Cathal O’Connor and, principally, Eddie Bowler.

Two fine scores by Bowler and an epic long range special by Jackie Mulvihill had Moyvane in the ascendancy by the 13th minute but Lynch levelled matters five minutes earlier with a stunning ‘45’.

It really was all Moyvane but their shooting was repeatedly letting them down and though Bowler fired over two more points and big midfielder Donal Kearney also raised a white flag, the underdogs must have been concerned to only take a three-point cushion to the break.

Desmonds, starved of possession for the most part, were bound to come out with all guns blazing on the resumption and when the always attack-minded Martin Horgan kicked over three points by the 35th minute to bring the game to parity, Moyvane supporters must have feared the worst.

John Brennan came into things at midfield for Desmonds for a period and their tactic was simple, but effective. Kick it high and long to Darby Buckley and feed off his breaks. The downside was that, apart from Kevin Lynch, none of the other forwards had the ability to capitalise on anything that came off the towering full-forward.

Brian Stack, a Bowler free and Donal Kearney had Moyvane three clear again (0-9 to 0-6) before they got a huge let-off in the 44th minute when Maurice O’Connell’s goalbound shot was bravely smothered by a combination of defender Eoin Flaherty and ‘keeper Pascal Sweeney, with Martin Horgan firing wide of a gaping goal from the rebound.

A goal at that stage for Desmonds, and who knows what could have happened.

Bowler soon tacked on his sixth point and when Kevin Lynch dropped a pass from Buckley as he headed straight for goal, the writing was on the wall for the holders. Though Mossy Lyons came on and Lynch and the fantastic Kieran O’Sullivan added points to narrow the margin, the Moyvane defence was just impenetrable towards the finish and Desmonds could not break through for the goal that would have saved them.

With their history and love of this tournament, it was an act of lunacy from anybody to ever take Moyvane for granted. They may not have scored a goal in their three matches, but they also did not concede a goal, and won them all by two points.

They wanted it more than anyone else and they have got exactly what they deserved.

On the day, Jackie Mulvihill was the star man once again but, in a superb team display, William Madden, Tom Sheehy, Donal Kearney (second half), John ‘Jack’ Mulvihill (for his workrate), DJ Mulvihill and, especially, sharpshooter, Eddie Bowler, were all hugely influential figures.

Credit to Desmonds for reaching a third successive final, considering they were a much weaker outfit this year, without the Dillon brothers and Mossy Lyons (for the most part).

There had to come a day when those losses took their toll and it happened to be on Sunday. The fact that they are over-dependent on Kevin Lynch in attack was also something that went against them.

Kieran O’Sullivan was their top man on Sunday while Pádraig Shanahan, Martin Horgan, John Brennan (patches) and, of course, Lynch, did most in a vain bid to keep the cup in Castleisland.

• Congratulations to the North Kerry Board on another magnificent final programme. Ninety-two pages — what more can you say?

Scorers — Moyvane: E Bowler 0-6 (0-2 frees), D Kearney 0-2, Jackie Mulvihill and B Stack 0-1 each.

Castleisland Desmonds: K Lynch 0-4 (0-1 free, 0-1 ‘45), M Horgan 0-3 and K O’Sullivan 0-1.

Teams — Moyvane: Pascal Sweeney; Denis Kennelly, William Madden, Eoin Flaherty; Jackie Mulvihill, John Mulvihill, Tom Sheehy; Donal Kearney, John ‘Jack’ Mulvihill; Brian Stack, Maurice Kearney, Mossy Mulvihill; Cathal O’Connor, DJ Mulvihill and Eddie Bowler. Sub: Conor Flynn for Stack (54 mins).

Castleisland Desmonds: Daniel Nelligan; Shane Walsh, John Pender, Pádraig Shanahan; Martin Horgan, Kieran O’Sullivan, Pierce Cronin; John Brennan, Maurice O’Connell; Pat Fitzgerald, Kieran Murphy, Barry O’Neill; Brian McMahon, Darby Buckley and Kevin Lynch. Subs: John Flynn for Fitzgerald (25 mins), Neilus Lyons for O’Neill (half-time), Mossy Lyons for N Lyons, injured (45 mins) and Fitzgerald for Flynn, injured (58 mins).

Referee: Pat Sheehy (Clounmacon).