Kennedy Cup – 20 Snippets from the Greatest Week in Kerry Soccer:
The 2015 Kennedy Cup has cemented its place in the history of Kerry soccer as we the long awaited and much anticipated National title has come to the Kingdom.
Here are my Top 20 Moments from the Kennedy Cup bubble:
- Preparation: There was a growing belief that we had something special here and when they returned from the Clare tournament unbeaten the confidence began to grow.
- Going in as 2nd seeds all the concentration was on the first three games and securing the seeding and we opened with a very confident 2-0 win over West Cork.
- Limerick District has put 6 past WWEC and in our second game we needed to do the same and the players stepped up and did that. In the other game Limerick District beat West Cork 3-2.
- We knew that a win or a draw would now see us top the Group. This game was played on Pitch 1 which is overlooked by a hill and Limerick had a huge crowd. However there was no way the Kerry crowd would be out-shouted and our support was a major factor here.
- A 1-0 win, with Dylan Murphy who had been called into the squad late due to an injury, scored and now we were 3 from 3 without conceding a goal and top of the Group. Objective 1 achieved.
- Now attention turned to the knock-out stages and first up was our old adversaries Galway. Last season we were on course to top the Group against the same opposition but they scored late to deny us. This year there would be no repeat. A 2-0 win and here sub goalkeeper Alex O’Connor took over from Marc Kelliher who injured his shoulder. And while one player will never win the Kennedy Cup on his own Alex would go on to have a major impact on this tournament.
- Into the Quarter Finals and next up was a clash with our neighbours Limerick Desmond. Both Leagues are great friends so this was always going to be an emotional clash but no one could have scripted what was about to occur.
- We scored first but 3 minutes later they were level and so it remained and we now headed for penalties. Before that we lost Marc Kelliher to a red card (harshly) and Alex O’Connor replaced him. We held out with 10 men for the last 15 minutes.
- Limerick Desmond won the toss but Alex saved their first penalty so advantage to Kerry. They scored their next four and we had successful kicks from Paul O’Shea, Mike Lenihan, Seb Vasiu and Devan McKenna so we had a kick to win the game but it was saved 4-4 after the first 5 penalties.
- Alex saved their 5th but they saved ours as well. They scored and Paddy O’Rourke replied. Then Alex saved again to give us the advantage. Then it was keeper on keeper and both scored as the tensions racked up. They scored and then came the Memorable Moment of the Tournament.
- All players on the field at the end of the game must take a penalty. Our captain David Dineen had given so much that he had cramped up and was unable to walk to the penalty spot. He was carried up by two teammates. He placed the ball, took two steps and smashed the ball home and then collapsed and had to be carried back. If any moment emphasised the belief in this squad that was it. So now it was 7 all after 10 penalties.
- They got their next three, and remember every time they scored we had to score to stay in it and O’Shea, Lenihan and Vasiu got their seconds. Alex O’Connor saved an incredible 4th penalty and it was left to Devan McKenna to put us into the final – AND HE DID!!
- 11-10 after 28 penalties and we were into the final and the first thing this squad did was say Bring It On – they had no fear of either the DDSL or North Dublin.
- Behind the Scenes: Before we get onto the final it is important to acknowledge what goes one away from the pitch. Kerry is very lucky to have Sports Masseuse specialist John Kerley who has worked with a number of our squads. The fact that we went into the last game of a very tough week with every player fit to play is testament to John and Phil who worked with him.
- Nutrition is vital during a week like this and the cooking of Bridgette Hogan certainly perked up the squad after tough games earning her the title of Queen of Wraps!
- All Kennedy Cup management teams and support staff have a special bond and this time was no different. Led by Brendan Hogan and including Danny Diggins, Padraig McCannon, Tom Kelly and head of delegation Tadgh Healy these were meticulous in their attention to detail.
- It was the DDSL in the final. Irelands biggest League and they were looking for their 12th of the last 13 wins and it was 15 years since the Kennedy Cup staying in Munster. Did that phase this team? Not a bit of it. They soaked up everything the DDSL had to throw at them early, worked so hard from attackers to defenders that the DDSL could not create a clear chance and then on the stroke of half time a James Rusk pass found Darragh Lyne. His cross was blocked for a corner and Dylan O’Neill put in the perfect ball onto of the keeper. He couldn’t handle it and Dylan Murphy was on hand to knock the ball home off the under -side of the bar.
- The second half was 35 minutes but seemed like 350 as the clock tipped down. However we all felt that there was no way they would score twice. Indeed they never looked like scoring once and then the final whistle went and KERRY WERE KENNEDY CUP CHAMPIONS 2015. This led to unbridled celebrations from the huge Kerry crowd present on the day and if anyone says there weren’t a few tears in some eyes they would be lying!!
- There has been many people involved in Kennedy Cups for the 25 plus years Kerry has been taking part. To mention just a few (and I know that’s dangerous so apologies to all those I don’t mention by name but are all remembered) Murt Murphy, Denny Hayes, Tom McGiff, Lol O’Leary, Ger O’Brien, Mike Kelly, Pat O’Sullivan, Derek George, Darren Aherne, Tony O’Neill, Noel White and countless others and countless Committees who backed them. Everyone’s work led to this moment.
- So Kennedy Cup 2015 – Winners, 6 games played, 13 goals scored, 1 goal conceded, Alex O’Connor and David Dinnen named Umbro Players of the Day for the game against Limerick Desmond, a squad of 20 (plus 1 injured player) who were a credit to their families and clubs but more importantly to themselves over the week. A management team, back room staff and Committee who left no stone unturned to secure the win. Overall it was the perfect week and when the Kennedy Cup programme 2016 is printed beside Kerry will be the Number 1!! June 8th to 12th 2015 will never be forgotten.