Monday, October 24, 2022

By Mark Higgins

Kilmeena, in the course of their remarkable journey over the past 12 months, have never really gone in for moral victories. They haven’t needed to, to be fair, having won every single knockout championship game they’ve played since losing the 2020 county junior final to Kilmaine. But their killer mindset was on show again in the wake of their intermediate championship semi-final win over Moy Davitts on Sunday.

Kilmeena goalie Paul Groden jumps for joy at the sound of the whistle which signalled his side’s place in the final of this year’s county intermediate football championship. The West Mayo side had three points to spare over Moy Davitts in Sunday’s semi-final. Pictures: Martin McIntyre

Darragh Keaveney, their sharpshooting corner-forward, expressed how nice it was to see the club’s supporters enjoying themselves on the Islandeady pitch after their 1-13 to 0-13 win. But his thoughts weren’t long turning towards the next day out.

“It’s just one stepping-stone; we have to go again now in two weeks,” insisted Keaveney. “It’s a brilliant occasion to see the whole parish out here, but this will mean nothing if we don’t come away with the goods in two weeks. We’ll enjoy it, but we have settle down now.”

Keaveney didn’t know it at the time, but Kilmeena will take on Ballyhaunis, last year’s beaten finalists, in this year’s intermediate decider on the Bank Holiday weekend. It will also be a second successive county final for the Clew Bay boys; the difference is that in 2021, they were contesting a final one step further down the ladder.

“This time last year we were preparing for a county junior final. It’s just fantastic” said Keaveney, whose five points were key for Kilmeena in their three-point win.

“We knew coming up here today it was going to be a tough one against Moy Davitts. To be fair to them, they gave us absolutely everything. We’re just delighted that we’ve got out of this battle now and into an intermediate final in two weeks.”

Moy Davitts corner-back Tadhg Ruane and referee Liam Devenney check on the well-being of Kilmeena’s Darragh Keaveney.

Despite this being a first season at intermediate for the entire Kilmeena panel, they have settled to their task with striking comfort. Aside from a group stage defeat away to Hollymount-Carramore, they have been a match for everything and everyone the intermediate grade has been able to throw at them to date.

“Once the All-Ireland was finished with, we gave ourselves a bit of a break and then settled down into it. Throughout the league, throughout the championship, we’ve done that,” reckoned Keaveney.

They brought to bear a vicious intensity on Sunday, hounding an experienced Moy Davitts team around the park and forcing one turnover after another, the most significant one leading directly to Joey Smyth’s 21st-minute goal which was to prove the winning of the game.

“We knew that they like to press up the middle and work the ball up that way. They’re a more physical team than us I suppose, and you could see the physicality out there,” said Keaveney.

“But Jack (Carney) won that turnover and gave it in to Joey and that gave us a bit of life I suppose, because it was still nip and tuck for a while.

“We knew that they would like to set up defensively once we came on the attack. We’ve been trying that in training, forcing those turnovers, and once you get one, you know it works.”

Kilmeena are accustomed to big games over the last couple of years; two county junior finals, a Connacht final, an All-Ireland semi-final, an All-Ireland final at Croke Park. They passed all of those tests, so they know what to expect heading into an intermediate final in twelve days’ time.

“We’ve lost six or seven lads from last year’s team, but a lot of young lads of 17 or 18 years of age have come into this team and not a bother to them. I’m so proud of them, the way they’ve carried themselves throughout this championship. They’ve been absolutely brilliant and you could see out there today, there was no fear, no baggage; we just went for it. Thank God it came off today.”

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