Denis Cronin's goal on the half time whistle set Firies up for a six point victory in the East Kerry O'Sullivan Cup 1987 Final against Spa on Sunday. In a thrilling action packed game many felt as they left the field that Spa, who had home advantage, had kicked themselves out of the game. As in the semi final against Kilcummin, the Spa team missed chance after chance. Firies punished these misses and pulled away in the second half to run out comfortable winners.
The game started off at a hectic pace with both sides getting in a number of good attacks before Firies Mike Allen broke the deadlock in the third minute when he pointed a 13m free. Firies were to be two clear points to the good before the game was four minutes old when Mike Leary split the uprights from 20m out on the dressing rooms side of the field
The home side took their own time to come to grips with the game. After a rather sluggish start in the center of the field, Billy Morris and Joey McAuliffe were to give Donal McCarthy and Seamus Coyne a hard time of it. The battle which was to take place in the center of the field was to draw great cheers from the large crowd. As the game progressed the Firies combination got the better of the exchanges and as the game drew to a close there was no doubt as to who had won the day.
Eight minutes into the first half and Firies went three points up when Mike Allen took his second point of the afternoon from a 13m free. Firies ability to convert frees was to play a vital role in their eventual win. Ten minutes were played before the home side struck for the first time. Corner forward Padraig Moynihan pointed a 20m free to reduce the gap to two points.
Before ten minutes had been played Spa had wided on three occasions. These misses and the many that were to follow did nothing to help whatever hopes the boys in blue may have harboured before the game. Firies had a great chance to give Spa's hopes a shattering blow in the 12th minute but James Burke's shooting left him down. A long ball into the Spa half from Donal McCarthy fell to James Burke. Burke fisted the ball to Denis Cronin, Cronin failed to hold the ball but managed to return the pass. Burke was in behind the defence with only the 'keeper to beat. With Dan Cronin in chase Burke fluffed the shot and the ball went over the cross bar when a goal looked certain. Burkes point was to be Cronin's only mistake of the after noon. Cronin turned in a great display of high fielding and good tackling to limit Burke.
Up front Spa were in trouble. The home side could find no way past Roger O'Donoghue, the Firies full back. On the half back line Tom Murphy and Paudi Cronin were to give great performances for the entire 60 minutes. At corner back Carthy O'Donoghue was to be a pillar of strength for the Firies men and foiled attack after attack. Spa introduced Dave Herlihy in place of Mike Leary in the hopes of finding a way through the Firies defence. The problem lay in Roger O'Donoghue who wasn't giving Pat Casey, the Spa full forward, a look in.
The final five minutes of the first; half were to supply most of the thrills in this exciting game. With five minutes remaining on the clock, Spa struck for their only, goal of the game. A 25m free from the boot of Padraig Moynihan lofted into the Firies goalmouth. The ball was fielded by Louis McAuliffe. McAuliffe was surrounded by Firies defenders but still managed to get his shot in. He turned well and from five yards he had the green flag waving and the scores level. Firies recovered from this setback and quickly raided down field. Cyril Morris latched onto a James Burke pass. From close range he left fly with a great shot. Frank Starken in the Spa goal mouth was equal to the challenge and pulled off a great save.
As the half entered the final minutes Firies resumed the siege on the Spa goal mouth. A 35m free by Mike Allen was fisted down by James Burke. The loose ball bounced to Denis Cronin who fisted the ball to the back of the net. This most vital of scores came at just the right time. Spa's efforts were wasted and Firies took a three point lead with them into the second half with a scoreline of 1-4 to I-I.
Spa were to start the second half in fine form. Attacking down the wing they caused all sorts of problems for the Firies men. Their shooting was to let them down and six minutes were to pass before they took their first point. Seannie Kelliher provided the score when he took the best point of the afternoon from a 50m free. This was to be the home sides final score of the game. The opportunities arose but Spa failed to take them. Some terrible passing and some worse shooting saw them play themselves into trouble time after time.
As the Game progressed Spa seemed to be losing contact in the center of the field. Donal McCarthy and Seamus Coyne were dominating the exchanges. On the '40 Mike Allen was finding a lot of space and was using it to great effect. The game was into the final quarter before Firies took their first point of the half, a 13m free from Mike Leary. Three points to the good and Firies were to pull away in the closing ten minutes. The game was rapidly becoming a hard hitting affair with some very tough tackles going in on both sides.
With six minutes to go Mike Allen took his third point of the game, this time from a 20m free. Substitute John Browne added his name to the score sheet to leave five points between the sides. Mike Leary was to equal Mike Allen's total in the twenty eight minute of the half when he pointed a 20m free to take his third point of the game. This was to be the final score of the game and Firies emerged rather easy winners with a final score line of 1-8 to 1-2.
Niall Flynn, Carthy O'Donoghue, Roger O'Donoghue, Liam Fell, Tom Murphy, Paudi Cronin, Dermot O'Mahony, Donal McCarthy, Seamus Coyne, Cyril Morris, Mike Allen(0-3), Seannie Shea, Denis Cronin(I-O), James Burke(O-I), Mike Leary(O-3). Subs: John Browne(O-I) for S. Shea, Gerry O'Sullivan for Cyril Morris, James Sullivan for S. O'Brien.
Spa B :
Frank Starken, Johnny Casey, Dan Cronin, Michael Cahill, Conor Kavanagh, Mike Leary, Donal Doherty, Billy Morris, Joey McAuliffe, Seannie Kelliher(O-I), Mike Leary, Francis Doherty, Louis McAuliffe(I-O), Pat Casey, Padraig Moynihan.
Subs: Dave Herlihy for M. Leary, Philip Gammel for P. Casey,