By Jack Flynn
Rockland 0-14, Kerry 1-7
Conquerors from the north descended upon the Bronx on Sunday, as Rockland used a strong match from Tommy Fennel to knock off a strong Kerry side by 0-14 to 1-7 in a rare Junior B football match at Gaelic Park.
Rockland was strong from the outset, but it was Kerry who took an early advantage. Both teams had problems keeping balls straight, and the lack of precision led to little scoring in the first 15 minutes.
Kerry’s early 0-4 to 0-2 lead, forged on the strength of points from Mike Doherty, Niall O’Donnell and John Fogarty, dissipated before halftime. Rockland used a run of four straight points to close out the half and go into the break with an 0-6 to 0-4 lead.
After a Jim O’Flynn point in the opening minutes of the second half gave Rockland a 3-point advantage, an opportunistic play by Timmy Noonan put Kerry back on top.
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Noonan put a ball over the bar to narrow the gap to just two points, then booted home a ball during a wild scramble in front of the Rockland goal to give Kerry a much-needed lift and a 11-5 to 0-7 lead.
A Kerry attacker split the Rockland fullback line and sent a ball past keeper Tom Furlong and toward the goal. A Rockland player ran on to the ball and kicked it away before it could cross the line, but his clearing attempt went only so far as Noonan. The Kerry man calmly buried it in the back of the net to give his team the lead once again.
Instead of rolling over, Rockland regrouped nicely and scored four straight points (three from Fennell) to take an 0-11 to 1-5 lead. Kerry’s aggressive tactics, a constant throughout the match, finally began to wear on Rockland’s patience, and a slight skirmish eventually broke out. But cooler heads prevailed, and the match continued without incident.
The teams swapped points back and forth until O’Flynn’s second point was notched with no time remaining on the clock, giving Rockland a 4-point victory.
The win over Kerry propels Rockland into unfamiliar territory: the Junior B Football finals. Fennel, who is in his first year with Rockland at the Junior B level, is aware of the team’s history, but is confident in their chances at championship glory.
“We have a great team this year and great unity,” he said. “We’re definitely taking the cup home.”
Rockland scorers: Fennel 0-6; McGovern 0-3; Durkin and O’Flynn 0-2; Falvey 0-1.
Kerry: Noonan 1-1; O’Donnell 0-2; Doherty, Fogarty, Ennis and Carroll 0-1.