On the 17th of February, Kerry FC welcomed Cobh Ramblers under the lights at Mounthawk Park for their first-ever League of Ireland fixture. The manager Billy Dennehy mentioned in his club notes that he and all his team were looking forward to hearing the Kerry roar and the Tralee faithful certainly lived up to his hopes.
The first ten minutes were cagey with Kerry goalkeeper Wayne Guthrie being called into action a couple of times and matching Cobh’s efforts on goal. The first real effort on goal from either team came in the eleventh minute through a free kick from Cobh on the left-hand side of the box. A low-driven shot from Jack Doherty went through everyone and went just wide of the post. Kerry started earning a share of the possession as the first stages of the half went on, and it culminated in a fantastic piece of play in the twenty-fourth minute. Trpimir Vrljicak, Kerry’s big Croatian showed his strength and pace with a great run down the right wing but was unfortunately knocked out of play.
As the half was drawing to a close, Jack Doherty went on a very fast-paced run and earned a close-range freekick which was saved well by Guthrie. It was evident that Cobh were getting closer, and their efforts were eventually rewarded. In the forty-second minute, a lovely bit of skill and a nice cross from Jack Doherty was met on the volley by Tiernan O’Brien to put Cobh one ahead. Kerry had a great chance of their own only a few minutes after Cobh’s goal, Vrljicak went on a wonderful run beating two players and just unluckily hitting it wide of the near post.
Half time, Kerry FC 0-1 Cobh Ramblers
At half -time Kerry made two changes, both Leo Gaxha and Ryan Kelliher entered the frame, and the half-time substitutes did well from the off. Gaxha made an immediate impact and won a corner with a fantastic run, cutting in from the left, beating two, and ripping a hard, low-driven shot. However, Lee Steacy was level to his efforts and made a great save to keep Kerry out.
Gaxha was causing mayhem again and had an effort blocked after a wonderfully delivered Graham O’Reilly corner met the former Sheffield United player. It was clear that the changes at half-time gave Kerry momentum at the start of the second half. Chances came thick and fast as Shane Guthrie saw his header just go over the bar from another corner. The biggest chance in the second half for Kerry came from Gaxha again who made a great run through the centre and dinked the ball over Steacy’s head only for it to be heroically cleared off the line. Though the home faithful were making it known to the referee Declan Toland that they felt it had gone over the line, the play was waved on.
With about twenty minutes to go, there was a handball shout for Kerry, but once again Declan Toland waved play on. If VAR was in operation, Kerry would have had a serious shout for the penalty to be awarded.
Not too long after, Kerry were opened up and Wayne Guthrie came flying out of his box, the ball struck his hand and was given a yellow card. The free kick was placed right on the edge of the box and Jack Doherty rifled it into the bottom corner, putting Kerry two behind. Kerry kept plugging away at the opposition showing great fight. In the seventy-ninth minute, a superb left-footed effort from Sean O’ Connell was directed over the bar by Steacy, resulting in another corner for Kerry. Even with Kerry’s constant pressure to the last minute, Cobh ran away 2-0 winners.
A great contest was had even with heavy wind conditions that each team would have preferred not to play in. Graham O’Reilly deserves a mention for his fantastic performance, earning him the Man of the Match award.
A fantastic night in the history of Kerry soccer may have been hindered by the result, but it is only the start of a brilliant journey for the Kingdom.
Kerry FC Team:
Wayne Guthrie 1
Sean O’Connell 3
Shane Guthrie 4
Kalen Spillane 5
Sean Mcgrath 7
Matt Keane (C) 8
Sean Kennedy 11
Kevin Williams 15
Trpimir Vrujicak 20
Ronan Teahan 23
Graham O Reilly 27
Subs: Callan Scully, Alex Ainscough, Ryan Kelliher, Leo Gaxha, Andy Quaid, Nathan Gleeson, Samuel Aladesanusi, Jonathan Hannafin, Kennedy Amechi.
Cobh Ramblers Team:
1. Lee Steacy
2. Michael Mccarthy
5. Brendeán Frahill
39. Jason Abbott (C)
29. Tiernan O’Brien (Goal ‘42)
14. Jack Doherty (Goal ‘72)
16. Luke Desmond
17. Wilson Waweru
28. Dale Holland
Subs: 30. Darragh Burke, 4. Justin Eguaibor, 8. Pierce Phillips, 18. Callum Stringer, 9. Jake Hegarty, 14. David Bosnjak, 12. Darragh O’Connell, 24. Issa Kargbo, 33. Adrien Thibaut, 6. Charlie Lyons