Kerry FC 1 – 1 Cobh Ramblers
Report by David Moriarty • Photographs by Adam Kowalczyk
Matchday thirty-six saw Kerry FC play for the final time this season as they took on Cobh Ramblers in St. Coleman’s Park. A long season culminated in a rough night weather-wise in Cork as Kerry FC looked to finish the season on a high with this also being the final Munster derby of the season. Kerry came into this one off the back of a well-deserved 1-1 draw at home to Waterford FC last week, and with this being the last game, Billy Dennehy and his boys hoped they would be able to gain four points from the last week of League of Ireland Football for the division newcomers.
Last time out between the two sides, there was no separating them as they drew 2-2 in Mounthawk Park. Kerry went two goals to the good in that one with both coming from Ryan Kelliher before goals from Michael Rowe and Jack Doherty levelled it for the Ramblers with nine minutes to play.
Cobh had their playoff place secured as they play Wexford FC on Tuesday night. With their eyes on that fixture, Kerry would be hoping to pounce on their eyes shifting away from this one, but as they have shown all season, the chances of that happening were very slim.
Kerry made two changes to the team from last week with Arthur Nganou and Ronan Teahan coming in for Lee Axworthy and Nathan Gleeson. Kerry hoped to give the travelling support a decent result as it would be the last time they would see them as it would be a long chilly winter without the Kingdom.
For the opening half, an hour of the game there was little to write home about. Ronan Teahan had an effort from outside the area go wide of the left-hand post, but most notably the footwork he used to get into that position and create that chance for himself was nothing short of spectacular.
With the weather being less than great for an evening of football, a few late challenges came into the fold with Justin Eguaibor, Dale Holland, and Daniel Okwute all going into Oliver Moran’s book, although the latter looked harsh on Okwute.
Cobh’s best opportunity was a pass played into the feet of Liam Kervick seemed to have the Cobh striker within shooting distance, but a fantastic recovery from Sam Aladesanusi cleared any danger from the rams for the time being.
Kerry were starting to feel a bit of pressure as the half went on. Arthur Nganou was forced into his first bit of work in the game when he saved a well struck curling effort just outside of the box from Jack Doherty. The save resulted in a corner, luckily for the kingdom it led to nothing.
All the fantastic defensive work done from Kerry went undone before halftime as Alec Byrne put the home side a goal ahead. A strike from distance by Byrne took a big deflection steering the ball away from Nganou who could do little to deal with the situation.
The half would finish with two opportunities for the away side as Ryan Kelliher was unlucky not to level things up with four minutes to go in the half. After a great bit of work to open space in front of him to get the shot off in the middle of the area. Unfortunately, his effort went straight into the arms of Darragh Burke.
A corner a few minutes later swung in from Sean O’Connell seemed to be a lot for Burke to deal with as he dropped the ball at first, although he managed to retain possession of it again, with a slice of better luck Kerry could have gone into half time all square.
As the second half went on, as they do in most games, it became a lot more entertaining. Alec Byrne had the first opportunity of the half as a corner came into the area from the right side going straight to the feet of the goal scorer. His first effort was kept out by Arthur Nganou before Byrne got another bite of the cherry that subsequently hit the crossbar. It was hard to believe that Byrne had not doubled his tally for the evening on that occasion.
Kerry then brought on Kennedy Amechi for Martin Coughlan to try and bolster the attacking threat, and it worked as just seven minutes later Sean McGrath had an effort from outside the area go on target but unfortunately safely into the hands of Darragh Burke. Cobh then went down the other end and had another opportunity to go a begging as Liam Kervicks shot on the right side of the area dragged wide of the left-hand post. Kerry were being let off heavily and you wondered if it would come back to bite the Rams.
Sean O’Connell got the best opportunity of the half at that stage with eleven minutes to play when a shot on the right-hand side hit the side netting with a lot of power. The great unit in the defence with Ethan Kos, Kevin Williams, Sam Aladesanusi, and O’Connell who remained strong in the later stages gave the attack the right to pepper the Cobh goal in the closing stages of the game.
Kerry would come close as they really started to push for the closing exchanges. Two Leo Gaxha chances were agonisingly close to getting there for Kerry with a glancing header and a half-volley not being enough.
Then with just a minute to play of normal time, the second-half substitute Kennedy Amechi put the game level. A scramble in the area led to a cross into the six-yard box which Amechi was first to react to giving Kerry the possibility of winning the game altogether with an additional three minutes to be played at the end of the game.
Another corner was awarded for Kerry and manager Billy Dennehy urged goalkeeper Arthur Nganou up for the last kick of the season. A scramble in the box was eventually dealt with and Oliver Moran blew the whistle ending the season in St. Coleman’s Park with a well-deserved point for the Kingdom.
Kerry FC now go into next season unbeaten in the final two games as they closed the curtain on their debut season in League of Ireland senior football. A season of highs and lows, but the spirit the squad and staff have given till the very end will form a fantastic foundation going into the 2024 season when it starts back in February. An unbelievable travelling support from the Kerry faithful were by far the loudest in the stadium on Friday and hopefully, we will get to see more of this in the future.
Kerry FC Team: 16. Arthur Nganou, 2. Rob Vasiu, 5. Ethan Kos, 18. Samuel Aladesanusi, 15. Kevin Williams, 21. Daniel Okwute, 23. Ronan Teahan, 19. Martin Coughlan, 10. Leo Gaxha (C), 7. Sean McGrath, 9. Ryan Kelliher.
Subs: Darragh Foley, Alex Ainscough, Togor Silong, Nathan Gleeson, Graham O’Reilly, Cian Brosnan, Kennedy Amechi (Goal ’89).
Cobh Ramblers Team: 30. Darragh Burke, 16. Luke Desmond, 20. Charlie O’Brien, 21. Liam Kervick, 28. Dale Holland, 15. Alec Byrne (Goal ’35), 17. Dean Larkin, 4. David Eguaibor, 10. Jack Doherty, 12. Danny O’Connell, 18. Matthew Mckevitt.
Subs: Ryan Delaney, Cian Browne, Pierce Phillips, Brendan Frahill, Jason Abbott, James O’Leary, Adrien Thibaut.