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06 Oct 2022

Inside Track: Rob Kearney takes change of sporting scene in his stride

Rob Kearney makes a welcome return to GAA in loss to the Newtown Blues

Rob Kearney gets a tackle in on Blues Keeper Johnny McDonnell. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)

A few reflections on the county intermediate final, won by St Fechin’s in a good battle with Cooley Kickhams. It had all the appearances of a game which, in its dying stages, might need extra-time before a decision would be reached.

That it didn’t can be attributed to Fechin’s coming up with just enough scores when it seemed their earlier wastage might prove costly.

He may have played before packed attendances at The Aviva, Twickenham, Eden and Ellis Parks, Murrayfield and other rugby stadia throughout the world, wearing the blue of Leinster, the green of Ireland and the Lions’ red, but here was Rob Kearney kicking around at half-time in the Cooley colours in front of maybe a couple of thousand.

He had No 24 on his back, and whether or not that was indicative of his chances of getting a game, he was still keen to fall in with the others who hadn’t made the first XV, getting in some shooting practice.

Kearney might, or might not, have made a difference had he been called on when the game was there to be won, but there are plenty from around the peninsula who’ll tell you the multi-capped Irish international had a huge part to play in Kickhams getting to the final round when, at the beginning of the competition, they weren’t rated as serious contenders.

He’d aroused great interest, especially among the younger set when, a few months ago, he announced his comeback to Gaelic football after a 17-year absence. It helped build a team spirit, making manager Gary Thornton’s job that much easier.

Bevan Duffy was included when St Fechin’s last made it to Clan na Gael Park for an intermediate championship final. That was in 2014, and the Termonfeckin team were a little unlucky not to have at least got a second chance, instead of going down by a goal to Sean O’Mahony’s.

The county player will have better memories of this outing. He looked a class above the rest in the final quarter, in particular – had he put away two excellent goal chances instead of drawing fine saves from Sean Hayes, his performance would have been near flawless.

A Cooley stalwart of years gone was remembered before the game. Brendan Rafferty, who died recently, played in goals on the Kickhams team that won the 1971 senior championship, bringing the Joe Ward Cup to the peninsula for the first time and closing a gap that had extended back to 1939.

A decade before the best known of this county’s trophies was put on offer for the senior championship. Brendan was by then at the veteran stage, but more than played his part in a 2-9 to 1-6 win over St Mary’s in the final.

Two decades earlier he was part of the Louth team that won the Leinster minor championship, beating Westmeath in the final, but they were denied a fair deal when it came to the delayed All-Ireland semi-final with Roscommon. Kevin Beahan and Sean Cunningham, who would go on to figure on Louth’s 1957 team, were colleagues of Brendan’s.

Remembered also, but in a more private manner, was Michael Mooney, who, for 32 years, looked after publicity for the St Fechin’s club among other tasks. Michael died back in July, and although she shared his passion for the game and club, Michael’s wife, Jo, wouldn’t have found it easy making it along to Clan na Gael Park.

But she was there with her daughter, Michelle, and both would have taken huge satisfaction from a win to which her husband and other club officials would have made a significant contribution.

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