Valley Rovers reach the promised land
Valley Rovers 0-7
Clyda Rovers 0-5
Memories of 1989 were revived for Valley Rovers at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday.
Twenty years ago, they gained senior status in hurling when collecting a second consecutive county title to move up two grades in successive seasons.
They have now earned elevation to the top flight in football in similar fashion following this win over Clyda Rovers in the county premier intermediate final which comes in the wake of their county intermediate triumph last year. Add in the fact that Valley Rovers were crowned county intermediate hurling champions as well this season, and it's easy to appreciate why 2009 will go down as a year of unprecedented success for the Innishannon club.
In the circumstances, they won't be in the least bit bothered that their latest victory wasn't achieved with any great style. In truth, it was one of the poorest finals ever at this level, and not since Youghal got the better of Nemo Rangers in a game played in horrific conditions at Rostellan in 2000 has there been a decider that produced such a paltry return on the scoreboard from the protagonists.
It's a remarkable statistic that none of the six starting forwards on either team managed to register a score from play over the hour.
From a neutral point of view, it was painful to watch, although the closeness of the scoring and the intensity of the exchanges went someway towards compensating for the gross lack of flair and creativity in evidence.
Ironically, the proceedings began on an encouraging note, with Valley Rovers midfielder Kevin Canty taking a pass from corner forward Hugh O'Donovan to land a fine point within seconds of the throw-in. But the South East men added just one more score before the break which came from a Hugh O'Donovan 45 in the ninth minute.
In the interim, Paudie Kissane converted a couple of placed balls for Clyda Rovers, and he kicked another from play to punish a misdirected Valley Rovers kick-out inside 14 minutes.
With neither side managing to trouble the scoreboard operator in the second quarter, Clyda went in at the interval leading by 0-3 to 0-2, having enjoyed a huge let-off in stoppage time when Fiachra Lynch blasted a Valley Rovers penalty high and wide.
That completed an error-ridden first half in which faulty distribution and erratic shooting were very much the order of the day.
Valley Rovers clocked up six wides before the break when Clyda had five shots off-target. The botched penalty by Fiachra Lynch, awarded after he had been fouled himself by Ray Carey, should have given Clyda a lift as they headed off at half-time. But it was Valley Rovers who made the early running on the resumption, although they continued to waste chances, kicking four wides during the third quarter.
Lynch was responsible for three of them, the second of which could have produced a goal after he was sent clear following good work by Kevin Canty, Jeremy Hurley and Denis Collins in the 38th minute.
His effort from close-range struck the side-netting, however, and after Hugh O'Donovan fluffed a chance of a point, Kevin Canty, placed by the hard-working O'Donovan, finally brought Valley Rovers back on terms two minutes later.
Another seven minutes were to elapse before the next score arrived, courtesy of a Hugh O'Donovan free won by wing forward Tadgh Burke, and things appeared to be shaping up nicely for Valley Rovers at that juncture. But Clyda came back into the picture, not least because of the efforts of Padraig O'Mullane, who grafted tirelessly as a roaming full forward.
O'Mullane had adopted a deep role from the outset, and he was also heavily involved when pitted against Valley Rovers Brian Lehane for the first 20 minutes. That prompted Valley Rovers to sacrifice full forward Willie Burke, with substitute Ray O'Donovan coming on to pick up O'Mullane, and Lehane moving up to wing forward.
O'Donovan fared out reasonably well until he began to run out of puff and was replaced by Stephen Manning for the last ten minutes.
Manning likewise paid his way, winning a free which yielded a point from Hugh O'Donovan in the 56th minute before notching a neat score himself after Shane Nolan had shown good vision to pick him out with a quickly-taken free from near the touchline in stoppage time.
Those Valley Rovers scores came in reply to a couple of excellent points from Clyda substitutes David Murphy and Dylan O'Shea respectively.
Padraig O'Mullane had created the opening for Murphy's point which made it 0-4 apiece in the 48th minute, and Clyda squandered a couple of chances to forge ahead shortly afterwards, with Paudie Kissane, from a free, and Maurice O'Brien both shooting wides.
The result was that Valley Rovers were allowed off the hook at a critical stage, but they could have been further ahead had they made the most of the possession they enjoyed during the third quarter.
In the final analysis, they just about deserved to garner the glory which was secured when Fiachra Lynch landed a booming point from a sideline ball five minutes into additional time. While Lynch threatened on occasions, he generally got little change from Clyda's Ray Carey, who was switched from full back to the left corner after just five minutes.
At the other end, David Lynch kept a tight rein on Clyda's key forward James Murphy, while Fergal Coughlan, Ronan Lehane and Noel O'Donovan also performed solidly at the back for the winners.
The main reason why openings were very difficult to come by, however, was that players from both sides funneled back in numbers at the merest hint of a promising attack.
That sort of blanket defending ruined the game as a spectacle, and it wasn't helped either by the congestion at midfield where Kevin Canty for Valley Rovers and Paudie Kissane for Clyda Rovers both made their presence felt at different stages. Canty arguably shaded that individual duel, and, in a contest where scores were at a premium, his contribution of two points from play was invaluable.
It was Valley Rovers second win over Clyda Rovers this year, and - achieved in the absence of key players Chris O'Donovan and Eamonn Collins, unavailable through injury and suspension respectively - there can be no denying they are worthy champions.
Scorers - Valley Rovers: H. O'Donovan 0-3 frees, K. Canty 0-2, S. Manning and F. Lynch, sideline, 0-1 each. Clyda Rovers: P. Kissane 0-3, 0-2 frees, D. Murphy and D. O'Shea 0-1 each.
Valley Rovers: A. Quirke, N. O'Donovan, B. Lehane, D. Lynch, F. Coughlan, R. Lehane, D. Collins, E. Manning, K. Canty, S. Nolan, J. Hurley, T. Burke, F. Lynch, W. Burke, H. O'Donovan. Subs: R. O'Donovan for W. Burke, M. O'Brien for Hurley, S. Manning for R. O'Donovan, G. Rice for B. Lehane.
Clyda Rovers: C. Conway, G. Carey, R. Carey, M. O'Brien, N. O'Mullane, O. O'Hanlon, J. Fitzgerald, P. Kissane, J. O'Hanlon, C. Flanagan, F. O'Shea, K. Roche, J. Murphy, P. Mullane, C. O'Sullivan. Subs: D. Murphy for Roche, D. O'Shea for Flanagan.
Referee: P. O'Leary (Kilmurry).