Great show of character by Skibb in league final
O'Donovan Rossa defeated reigning junior county champions Barryroe by the narrowest of margins to claim the junior A hurling league title after a titanic battle played in perfect conditions in Ballinacarriga last Sunday morning.
Skibb afforded Barryroe a guard of honour in recognition of their recent achievements before the match but that is where their generosity ended as they upset the applecart in devastating fashion pulling off a sensational surprise victory against all the odds.
Barryroe who started with 11 of the team that memorably defeated Charleville to secure intermediate status next year were overwhelming favourites against a Skibb team who exited the hurling championship in August after a disappointing defeat against Newcestown.
However this Skibb team showed character and spirit in abundance to overcome a three point deficit at half time and the concession of an early second half goal to emerge victorious by a point. Kevin Cotter, was the hero of the hour, slotting over the winning point from a free in injury time to deny Barryroe a dream league and championship double.
Skibb started brightly opening the scoring after Flor Crowley showed good awareness to pick out Paudie Cotter who fired high and over for the game's opening score. Barryroe were struggling to impose their authority on the game as they engaged in too much short interplay and were guilty of wasteful shooting in front of goal.
Clive Cahalane equalised for Barryroe after seizing on a loose ball around centre field before striking a long range drive between the posts. Barryroe looked lethargic in the opening stages, understandable after a long season but gradually began to assume control of the game. Clive Cahalane and Kieran Griffin gained the upper hand at midfield, but over elaboration from Barryroe in their approach play and a lack of composure when in good scoring positions was a massive achilles heel for Barryroe as they never took full advantage of their dominance.
Alan Foley had to be alert to bat away a Ciaran Hurley strike but Denis Harrington, showed his predatory skills to win the rebound and despatch the sliotar between the uprights to give Barryroe a slender lead after 11 minutes. The game was developing into a cracking contest with both sides contributing immensely to a good open flowing game of hurling.
Adrian Fleming extended Barryroe's lead with a superb drive from long range as Barryroe fought hard to escape the shackles of a gallant Skibb outfit. Barryroe were yet to click into second gear as they persisted with their short passing style of hurling and as a result their inside forward line was starved of quality ball.
Kieran Griffin struck two points from placed balls to enable Barryroe to hold a four point advantage after 22 minutes' play. Skibb growing in stature and confidence as the game progressed replied with a Kevin Cotter converted free after Flor Crowley was fouled to reduce the arrears to three points at the small interval.
Skibb started the second half in whirlwind fashion with Barryroe goalkeeper Ger Keohane forced to make a good reaction save to deny Kevin Cotter after a mazy Donagh Long run. Kevin Cotter pointed from the resultant 65 to cut the gap to two points. Barryroe upped the tempo seizing the initiative instantly with a well taken goal from Denis Harrington.
A deft pass from Adrian Fleming released John O'Donovan into space to unleash a shot which wasn't dealt with adequately by the Skibb defence and Denis Harrington seizing on the hesitancy, rifled an unstoppable shot to the top corner of the net from 20 yards. Skibb refused to be unbowed and their response was immediate. Cathal Keohane embarked on a sublime individual run before shortening the grip on his hurley and shooting over.
The game was being played at an unforgivingly blistering pace as play switched from end to end. Denis Harrington restored the Barryroe lead to five points as he swiveled to shoot over from an acute angle out on the right touchline after good approach play from Kieran Fleming.
Skibb now full of self belief began to assert their dominance on the game and inspired by a well disciplined and tenacious backline held Barryroe scoreless for 23 minutes. Flor Crowley was moved to midfield in a direct swap with Shane Crowley in a bid to get the impish Flor Crowley more involved in the game. Paudie Cotter was instrumental behind the Skibb comeback on the 40, winning the breaking balls and setting up numerous attacks as Skibb scored 1-3 without reply in 13 minutes.
Kevin Cotter, was becoming a key figure and emerged as the scorer in chief for Skibb, scoring three consecutive points, two from placed balls and one from open play. Delightful build up play from Cathal Keohane, Flor Crowley and Paudie Cotter combined to set up Kevin Cotter to strike over from 30 yards. Skibb were firmly in the assendency showing a unrelenting desire and hunger for the victory.
Skibb regained the lead with 11 minutes remaining after a pinpoint crisp delivery from Kevin Cotter was expertly flicked to the net by Kevin Crowley and suddenly the prospect of a shock defeat was fast becoming a reality for a shellshocked Barryroe outfit.
Barryroe showing the true mark of champions responded in style laying siege to the Skibb goal in a dramatic finale in a frantic bid to complete a historic double, but heroic defending by the Skibb rearguard repelled the Barryroe attacks. Kieran Griffin showed his class, embarking on a barnstorming run through the middle and striking over with aplomb to tie the teams with two minutes remaining.
The game was now in the melting pot as both teams pressed hard for the winning score in a gripping and intense climax to a pulsating game. Skibb were not to be denied and from the next attack, after Shane Crowley was felled, Kevin Cotter was coolness personified to convert a pressure free kick from 35 yards.
Barryroe fought gallantly to the end but couldn't penetrate a dogged Skibb defence who held on to secure a much cherished victory and a confidence booster ahead of next year's championship campaign.
Barryroe will now have to lift themselves for their Munster quarter-final championship clash with Clare champions Meelick scheduled for November 18, but this game will be of immense benefit to them and with the club having won the junior B West Cork championship the previous day the future continues to look bright for the county champions.
Scorers - O'Donovan Rossa: Kevin Cotter 0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65, Kevin Crowley 1-0, Paudie Cotter, Cathal Keohane 0-1 each. Barryroe: Denis Harrington 1-2, Kieran Griffin 0-3, 0-1 65, 0-1 free, Clive Cahalane, Adrian Fleming 0-1 each.
O'Donovan Rossa: Alan Foley, Colm Keohane, Conor Long, Shane Keohane, Michael Dan O'Donovan, Diarmuid Shanahan, Colm Crowley, Cathal Keohane, Shane Crowley, Flor Crowley, Paudie Cotter, Donagh Long, Noel Kearney, Kevin Cotter, Kevin Crowley. Subs: Stevie Cotter for Noel Kearney.
Barryroe: Ger Keohane, Martin Finn, Bernard O'Brien, Timothy Carroll, Gerard Coleman, Jason Fleming, Adrian White, Clive Cahalane, Kieran Griffin, Patrick Fleming, Adrian Fleming, Ciaran Hurley, Denis Harrington, Brendan Coleman, John O'Donovan. Subs: Vincent Cahalane for John O'Donovan, Eamonn McCarthy for Timothy Caroll, Michael O'Brien for Brendan Coleman.
Referee: Joe Crowley, Randal Ógs.
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