00:00 Saturday 15 September 2007  Written by Cois Farraige

Plunketts claim title with some style and class

St. Oliver Plunkett's................1-13

Passage.....................................2-7

The Saints go marching on! Seventeen years after winning their first county junior B football title in 1990, St. Oliver Plunkett's were back to claim their second title on Saturday last in Páirc Uí Rinn when they disposed of the challenge of city champions, Passage, with some style and class.

At the end of this fine game of football, during which the fare was of a very high standard, the scoreline showed the Ahiohill side only three points in front, but, in truth, there was much more than that between the sides on the pitch. With only a minute of normal time remaining Plunkett's were actually eight points to the good and it was only in the dying minutes that a battling Passage managed to put a decent look on the scoreboard. In fairness to the city side they deserved a close finish on foot of a fine first half performance but they were taught a football lesson by the West Cork men in the second half.

This was a marvellous display of controlled football by Plunkett's. Under the cosh early on from a very strong Passage midfield pairing, the Magpies hung on with some great intercepting and clearing by the defence. When they did break forward they showed tremendous cuteness and pace and clearly had the edge on the Passage defenders. Passage should have led after the first quarter because they were dominating the possession stakes but, invariably, their forward movements broke down and it was the winners who were a point to the good.

A ding-dong struggle of top-class football was all square after 26 minutes and it was then Plunkett's made the decisive breakthrough, from which they never looked back. Kevin Coffey, former Cork minor, captain of the successful Hamilton High team and so often the architect of Plunkett's under age successes, had been very quiet at corner forward but was switched to full forward after twenty minutes with devastating results.

In the 27th minute a great move involving Barry O'Driscoll and Keith O'Driscoll saw Coffey gain possession fifty metres out. Cutting through the Passage back line like a knife through butter, he unleashed an unstoppable shot to the net. It was a score to inspire and it did. Coffey went on to earn the man-of-the-match award with 1-4 to his credit while the whole team seemed to up the pace subsequently.

BLAZING

It was Plunkett's ahead by four points at the interval and they re-emerged with all guns blazing and Coffey in lethal form at full forward. Three quick points put them seven in front and they were looking good until Passage answered with a moment of inspiration themselves when the wily Kevin O'Brien finished to the Plunketts' net. It was game on again but Plunkett's had the bit between their teeth now and playing a lovely brand of combined, fast football, they again surged eight points clear with some top-class points.

It was inevitable that they would take their foot off the pedal at the end but when Passage had a second goal from a penalty in the 59th minute, per Shane Howard, and followed with two points in injury time, there was a brief moment of doubt among the chanting Plunketts' supporters. But in keeping with their performance on the night, the Magpies never panicked and held out for their deserved three points win.

There were great scenes of jubilation when Mick Dolan, cathaoirleach of the County Board, presented the cup to captain, Michael P. Keohane, and the celebrations went late into the night in Ahiohill.

While Kevin Coffey deservedly took the top accolade in this game, scoring 1-4 from play and orchestrating the Plunkett's attack with a tremendous display, there were many heroes on the night. None more so than corner back, T.J. O'Driscoll. One of four brothers who started on the team, with a fifth coming on as a sub, he was majestic in soaking up the early Passage pressure, cutting out intended passes, popping up to help other defenders and throwing himself bodily into every challenge. He, too, would have been a worthy man of the match.

Cork minor goalie, Brian Walsh, was rock solid between the posts, brought off some point-blank saves and was unlucky with the first Passage goal. Timmy Coffey and the veteran Ciarán McCarthy completed a superb full back line that never bowed the knee under pressure. Eoin Barrett showed all his class at centre back, with Eddie O'Driscoll and Gary McCarthy industrious on the wings. Plunkett's were in trouble at midfield for much of the first half but kept at it and played their way into the game. Peter Coffey worked his socks off and Donal Walsh thundered into the game after the break.

CUTTING

Michael P. Keohane played a true captain's part at centre forward and was always looking for the ball while wing forward, Conor McCarthy, showed great cutting and took his points very well. Barry O'Driscoll showed all his experience in the full line of attack, while young Keith O'Driscoll's free-taking was vital and Conor O'Driscoll was always looking to get involved. Michael Nyhan impressed when he came on in the second half, as did John Paul O'Driscoll.

Overall, this was the night on which it all came together for Plunkett's and full credit to their mentors who had them in tip-top shape for the occasion.

Passage started this final as if they were hell-bent on restoring the glory days to the club. With Thomas Mullane and the outstanding Alan Keane dominating midfield, they applied a lot of pressure early on. Unfortunately, the forwards failed to avail of the plentiful supply of ball. Exempt from criticism was veteran full forward, Kevin O'Brien, who caused a lot of problems in the opening half and finished the game with 1-2 to his credit.

Cork minor panellist, Shane Howard, also showed a lot of promise in the corner but his shooting from play let him down, although he rattled in 1-3 from frees. These were the only Passage forwards to score and therein lies the tale of their defeat. In defence, Paddy Maher and Diarmuid Holly showed up well in the two corners while centre back, Conor Quigley tried hard all through.

Referee, Noel Brosnan, Killavullen.

Much of the crowd was leaving Páirc Uí Rinn following the drawn junior B hurling final between Castlemagner and St. Ita's as the football final got under way with the floodlights blazing down. It was the Passage men who dominated early but many good moves came to nothing thanks to the lively play of the Plunkett's backs and it was Plunkett's who opened the scoring with a Keith O'Driscoll free.

Shane Howard did likewise at the other end to level and both defences were well on top in the first quarter, with scores were hard to come by. Plunkett's again took the lead when Conor McCarthy soloed through for a fine point in the eighth minute and, despite plenty possession, Passage were not troubling the scorekeeper.

The city men were unlucky in the 15th minute when a good move resulted in Thomas Mullane driving a ground effort just wide. The Coffey brothers combined in the 17th minute with Peter pointing but Kevin O'Brien was looking lively for Passage at full forward on the third Coffey brother, Timmy, and the veteran closed the gap with a fine point before Shane Howard levelled the scores from a free in the 22nd minute.

O'Brien then put Passage ahead for the only time in the game but Plunkett's refused to panic and playing nice controlled football, they drew level from a Keith O'Driscoll free. Then came Kevin Coffey's decisive goal in the 27th minute after his beneficial move to full forward and with the Plunkett's full line in control at the back, they stretched their lead to four points when Coffey set up Conor McCarthy for his second point of the game.

It was 1-5 to 0-4 at the interval and it looked as if the West Cork champions had weathered Passage's early storm. So it proved as the second half began and Coffey took up where he left off before the break. In the space of two minutes he drove over two soaring points and when Michael P. Keohane added another two minutes later, Plunkett's were cruising, 1-8 to 0-4 in front. They received a rude awakening, however, in the 35th minute as the all-action start to the second half saw Passage attack with Kevin O'Brien cutting through on goal only to see his shot brilliantly saved by Brian Walsh in the Plunketts' goal. Unfortunately for the brave keeper the ball rebounded back into the path of O'Brien who just managed to scramble it into the net. Now we had a match on our hands again.

Showing the stuff of true champions Plunkett's responded well and again it was captain, Michael P. Keohane who showed the way with a sweet point following good work from T.J. and Barry O'Driscoll. Although Shane Howard answered with a Passage point, Plunkett's were now getting on top all over the pitch and the third quarter ended with Conor O'Driscoll setting up his brother Barry and his rasping shot was brilliantly tipped over the bar by goalie, Kevin Mullane. It was 1-10 to 1-5 entering the last quarter and once more Conor O'Driscoll was on hand to set up Kevin Coffey, his shot just skimming over the crossbar.

EASE OFF

Keith O'Driscoll pointed a free and Coffey added a point from play to increase Plunketts' lead to a safe-looking eight points with five minutes remaining on the clock. The winners seemed to ease off the gas at that stage and it signalled a fierce late onslaught by Passage. Shane Howard had a shot saved by Brian Walsh but the same player made no mistake from the penalty spot in the 59th minute.

When Howard pointed a free and Thomas Mullane kicked one from play in injury time, suddenly the lead was down to a dangerous three points but that was as close as Passage got as Plunkett's sensed the danger and closed out the game well in control. It finished 1-13 to 2-7 and Plunkett's were junior B champions for the second time in their history.

Scorers - St. Oliver Plunkett's: Kevin Coffey 1-4, Keith O'Driscoll 0-3 frees, Conor McCarthy 0-2, Michael P. Keohane 0-2, Peter Coffey 0-1, Barry O'Driscoll 0-1. Passage: Shane Howard 1-4, 1-0 penalty, 0-3 frees, Kevin O'Brien 1-2, Thomas Mullane 0-1.

St. Oliver Plunkett's: Brian Walsh, Ciarán McCarthy, Timmy Coffey, T.J. O'Driscoll, Eddie O'Driscoll, Eoin Barrett, Gary McCarthy, Donal Walsh, Peter Coffey, Conor O'Driscoll, Michael P. Keohane, Kevin Coffey, Keith O'Driscoll, Barry O'Driscoll, Conor McCarthy. Subs: Michael Nyhan, John Paul O'Driscoll.

Passage: Kevin Mullane, Paddy Maher, Eoin O'Brien, Diarmuid Holly, Richard Higgins, Conor Quigley, Paul Holly, Alan Keane, Thomas Mullane, David Horan, Séamus Forde, John Burns, Shay Galvin, Kevin O'Brien, Shane Howard. Subs, Paul Keane, Michael Mullane.

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