Éire Óg 0-14
St Michael’s 0-12
NOEL HORGAN REPORTS
VICTORY over St Michael’s in last Sunday’s county premier intermediate football final at Páirc Uí Rinn brought an end to what has been a frustrating period for Éire Óg since 2014.
Crowned intermediate kingpins five years ago, the mid-Cork men have been there-or-thereabouts in their quest for premier glory in the meantime, bowing out to eventual champions Carrigaline, after a replay, and Fermoy at the semi-final stage in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
They fell at the penultimate hurdle again last year to St Michael’s, so it was on the cards they’d have their work cut out to turn the tables on the Blackrock men in a decider that promised a lot.
It’s fair to say the contest lived up to expectations, producing a pulsating first half of end-to-end football, and an absorbing battle for supremacy after the interval.
That Éire Óg came out on top owed much to the fact that they were more economical with their chances, particularly during the opening quarter. After Daniel Goulding got them off the mark from a free inside a minute, Liam O’Sullivan equalised four minutes later for St Michael’s, who should have had more to show for their efforts at that juncture.
With Tadgh Deasy failing to convert an easy free, however, before Shane O’Keeffe shot wide with a great chance of a goal, the city side squandered the opportunity to snatch the early initiative.
Allowed off the hook to a certain extent, Éire Óg regained the lead through another Goulding point from a free in the sixth minute, stretching it to four (0-6 to 0-2) after Brian Hurley bagged a fine score from play midway through the first half.
Jack Murphy and wing-back Diarmuid Dineen had both chipped in with a tasty point prior to that, so Éire Óg, with Ronan O’Toole making some probing runs from midfield, had every reason to feel satisfied with developments heading into the second quarter.
Manager Harry Reilly agreed Éire Óg’s good start helped to sustain them in the face of St Michael’s determined bid to knock them off course as the game wore on.
‘We never fell behind at any stage, which was very important, and we defended well towards the end when everyone got stuck in and gave it their all,’ Reilly said.
‘We’ve had some fierce battles with St Michael’s in recent years, so we knew it was going to be another tight one today, but we were very hopeful going into it. The main reason was that, with Ciarán (Sheehan) back from Australia and Colm O’Callaghan fully recovered from injury, we had a full squad available for the first time this year.
‘We’re absolutely delighted to get over the line by a couple of points, and we fully intend to rattle Munster now.’
A needless off-the ball foul by Éire Óg corner back John Kelleher enabled Tadgh Deasy to cut the gap to three points in the 17th minute, and another St Michael’s point followed after wing back Billy Cain gathered the ensuing kick-out to set up Kevin Hegarty.
The losers’ prospects received a further boost in the 22nd minute when goalkeeper Martin Burke brought off a superb save to foil a goal attempt by Brian Hurley, who had been put clean through by Ronan O’Toole, at the expense of a 45.
Although Daniel Goulding pointed the resulting chance, St Michael’s appeared to have the momentum with them after they outscored Éire
Óg by three to one as the first half drew to a close. Leading by the minimum, 0-8 to 0-7, at the break, Éire Óg began brightly on the resumption, with Colm O’Callaghan and Daniel Goulding on target, but their resolve was put to the test again after St Michael’s reeled off a hat-trick of points to draw level by the 40th minute.
Following an exchange of points between hard-working centre-forward O’Callaghan and Liam O’Sullivan, the teams were tied at 0-11 apiece with 52 minutes gone, but St Michael’s appeared to be in the ascendency coming down the home stretch.
The complexion of the contest changed, however, after Daniel Goulding gathered a delivery from Jack Murphy to slot over an inspirational score from a tight angle in the 55th minute. Shortly afterwards, John Mullins, who had a fine game at full back, broke up a promising St Michael’s raid before the ball was moved quickly to the other end where substitute Ciarán Sheehan placed centre back John Cooper for a point.
In sight of victory after Goulding pointed a free heading into stoppage time, Éire Óg held their nerve in a gripping finale, soaking up some strong pressure from St Michael’s, whose fate was sealed after Tadgh Deasy’s ambitious effort for an equalising goal flashed over the bar in the dying seconds.
Éire Óg: D Goulding 0-8 (5f, 1 45); C O’Callaghan 0-2; J Murphy, D Dineen, B Hurley, John Cooper 0-1 each.
St Michael’s: T Deasy 0-4 (2f); L O’Sullivan 0-3; E Hegarty 0-2 (1f); K Hegarty, T Lenihan, B Cain 0-1 each
Éire Óg: E Kelleher; J Kelleher, J Mullins, D O’Herlihy; D McCarthy, John Cooper, D Dineen; J Murphy, R O’Toole; L Sheehan, K Hallissey, E O’Shea; D Goulding, C O’Callaghan, B Hurley.
Subs: C Sheehan for Hallissey (43), M O’Shea for Dineen (48), Joe Cooper for O’Shea (54), D Murphy for Hurley (58), A O’Mahony for L Sheehan (62, black card).
St Michael’s: M Burke; O O’Sullivan, D Cormack, R Dineen; T Lenihan, A O’Callaghan, B Cain; D Meaney, S O’Keeffe; K Hegarty, T Deasy, D Lenihan; L O’Sullivan, E Hegarty, D Cremin.
Subs: E Sheehan for D Lenihan (ht), A Hennessy for K Hegarty (46), E Buckley for L O’Sullivan (53), E Hickey for E Hegarty (63).
Referee: A Long (Argideen Rangers).