THE result nobody predicted – a draw – unfolded in dramatic circumstances in Sunday’s JAFC final in Drimoleague.
Champions Kilmacabea, the hottest of favourites going into the game, were put to the pin of their collar to force a draw, with a 62nd-minute free from Daniel O’Donovan rescuing them. Underdogs Tadhg MacCárthaigh really put it up to the Kilmacs in this cracking game and when they goaled a second time to lead by four points with only ten minutes remaining, it looked as if they were to achieve the near-impossible.
Champions die hard, though, and four points on the trot showed why the Kilmacs are champions and genuine county contenders. The replay should draw another huge crowd to Drimoleague on Saturday at 6pm.
The junior B football final, between Goleen and Bandon, is also down for decision on Saturday in Ballinacarriga at 4pm, so that patrons can attend both finals if they so wish. It was hoped to stage both finals in Drimoleague but it was not physically possible on the day.
There is also a big hurling game this weekend as Kilbree and St James’ meet in the semi-final of the RCM Tarmacadam JAHC in Ahiohill, the winner to play Ballinscarthy in the final the following Sunday, September 15th.
JAFC final replay: Kilmacabea v Tadhg MacCárthaigh, Drimoleague, 6pm
Kilmac’s aura of invincibility has disappeared and Caheragh have shown themselves as genuine contenders for the title. Both sides had their periods of ascendancy in the drawn game and the Kilmacs played superb football in the opening twenty minutes and the closing ten.
They dominated the outfield exchanges with Daniel O’Donovan, Sam O’Driscoll and Niall Hayes as driving forces.
However, apart from O’Donovan’s frees, they were reliant on Damien Gore for scores. Even though double-marked, he still kicked five from play and is a huge talent but will need much more scoring support from the other forwards if this Kilmac team is to realise its potential.
MacCárthaighs are notorious slow starters and so it proved again, with Brian O’Driscoll wasted in the role of sweeper. It was his move to midfield that changed the game after 20 minutes. Will they repeat the experiment or give the sweeper role to young Gavin Dineen, who did well there on Sunday? Also, they tried Mark and Colm O’Driscoll as a twin full forward line, which didn’t work either, and it was when Colm roamed in the second half that they clicked into gear. He was superb, creating the two goals that nearly won it for them.
Both sides could have won on Sunday and both looked like losing but the Kilmacs will be the more relieved to survive, while Caheragh will find it difficult to get over the disappointment of letting a four-point lead slip away.
While Caheragh looked at full potential in that second half, playing themselves to a standstill, including their 13-man blanket defence at times, I feel Kilmacabea were well short of their best for much of the game, especially in attack. This was an eye-opener for the champions who will be much more on their guard this Saturday and may just edge it at the second attempt.
JBFC final, Bandon v Goleen, Ballinacarriga, 4pm
While the junior B championship has been over-shadowed somewhat by junior A in recent weeks, there have been some great games and both Bandon and Goleen are in the final on merit. There could be no greater contrast in this final than the biggest town in West Cork against the smallest club from the far west on the Mizen Peninsula.
Of course, this is Bandon’s second football team but they will be aching to get back on the winning trail after the disappointment of their senior hurling defeat to Newcestown last weekend. On the road to this final, Bandon actually accounted for the Goleen men in round 1, by 1-11 to 1-9, way back in May.
In the semi-final, Bandon beat Randal Óg by 1-19 to 2-10, with senior hurlers Darren Crowley and Mike Cahalan, playing big roles, the outstanding Crowley scoring ten points, five from play. The experienced John O’Connell scored the goal and Bandon, trailing by four at the break, kicked 1-7 in the last quarter. Goalkeeper, Jack Donegan, Eoin Nolan, Mark O’Regan, Rob Long, Rory Fogarty, David Aherne, Andrew O’Connell, Joe Harrington and Kevin Lucey will all figure strongly for Bandon in this final. Former Bandon great Jimmy Gabriel manages the side.
Goleen are having a good year under new manager Gene O’Donovan. In the separate county B championship, they reached the semi-final, unlucky to lose to Grange by two points. Although beaten by Bandon in round 1 of this championship, they recovered to beat Bantry in the semi-final by an impressive 2-11 to 0-9. Veteran John Cullinane kicked 2-2 while centre back, Daniel O’Driscoll was man of the match.
The peninsula men will be backboned by goalkeeper Ronan Kennedy, defenders Pádraig Reidy, Daniel O’Driscoll, Dan O’Callaghan and James Scully, midfielders Tadhg Cullinane and David O’Leary and forwards John Cullinane, Darren O’Donovan, Seán Sheehan, Patrick Scully and Danny Cullinane.
However, if Crowley and Cahalane are allowed to dominate this final, Goleen may have to make the long trip home empty-handed.