BRENDAN KENNEALLY REPORTS
HISTORY was made on Tuesday night at the Castle Grounds in Macroom when Aghinagh won their first-ever Ross Oil Mid Cork junior football title.
Aghinagh were appearing in their fifth-ever final and have suffered heartbreaks down the years but all that agony was forgotten after what unfolded on a magical night for the club.
The new champions got off to a fine start, led by four points at half time, survived a severe onslaught in the third quarter and put in a great last ten minutes to romp home in style with their huge and vocal support driving them on to victory.
Whenever this glorious night will be recalled then the name of Liam Twohig will be foremost in the minds of anyone present. The lightly-built centre forward scored 1-11 of his side’s tally, 1-4 from play, and his goal was a score for the ages. It came after six minutes, Twohig and Gearóid O’Sullivan worked a one-two in the right corner to release Twohig for a clear shot at goal but at a tight angle, and the ball hit the far corner of the Ballincollig net before anyone could move. It gave Aghinagh a four-point lead, and kept their noses in front at many stages subsequently when Ballincollig threatened to get on top.
Another star performer for Aghinagh was wing back Declan Ambrose who has been a constant leading light for the past decade. Other experienced players like Dave Barry, Donal Corkery, Michael O’Brien and Seán Kelleher all stepped up to the mark on this occasion.
Liam Twohig put Aghinagh into the lead with a point in the second minute and fired in the only goal of the match four minutes later to settle any nerves Aghinagh might have had. Stephen Wills immediately opened the Ballincollig account and after a scoreless period Twohig punished a foul on Richard O’Sullivan with a point from a free to which Wills replied, also from a free, to leave Aghinagh leading by 1-2 to 0-2 at the water break on 17.
The two teams continued to defend well and Liam Twohig pointed a free from over 40 metres after he was fouled. Liam O’Connell, a dangerous midfielder for Ballincollig, came forward to kick a fine point, Twohig pointed another free from long range, and Stephen Wills scored another Ballincollig free after O’Connell was fouled as he again came forward. A foul on Richard O’Sullivan yielded another point from an Aghinagh free and they led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the break, all their scores coming from Twohig.
The third quarter saw Ballincollig begin to gradually gain control. In the opening minute Liam O’Connell set up Seán O’Donoghue for a close-range blast but Jason McCarthy was equal to his effort. Two minutes later Dylan Ebili’s fierce shot from close range went screaming just over the Aghinagh bar.
Twohig relieved the pressure for Aghinagh but Ballincollig answered with a superb point from Jordan O’Connor in the 36th minute to again leave only a goal between the teams.
Stephen Wills cut the gap to two points from a free in the 41st minute and Ballincollig had Aghinagh under pressure but the winner’s defence held tough. Micheál Horgan became the only other scorer apart from Twohig in the 46th minute but Wills pointed a Ballincollig free just before the water break in reply to leave Aghinagh only two points in front, 1-7 to 0-8, and by no means in a secure position.
Aghinagh finished this game in the style befitting champions. Liam Twohig was fouled in the 51st minute and pointed the resultant free. They then showed great composure in this period, worked very hard to keep possession and Twohig pointed a free in the 57th minute to open up a four-point gap at last. It was a vital score.
Aghinagh continued to defend magnificently and finished out the game with Twohig adding a brace before Stephen Wills pulled one back for Ballincollig. Twohig kicked over his 11th point to a rapturous reception from the excited Aghinagh supporters who gave full vent to their joyous feelings when the final whistle sounded.
Scorers – Aghinagh: L Twohig 1-11 (7f); M Horgan 0-1. Ballincollig: S Wills 0-6 (5f); L O’Connell, D Ebili, J O’Connor 0-1 each.
Aghinagh: Jason McCarthy; Donagh O’Riordan, Dave Barry, John Lynch; Donal Corkery, Luke O’Leary, Declan Ambrose; Gearóid O’Sullivan, Michael O’Brien; Mathew McCarthy, Liam Twohig, Richard O’Sullivan; Sean Kelleher, Micheál Horgan, TJ Buckley. Subs: Aodh Twomey for M McCarthy (inj, 45), Tadgh Sheehan (blood, 55-57).
Ballincollig: Shane Hogan; Padraig Harrington, Shane Buckley, Chris Twomey: Jason O’Connor, Fenton Denny, Mattie O’Sullivan: Sean Dore, Liam O’Connell: Sean O’Donoghue, Jason O’Connor, Henry Ahearne: Stephen Wills, Dylan Ebili, Callum Sheehan. Subs: Robbie Bourke, Olan Dorgan, Eoin O’Reilly, Adam Wills.
Referee: Dave Murnane (Macroom).