IT’S easy to explain how it was Erin’s Own who emerged winners in a hectic finish to yesterday’s Evening Echo Cork SHC final to add a second title to their breakthrough win 14 years ago.
Quite simply, two vital scores from Kieran Murphy and Brian Corcoran inspired them after man-of-the-match Eoghan Murphy kept them in touch through the first half with superb free-taking and popped up with a vital goal four minutes into the second half.
Explaining why Cloyne didn’t surge to victory after a 52nd-minute Conor Cusack goal is a little more difficult. Their three goals came at crucial stages but, for somehow they lost the initiative when it mattered most.
It was heartbreaking and understandable they declined interviews afterwards. Contrast that with the joy of Erin’s Own captain Timmy Kelleher — along with Corcoran the only playing link with the 1992 side. He came in for the last four minutes and won a free in injury time which ended any chance Cloyne had of forcing a draw.
With the playing surface in excellent condition despite the heavy rain, it was Cloyne who made the running all through the first half. As a consequence, Erin’s Own never once took the lead, even though scores were level four times after Diarmuid O’Sullivan’s opening score inside a minute.
While both defences did a lot of good work under pressure, it was notable that Diarmuid O’Sullivan was having the better of his early exchanges with Cian O’Connor in the centre and that brother Paudie regularly threatened in the corner. Killian Cronin was particularly prominent at centre back for Cloyne, showing good positional sense to make good use of what ball came his way.
It was Paudie O’Sullivan who got the first Cloyne goal, in the fifth minute and it put them four points ahead. However, while the Erin’s Own attack was finding it hard to create openings (Corcoran wasn’t seeing any ball at full forward), they were still exerting pressure. As a result, they earned valuable frees which Eoghan Murphy expertly converted. His superb striking from various angles and distances was crucial to sustaining their challenge.
Of the others, Fergus Murphy was quite menacing at times and was to be rewarded with a goal in the second half. Further out, Kieran Murphy wasn’t involved very much in the play, but he was to contribute more later in the game.
Scores were level for the second time in the 18th minute after Corcoran pointed, and twice more before the break.
At the same time, it was Cloyne making the bigger impression, an excellent point from Diarmuid O’Sullivan in the 23rd minute — made by a Conor Cusack cross from a well-directed clearance from Cronin — highlighting their greater potential.
But, with Eoghan Murphy unerring in his striking and Fergus Murphy hitting over a very good score in the 29th minute, they weren’t allowed to open up a gap until Conor Cusack’s opportunism earned him the first of two goals. That came in the last minute of the half when he finished off an opening made by Paudie O’Sullivan. It left the score 2-8 to 0-11.
Significantly, determined play from Cian O’Connor from the opening minutes signalled a gradual takeover by him which resulted in Diarmuid O’Sullivan moving to the wing for a while. And, failing to add to his first-half total of three points, the Cloyne captain’s influence was to wane.
Instead it was Eoghan Murphy who made the biggest impact. Taking his only score from play after impressive wing-back Peter Kelly scored his second, he hit a wonder goal in the 35th minute. Noteworthy for the reason that he was on the ground when he won possession, at the edge of the square, he gave Donal Óg Cusack no chance with a powerful shot.
That put the Caherlag side in front for the first time (by two points), but they might not have been in that position had not able full back Patrick Fitzgerald got in a vital block a minute earlier to deny Paudie O’Sullivan a shot.
While the game had just over 25 minutes to run its full course, Murphy’s goal marked the turning point for the Erin’s Own challenge. Fergus Murphy got his deserved reward eight minutes later when he nipped in to finish a Corcoran ball to the net and give them a four-point edge as the game entered the final 10 minutes. Out of the blue, Conor Cusack produced a super goal for Cloyne. Coming after a Paudie O’Sullivan point it had the teams level.
Remarkably, Erin’s Own regained the initiative with a marvellously struck free by Kieran Murphy from the middle of the field in the 55th minute. And, in between an equally important score from Corcoran a minute later Erin’s Own won a crucial free deep in defence. Conor Cusack won possession about 25 yards out but vigilant defending forced him to over-hold the ball.
A Paudie O’Sullivan point from a 57th-minute free narrowed the gap to a point, before Kelleher was fouled. Once Eoghan Murphy stepped up, the umpires knew they would be raising the white flag.
Cloyne knew, too, that it was all over for another year.
Scorers for Erin’s Own — E. Murphy 1-10 (0-8 frees, 0-1 ‘65); F. Murphy 1-1; P. Kelly, K. Murphy (0-1 free) and B. Corcoran 0-2 each; R. Carroll and M. O’Connor 0-1 each.
Cloyne: C. Cusack 2-0; P. O’Sullivan 1-8 (0-6 frees); Diarmuid O’Sullivan 0-3 (0-1 free), J. Cotter, M. Naughton and C. O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
ERIN’S OWN: S. Bowen; P. Fenton, P. Fitzgerald, S. Murphy; S. Cronin, C. O’Connor, P. Kelly; Kieran Murphy, R. Carroll; M. O’Connor, M. Buckley, C. Coakley; F. Murphy, B. Corcoran, E. Murphy.
Subs: Killian Murphy for Buckley (45th minute); S. Kelly for M. O’Connor (53rd); T. Kelleher (capt.) for Carroll (57th).
CLOYNE: D. Óg Cusack; E. O’Sullivan, D. Motherway, B. Fleming; L. O’Driscoll, K. Cronin, J. Nyhan; J. Cotter, Donal O’Sullivan; C. O’Sullivan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan (capt.), M. Naughton; P. O’Sullivan, P. Cahill, C. Cusack.
Subs: R. McCarthy for Cotter (53rd minute); V. Cusack for C. O’Sullivan (58th).
Referee: David Copps (Ballyhea).