Blackrock 1-14 Newtownshandrum 0-12
By Jim O’Sullivan
THE actual achievement of back-to-back wins by Blackrock in the Permanent TSB Cork SHC after a 23-year-gap was arguably more praiseworthy than the manner of its execution in yesterday’s final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
The fact is that while they looked more probable winners from the time Alan Browne goaled just before half time, some bad finishing left them unnecessarily vulnerable when 2000 champions Newtownshandrum hinted at a late recovery.
But Blackrock’s greater facility to win possession consistently proved decisive and the comparative weakness of a Newtown attack struggled when Ben and Jerry O’Connor were unable to give the leadership expected of them.
For neutrals in the small crowd of 11,363, there was little entertainment from what should have been the showpiece of a championship generally regarded as having been lack-lustre. And, there was even less optimism in regard to possible indicators of a rise in the profile of Cork hurling.
But, a game that produced such a disappointing standard and was so one-dimensional - with Newtown only leading once, for a three-minute period - certainly wasn’t calculated to arouse passions.
There was the early promise of a lively contest with scores level twice inside the opening quarter. After a minor flare-up at the start, which led to Wayne Sherlock and Pat Mulcahy being yellow-carded, the Blackrock goalkeeper Trevor Barry averted a possible goal.
That was when he dashed off his line to intercept as Ben O’Connor ran in to challenge for possession. In the event, it was about the only time they looked like putting the ball in the net.
Both defences were quick to make an impression, with Mulcahy quick to establish himself at centre-back for Newtown, and Sherlock combining with Fergal Ryan (switched over to police Jerry O’Connor) forming a strong barrier on the right flank.
While Blackrock had been posing the greater threat in attack, they started to find it more difficult to penetrate as Newtown improved their covering, with John McCarthy impressing in the left corner.
At the other end, it was notable that neither Ben O’Connor (at full-forward) nor Jerry at left-half, were making any headway. And what was to be more crucial in the long term, team captain Mike Morrissey, who had definite inter-county potential two years until a serious injury against Wexford knocked him back, was rarely in the game against Alan Cummins.
Given that Cummins was to hurl consistently well over the hour, it wasn’t a surprise to see him named later as the sponsor’s man-of-the-match. Additionally, Adrian Coughlan was dominant at midfield and contributed several important scores.
A 17th minute point from Donal Mulcahy put Newtown in the lead until the hard-working Barry Hennebry levelled scores for the last of three times in the 17th minute. The opening came from Alan Browne, who made a good start but who was to be kept on a tight rein by Brendan Mulcahy. However, typical of Browne, he availed of his
only real goal chance in the 28th minute with precision, after Adrian O’Keeffe broke down the ball from a Fergal Ryan clearance. Significant apart from its timing in that it came after eight wides, it saw the holders finish the half 1-6 to 0-5 ahead.
That lead was stretched by two further scores within a minute of the resumption and, with no real change in the pattern of play, there was a certain inevitability about the outcome.
At stages over-reliant on trying to bring Ben and Jerry O’Connor into the game, Newtown were frustrated by the effectiveness of the champions’ covering. It saw Noel Keane play commandingly at the edge of the square and both John Browne (at his best over the last 20 minutes) and Sherlock do some invaluable work. With Coughlan tiring, his partner Paul Tierney emerged as the dominant midfielder until Declan Murphy came to the forefront for Newtown.
That was at the stage Blackrock had begun to waste scoring chances again and when Pat Mulcahy was prominent once more. With Ben O’Connor putting over some good frees and Jerry O’Connor taking two good scores from play, the net effect was that Newtown were only a two points in arrears entering the last 10 minutes.
And, they were unfortunate when the referee awarded Noel Keane a free out when he had clearly charged with the ball and when Jerry O’Connor and Mike Morrissey both hit costly wides.
Indeed, with Blackrock sensing the threat to their title, the game moved quickly back in their direction once they redoubled their efforts. Adrian Coughlan pointed from play and Liam Meaney, a tireless worker at centre-forward, along with Brian O’Keeffe, quickly set up substitute Colin O’Reilly for another. After that, there was no way back for the challengers.
*Referee Ken Healy, in charge for the second successive year, did a good job overall. He issued yellow cards to two players on each side.
Scorers for Blackrock: A Browne 1-4 (0-3 frees); A Coughlan 0-4 (0-2 frees); B O’Keeffe and C O’Reilly 0-2 each; B Hennebry and J Young 0-1 each.
Newtownshandrum: B O’Connor 0-7 (0-6 frees); J O’Connor and D Mulcahy 0-2 each; M Morrissey 0-1.
BLACKROCK: T Barry; W Sherlock (capt), N Keane, J Browne; F Ryan, A Cummins, C Connery; A Coughlan, P Tierney; B Hennebry, L Meaney, D Cashman; J Young, A Browne, B O’Keeffe. Subs: C O’Reilly for Cashman (injured, 17th minute).
NEWTOWNSHANDRUM: P Morrissey; AG O’Brien, B Mulcahy, J McCarthy; AT O’Brien, P Mulcahy, P Noonan; I Kelleher, D Murphy; D Mulcahy, M Morrissey (capt), Jerry O’Connor; John O’Connor, B O’Connor, JP King. Subs: D Naughton for Kelleher (27th minute); J Bowles for John O’Connor (29th); J O’Mahony for McCarthy (injured, second half); M Farrell for Naughton (42nd); D Riordan for Bowles (57th).
Referee: K Healy (Ballymartle).