By Diarmuid O’Flynn
GLORY, glory, Newtownshandrum! The little village with the big heart on the Cork/Limerick border brushed aside the feeble challenge of Ulster champions Dunloy and romped to their first All-Ireland club hurling title.
Newtownshandrum 0-17 Dunloy 1-6
The purists will carp at the standard of hurling, the neutrals got little to cheer them in a game that fell well short of the sort of competition expected, but the celebrating Newtown fans who invaded the pitch at the sound of the final whistle yesterday won’t give a damn.
This was not a title won on one day, not even in one season. It’s an All-Ireland title over ten years in the making.
Ever since a talented Ben O’Connor-inspired bunch hammered Mallow in a North Cork U12 final in 1991, this day was on the horizon.
A Cork intermediate championship in 1996, perhaps a year or two ahead of schedule, gave early indication that the progress through juvenile ranks was going to be maintained into adulthood; three Cork U21 A titles on the trot added to the growing legend; a first-ever Cork senior championship for the club in 2000 was the big breakthrough. Now this. All-Ireland champions, and let no-one deny them.
Dunloy were a shadow of the side that could once put it up to the likes of Birr and Athenry.
The northerners led once, with the opening score after less than a minute from centre-forward Colm McGuckian. That was about the last impression the Antrim star made on Newtown centre-back Pat Mulcahy or indeed on this game. From then on, they were outplayed.
They were out-hurled, out-ran, out-fought, out-thought; in fact, for much of the game Dunloy were a bit like the 38,500 who officially made it into the ground - mere spectators.
Newtown led 0-7 to 0-2 at the break; it could have been 0-17 had they been a bit more direct. Their short-passing possession game was overcooked, but it didn’t matter, they were still well on top in that first-half.
Ben O’Connor, as ever, was near-perfection, landing six points of that seven, three from play. The flying Alan T O’Brien had the other, with Liam Richmond getting Dunloy’s second.
The only time this game looked like it might become a contest was at the start of the second-half. Dunloy claimed the first two scores - the first a penalty when keeper Gareth McGhee goaled after Martin Curry was dragged down in the square three minutes after the restart, the other a fine point from Paddy Richmond after a long centre by captain Malachy Molloy. The margin was down to a point, 0-7 to 1-3.
But six points on the trot followed for Newtownshandrum. Ben had two, Alan T claimed another after a bout of messing by Newtown, flying wing-back Ian Kelleher popped up for the fourth, then youngster James Bowles finally made his presence felt with his first score.
Last in that line of points was the score of the game, by Jerry O’Connor. Playing at that stage as a sweeper, he grabbed a high ball inside his own half, took off, beat a tackle, produced a trademark bounce of ball off ground with stick, retained possession, shot on the run from distance.
This game was history.
Dunloy did get another couple of points, courtesy of the Richmond brothers, but Newtown ended the stronger. A brilliant strike from Ben was followed by another run and strike from Alan T. O’Brien, and the pitch invasion was signalled.
On the day they made history, Newtown keeper Paul Morrissey underlined his claims for serious contention as the Cork netminder with another commanding and faultless display; captain John McCarthy had a brilliant second-half, especially so in the final ten minutes, and with Brendan Mulcahy and Gerdie O’Mahony, formed a solid last line of defence. The Newtown half-back line was magnificent, Pat Mulcahy imperious in the centre, Ian Kelleher and Phillip Noonan superb on the wings. Midfield was owned by Jerry O’Connor and O’Brien, probably Alan T’s best game ever for the club.
Inside, Ben was Ben, but for the rest of the forwards however, even if it was the best day of their hurling lives, a few have had better days with the stick, though James Bowles did come alive in the last quarter, while sub Mike Morrissey took his point well.
Scorers: Newtownshandrum: B. O’Connor 0-10 (0-6 frees); A.T. O’Brien 0-3; Jerry O’Connor, J. Bowles, I. Kelleher, M. Morrissey, 0-1 each. Dunloy: G. McGhee 1-0 (pen.); L. Richmond 0-2; P. Richmond 0-2; C. McGuckian, A. Elliott, 0-1 each.
NEWTOWNSHANDRUM: P. Morrissey; J. McCarthy (c), B. Mulcahy, G. O’Mahony; I. Kelleher, P. Mulcahy, P. Noonan; Jerry O’Connor, A.T. O’Brien; D. Mulcahy, B. O’Connor, JP King; J. Bowles, D. O’Riordan, M. Farrell. Subs: John O’Connor (Farrell 30); M. Morrissey (O’Riordan 52); D. Naughton (King 59); A.G. O’Brien (O’Mahony 61).
DUNLOY: G. McGhee; S. Mullan, Gary O’Kane, F. McMullan; M. Molloy (c), M. McClements, D. McMullan; C. Cunning, P. McMullan; P. Richmond, C. McGuckian, L. Richmond; M. Curry, Gregory O’Kane, A. Elliott. Subs: D. Quinn (Curry 40).
Referee: B. Kelly (Westmeath).