HURRAH for Toomevara, may your banners never fall, You’ve beaten Queen’s County, and you’ve levelled Cork’s stone wall.
Memories of the great Toomevara Greyhounds team of the early 1900’s, were recalled after yesterday’s last-gasp Munster club SHC final win over gallant Cork kingpins Erin’s Own. Earlier, driving across Sarsfield Bridge, looking at the foaming whitecaps on the storm-tossed Shannon, you wondered how any game could possibly go ahead.
It was a very sporting encounter, two well-matched sides giving their all from first whistle to last. A pity then that one had to lose, even more’s the pity the loss should come in controversial circumstances. Referee Ger Hoey had played his part in what was a surprisingly free-flowing game, opting to keep his whistle in his pocket on several occasions when he could certainly have intervened.
That he would then become the central figure at the finish was ironic, and a major disappointment to the incensed Cork champions.
It all came down to two 65’s in injury-time — an umpire-awarded 65 to Erin’s Own over-ruled by the ref, then the decider, a hotly-disputed Toomevara 65 in which the ref sided with the umpire, and coolly converted for the winning point by midfielder Kenny Dunne.
Afterwards Erin’s Own had their complaints, but it should never have come down to those late decisions.
Backed by the gale-force wind in the first-half, Erin’s Own dominated possession, should have gone in at the break with this game almost out of sight. Twelve wides they had in those 30 minutes, six in a barren spell between the 13th and 22nd minutes during which time they failed to build on their early 2-2 to 0-1 lead.
Both those goals were wind-assisted, the first after a length-of-the-field clearance by outstanding Erin’s Own keeper Shay Bowen (several magnificent saves from point-blank shots, two from John O’Brien alone), finished to the net by corner-forward Eoin Murphy. The second another huge clearance, this time from wing-back Stephen Cronin, a ball that went all the way to the net after taking a deflection off the stick of Toomevara full-back Tony Delaney.
That was in the 13th minute, and for the rest of the half Erin’s Own managed only another two points, a tally matched by Toomevara. The battling Tipp champions could even have bettered it, in fact. Tommy Dunne was twice denied three-pointers, the first by Bowen’s sharp reflexes, the second — following a fine catch of a high hanging centre — by the close marking of Cronin, Dunne’s under-pressure one-handed shot travelling across the goal, just the wrong side of the post.
At half-time, then, it was 2-4 to 0-3, a lead of just seven points.
Considering that five of their six forwards had failed to score with that wind behind them (Eoin Murphy the sole exception, 1-1 to his name), it was always going to be a battle for Erin’s Own to hold on.
In fairness to them they began the second half in fine style, midfielder Kieran Murphy continuing his fine form with two early points to put his side nine ahead, 2-6 to 0-5. On another day it would have been a commanding lead.
Not in yesterday’s conditions, definitely not enough to convince Erin’s Own manager Martin Bowen. "Not a chance, not a hope in hell. When you see the goalkeeper nearly scoring, if you had a 20-point margin at half-time today you wouldn’t be guaranteed victory."
Martin was right. Erin’s Own did manage another early point, from wing-forward Colm Coakley, in reply to a fine strike by Eoin Brislane for Toomevara, but a fortuitous goal for Toome in the 44th minute was what really turned this match. A 65, beautiful line-drive by Kenny Dunne, travelling at pace, dipped at just the right moment, fooled everyone in the Erin’s Own defence, including keeper Bowen. Top right corner of the net, 1-4 to 2-7, it gave Toomevara hope and for the final quarter, they really applied the pressure.
Three points, two from Kenny Dunne, one from John O’Brien, and they were within a goal. And in the 55th minute, almost inevitably, it came. Slip by Kieran Murphy as he was going for a pass out of defence, ball picked up Toomevara, into Francis Devanney who picked out the burly figure of Brislane standing in splendid isolation inside the Erin’s Own 20m line. Goal.
It was 2-7 apiece now and it looked like Toomevara’s title. But back came the Corkmen, who regained the lead with a splendid drilled point from 45m on the right by Eoin Murphy. Two minutes of normal time remaining that score was negated by an equally-splendid effort from Kenny Dunne, 20m free on the right sideline.
That’s the way it should have ended, two terrific teams living to fight another day. Instead we had those last-minute controversies, a game ending in bitterness.
A pity, but it should never have come to that. This is a Toomevara side of rare quality, full of character. Give them half a chance and, as they proved against Mullinahone in the Tipp county final, as they showed again in their semi-final win over Mount Sion, they’ll find a way to beat you. "We’ve been down this road so many times during the year," said manager Pat Herbert, "Today was no different. We were seven points down twice in the county final, went nine points down today, but one feature of this team is that they don’t panic.
"There’s character in the team, there’s experience in the team, and like Toomevara of old, it’s not over until the final whistle blows. We didn’t get the winner until the very end but Ken is coolness personified, and when he got that 65, I knew he’d put it between the posts, he’s cool under pressure." Like Toome of old, levelled Cork’s stone wall.
Scorers for Toomevara: K. Dunne 1-4 (1-1 65’s 0-3 frees); E. Brislane 1-1; W. Ryan 0-2; J. O’Brien 0-2.
Erin’s Own: E. Murphy 1-2 ((0-1 65 0-1 free); K. Murphy 0-4; S. Cronin 1-0; C. O’Connor, C. Coakley, 0-1 each.
TOOMEVARA: J. McGrath; D. Young, T. Delaney, P. McGrath; Terry Dunne, Benny Dunne, J. McLoughney; F. Devanney, K. Dunne; M. Bevans, E. Brislane, Tommy Dunne; J. O’Brien, P. O’Brien, W. Ryan. Subs: None used.
ERIN’S OWN: S. Bowen; P. Fenton, P. Fitzgerald, S. Murphy; S. Cronin, C. O’Connor, P. Kelly; K. Murphy (c), R. Carroll; M. O’Connor, M. Buckley, C. Coakley; F. Murphy, B. Corcoran, E. Murphy.
Subs: Killian Murphy (Buckley inj. 39); S. Kelly (M. O’Connor 57); D. O’Flynn (Carroll 61).
Blood sub: Killian Murphy (Carroll 28/30).
Referee: G. Hoey (Clare).