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Midleton respond to the pressure

Midleton 1-17 Ballymartle 0-18
IT’S been an exhausting wait for a club with their rich tradition, but Midleton have finally reached the last four of the Cork SHC for the first time since 1994.

But they were made to earn the right to contest that semi-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday as they survived a serious quarter-final examination by Ballymartle in an enthralling clash.

Midleton’s prospects had looked precarious entering the closing 10 minutes as they trailed 0-17 to 1-12. Ballymartle had belied the fact this was their debut season at senior level to mount a fierce drive to progress.

The Dwyer brothers, Barry and Ruairí, were constant threats in attack, contributing 0-12 between them from their half-forward positions, while midfielder Darren McCarthy, who kept goal for the Cork U21 hurlers this year, was in powerful form as he weighed in with 0-4. The momentum appeared with Ballymartle entering that finale.

But Midleton impressively weathered the storm and have clearly absorbed the lessons of the shattering defeats they suffered in recent seasons. They may not have been dictating the flow of the game, yet their refusal to buckle under pressure served them well. The astute redeployment of Luke O’Farrell to the half-forward line paid off, as he tied the game after Sean Hennessy had converted a free.

O’Farrell set up Midleton’s outstanding midfielder Cormac Walsh for the lead score and then Walsh struck over a long-distance free to stretch their gap to two points. Ballymartle pulled a score back courtesy of Barry Dwyer, but Midleton, who had attackers Paul Haughney and Conor Lehane in strong form at the finish, clinched victory courtesy of a stylish Lehane point.

The East Cork side’s defence, anchored by James Nagle and Aidan Ryan, held firm as Ballymartle poured forward at the finish to ensure they achieved glory. Midleton selector Terence McCarthy spoke about the significance of the victory after the game.

"It was a huge win. We’ve guys on our team today like Brian Behan in goal who have played in seven quarter-finals but never managed a victory. The pressure in a game like this was incredible.

"But we found out something today in that when the chips were down we responded. I think we learned from the experience of recent years, games like last year in the quarter-final when we lost to the Glen after a replay, and that stood to us. We got it very hard from Ballymartle. Their manager Anthony McCarthy is a really nice guy and he’s done a serious job since taking them over five years ago. I was at the Newtown v Sars game on Saturday and I ended up standing alongside him. It was as big a challenge as we thought it would be."

The pivotal score transpired to be the solitary goal of the game. The move was engineered in the 22nd minute by Seamus O’Farrell when he knifed through the Ballymartle rearguard and offloaded to Luke O’Farrell, who skipped clear to create the necessary space and unleashed a stinging drive to the net. It was a super strike and on a day when both defences were watertight as they conceded few openings, O’Farrell’s predatory instincts were crucial.

Ballymartle recovered impressively from that setback. They battled on throughout the first-half with defenders like Daniel Edmonds and John Kelly showing up well while the Dwyer’s kept on supplying scores up front. At the interval they were satisfied to be in contention as they trailed by 1-9 to 0-10 and then made serious headway in the second-half.

Midleton were outscored 0-7 to 0-3 in the first 20 minutes of the second-half and that was a reflection of the greater energy and hunger Ballymartle were bringing to the game. Midleton struggled to gain a foothold and deliver a stream of quality possession to their attack, But that did not deter them and gradually they improved. At the critical juncture their players stood up to the mark and a late scoring spree ensured they will face a mouth-watering local derby in the semi-final against Cloyne or Carrigtwohill.

"It should make for a great derby in the semi-final regardless of who we face, Cloyne or Carrigtwohill", admitted McCarthy. "There’s a huge criss-cross between families, friends and work colleagues in all those clubs, and I’m sure the game will draw a big crowd."

Scorers for Midleton: S Hennessy 0-7 (0-5f), L O’Farrell 1-2, C Walsh 0-4 (0-3f), C Lehane 0-3, P O’Shea 0-1.

Scorers for Ballymartle: B Dwyer 0-8 (0-3f), Darren McCarthy (0-2f), R Dwyer 0-4 each, S O’Mahony, J Kelly 0-1 each.

MIDLETON: B Behan; P O’Mahony, D Ryan, F O’Mahony; J Nagle, A Ryan, P O’Shea; S O’Farrell, C Walsh; S Hennessy, K Mulcahy, S Moore; C Lehane, L O’Farrell, P Haughney.

Subs: I Kennefick for Moore (40), P White for Mulcahy (40), P O’Keeffe for O’Shea (52), Mulcahy for Hennessy (56)

BALLYMARTLE: Declan McCarthy; D Coleman, M Tobin, D Edmonds; J Kelly, P Dwyer, S Corry; Darren McCarthy, S O’Mahony; B Dwyer, B Corry, R Dwyer; J Dwyer, D Dwyer, K Fitzpatrick.

Subs: J Coleman for Fitzpatrick (5), P Coughlan for J Dwyer (55).

Referee: David Copps (Ballyhea).