Inspired by county star Niall McCarthy, 2011 Cork SHC champions Carrigtwohill got the defence of their title off to a good start in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday evening but they were tested all the way by the 2011 Premier IHC champions Courcey Rovers.
Making their first ever appearance at this level, the south-east side did themselves proud and had they taken their second-half chances, might well have caused a shock.
Then again had Carrig’ lost it would have been a travesty because as well as Courcey’s played, the champions were the classier side.
Though Carrigtwohill finished with a flourish, five unanswered points from the 48th minute to overturn a one-point deficit, the first-half was when this game was won and lost.
There was still something of a gale blowing when the contest commenced, the champions facing into the teeth of it, but Courcey’s were first on the board. Corner-forwards Gary Minihane and Seamus Hayes with the club’s first two scores in SHC.
They maintained that two-point gap to the 11th minute, Carrig’ points from Brian Lordan, Niall Mac and Thomas Hogan, negated by points from Hayes (two) and Daire Lordan at the other end.
But Carrigtwohill started to show the mark of champions. Over the next 15 minutes, playing into an easing wind, they outscored Courcey’s 0-7 to 0-1. A fine brace from speedy wing-forward Robbie White, three from team captain Mickey ‘Da’ Fitzgerald, one each from Donie O’Mahony and Niall McCarthy, against Minihane’s lone effort for the challengers made it 0-10 to 0-6 by the 26th minute.
But then it turned.
Did Carrig’ get a little cocky? Did Courcey’s find their feet? Perhaps a bit of both, but either way for the final minutes of the first-half and the opening minutes of the second it was the new kids on the block dictating matters.
Three points without reply made the score 0-10 to 0-9, more respectable at the break (one of those a truly outstanding save by ‘keeper Willie McCarthy from Shane Moloney, the ball deflecting over the bar).
Then two more to start the second and Courcey’s were in the lead. They held that one-point lead to the 48th minute but even at this stage they were already beginning to misfire with four wides notched up.
The wind had died down considerably but that was actually an advantage. Any forward will tell you, it’s easier to score in a breeze than in a gale, even if it’s at your back and in that final quarter it was advantage Carrig’.
Two magnificent points from Niall McCarthy started them on their way. Two more from the flying White ended it and in between Donie O’Mahony had his second.
Those scores were matched in heroics by some sterling defence from the champions, not least corner-back Pat O’Sullivan who, in the second minute of injury-time and with substitute James O’Regan bearing down on an empty net, somehow got back to sweep the ball to safety.
A workmanlike start to their title defence for Carrigtwohill, an encouraging start to life in the top echelon for Courcey Rovers. We must mention here centre-back Vincent Hurley, who was absolutely magnificent all through. They now meet Blackrock in round two and you wouldn’t bet against them progressing.
Scorers for Carrigtwohill: N McCarthy 0-5, R White, M Fitzgerald (1f) 0-4 each, D O’Mahony 0-2, B Lordan, T Hogan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Courcey Rovers: D Lordan 0-6, S Hayes 0-3, G Minihane 0-2, S Moloney, N Murphy (f), 0-1 each.
CARRIGTWOHILL: W McCarthy; A Garde, R Power, P O’Sullivan; C O’Connell, N Furlong, M O’Riordan; S Dineen, L O’Sullivan; R White, B Lordan, D O’Mahony; M Fitzgerald, N McCarthy, T Hogan.
Subs: J Leahy for Hogan (54).
COURCEY ROVERS: S Nyhan; G Moloney, B Hayes, D Lordan; O Gately, V Hurley, D Murphy; G Moloney, K Moloney; S Moloney, D Lordan, S Lordan; G Minihane, N Murphy, S Hayes.
Subs: J O’Regan for S Moloney (54), J Murphy for N Murphy (57).
Referee: J Sexton (Ballyhea)