Bishopstown 1-13 Ballymartle 0-12
Patrick Cronin underlined his importance to Bishopstown with an inspirational performance at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday as the ’Town, for the third week in-a-row, tore the formbook to shreds to reach their first Cork County senior hurling final.
While county star Cronin’s contribution of 11 points was immense, his leadership was inspirational as he roamed up and down the pitch to win possession both from the air and on the ground.
If there had been a Man of the Match award it would have rightly gone to Cronin, but not far behind him was 19-years-old Diarmuid Lester, who belied his years — he was a county minor in 2009 and ’10 — and gave a magnificent display at corner-back.
Young Lester showed his class 10 minutes into the game with a wonderful block on Dan Dwyer as he lined up his shot for goal from five metres, and late in the second-half he again stood tall, coming out of defence with the sliotar as hurleys hopped off him.
Others to make significant contributions in this historic victory were Shane O’Neill at full-back and Ian Jones at centre-back, and little wonder team selector Colm Coffey was elated at the final whistle.
"I’ve been involved with the club since underage and never thought I’d see this day. It’s wonderful for all those who have given of their time, but let’s not forget, we have nothing won yet," said Colm.
"This victory is the accumulation of years of hard work by many people and we will certainly savour the moment. We have three weeks to prepare for the final.
"When you consider we were in a relegation final last year and won that, it’s hard to believe here we are today in the county final. We have a fantastic bunch of very committed hurlers with a never-say-die attitude, and they deserve this victory for the effort they have put in all year".
There were times in the game when it looked as if neither side wanted to win it. Both were guilty of some appalling shooting, with Ballymartle the worst offenders, hitting 13 wides, seven of them on the trot in the second-half, while the ’Town hit one less.
Twice the sides were level, but with Cronin playing out of his skin, Bishopstown, with the strong wind to their backs, could only manage a three-point half time lead — 0-9 to 0-6 — and it didn’t look sufficient.
Ballymartle wasted little time in cutting the deficit with a brace of points by Brian Corry, but they proceeded to hit a litany of wides, which were to cost them dearly.
However, the game turned on two shrewd ’Town substitutions with a quarter of an hour to go. They introduced the towering figure of Denis Crowley to full-forward and Robert Honohan to corner-forward and these moves had the desired effect.
Using his height and physique to great effect, Crowley won possession in the air from Cronin’s long delivery, bore down on the Ballymartle goal before parting inside to the unmarked Honohan who first timed the sliotar to the net.
Cronin tacked on a point and with a six-point lead and 10 minutes remaining, the winning post beckoned. However, Ballymartle weren’t quite ready to throw in the towel and, as time ticked away, they had the deficit down to a goal with points by Darren McCarthy and Barry Dwyer.
It was all hands to the pump as the Riverstick side attacked in waves but Lester and Jones defied the best they had to offer before, in a breakaway attack, Bishopstown won a penalty for a foul on Denis Crowley.
With the game in injury-time Pa Cronin could afford the luxury of taking his point, which left four between the teams, and the final whistle sparked off marvellous scenes of jubilation by the ’Town players and supporters.
Scorers for Bishopstown: P. Cronin 0-11 (0-5 frees, 0-2 65s); P. Honohan 1-0; B. Murray, K. O’Halloran (free) 0-1 each.
Ballymartle scorers: B. Dwyer (0-2 frees) 0-4; B. Corry 0-3; J. Dwyer, R. Dwyer, K. Fitzpatrick, S. O’Mahony, D. McCarthy 0-1 each.
BISHOPSTOWN: K. O’Halloran; D. Lester, S. O’Neill, C. O’Driscoll; M. O’Driscoll, I. Jones, R. Ryan; B. Murray, K. O’Driscoll; R. Conway, P. Cronin, T. Murray; J. Murphy, M. Power, G. McGlacken.
Subs: P. Honohan for J, Murphy (40); D. Crowley for McGlacken (40); D. Hickey for K. O’Driscoll (50).
BALLYMARTLE: Declan McCarthy; Declan Dwyer, M. Tobin, D. Coleman; J. Kelly, P. Dwyer, S. Corry; Dan Dwyer, S. O’Mahony; B. Dwyer, B. Corry, J. Dwyer; K. Fitzpatrick, R. Dwyer, Darren McCarthy.
Subs: D. Edmonds for D. Dwyer (40); R. Cahalane for B. Corry (60).
Referee:, D. Kirwan (Éire Óg).