By Therese O’Callaghan
Cloughduv must have suffered more years of heartbreak than any another team, yet they kept coming back.
Cork JAHC final defeats in 2009, 2010 and 2015 were bitter pills to swallow before they earned their just reward in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday. But it was not before a stern examination from first-time finalists Russell Rovers, that they were finally able to celebrate a first success in this grade since 1970.
There was massive celebrations as they get ready for intermediate hurling in 2019. It has been a long road travelled for the mid Cork champions, and while this decider went all the way to the wire, they got there on merit.
Goals have been a significant statistic for this side – three alone registered in each of their last three games – and they would prove crucial again. With their defence on top, restricting Russell Rovers dangermen Brian ‘Bud’ Hartnett and Josh Beausang to just one point from play, goals ultimately were the difference.
The first goal came seconds in from Joe Ryan after collecting a pass from Brian Ahern. The second on 27 minutes, set up by Brian Verling, was finished by Andrew Cronin. This left them four points clear at the change of ends. They did have a shaky patch in between when they conceded seven points. But it was just a blip as they pushed on again, determined to get the better of Russell Rovers.
Clougduv switched Patrick Buckley and Eoghan Clifford to mark Hartnett and Beausang respectively. A quickfire start from Ryan had them up and running, and when Verling rifled over his first free (0-10 overall) they were 1-1 to 0-1 ahead. But, with the wides accumulating, it was the Frank Flannery coached Russell Rovers that took over. They started to drill over points from various angles. Seven unanswered — with five different scorers on the sheet – some excellent efforts from play from Daniel Moynihan (2), Hartnett, Luke Duggan Murray and Kevin Moynihan. Crucially, the Muskerry titleholders would regroup before half-time, going on to outscore Russell Rovers 1-6 to 0-1.
That was a game-defining period, especially as their shooting had left them down and going without any score for 20 minutes could have been costly. Instead, they went in at half-time leading by four points.
It was Cronin’s goal from close range that edged them back into the lead. There were also three great conversions from Verling from the dead ball in stoppage time to leave them 2-7 to 0-9 ahead at the break.
Beausang put it up to Cloughduv with the opening point of the second half. Scores were scarce, nonetheless, Cloughduv managed to keep their opponents at arm’s length with a brace from Verling. The deficit hovering between four and five points.
Cloughduv's newest resident!!! pic.twitter.com/BEdvLyI2U7— Cloughduv Hurling (@CloughduvHurlin) October 27, 2018
With a quarter of an hour remaining, the score was 2-10 to 0-12. However, Russell Rovers, playing deep, found it hard to make headway against the Cloughduv back line, in particular the space afforded to the unmarked Ger Ahern.
They did bring it back to three points through Fintan Murray but Cloughduv held their nerve, nailing important Brian Ahern and Verling scores.
The Imokilly men required a goal at this late stage if they were to save the day. They tried a few times but terrific defending meant it was Cloughduv’s hour to savour.
Scorers for Cloughduv:
B Verling (0-10, 0-7 f, 0-1 65), J Ryan and A Cronin (1-0), B Ahern and J Moynihan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Russell Rovers:
J Beausang (0-7f), L Duggan Murray and D Moynihan (0-2 each), F Murray, B Hartnett and K Moynihan (0-1 each).
J Buckley; P Buckley, E Clifford, A Twomey; G Ahern, D O’Leary, B Ahern, M Verling (Capt), A Murphy; M Walsh, A Cronin, D Corkery; B Verling, J Ryan, J Moynihan.
K Barry Murphy for D Corkery (45), D Sullivan for A Cronin (46), S Curzon for J Moynihan (59), L Long for D O’Leary (63).
I Smiddy; E O’Sullivan, C Ruddy, K O’Brien; J P Ivers, J Kennifick, P Lane; K Walsh, L Duggan Murray; E McGrath, J McGrath, D Moynihan (Capt); K Moynihan, B Hartnett, J Beausang.
D O’Brien for K O’Brien (half-time), F Murray for J McGrath (half-time), B Whelehan for E McGrath (38).
Ian McCarthy (Bandon).