There weren’t too many in Cloyne clapping Paudie O’Sullivan on the back for his equalising point at the end of Imokilly’s county semi-final, writes Eoghan Cormican.
That game against Sars was played on Sunday, October 8, with the replay, should the two sides finish level, earmarked for the following weekend. That seemed unlikely, though, given Imokilly’s quarter-final had required a second day out. They’d surely never be involved in successive stalemates.
It was as the clock entered the red at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the scoreboard showing them deadlocked when O’Sullivan began to get tetchy. His stag was organised for the following weekend and he didn’t fancy telling some two dozen lads that their weekend up in Galway was postponed.
During a break in play, he turned to Sars defender William Kearney and muttered, somewhat prophetically as it transpired, ‘I betcha this will go to a replay and that’ll be my stag done next weekend’.
Kearney wasn’t listening. There was a county final berth at stake. Idle chat about his opposite number’s stag didn’t interest him.
The next score came from the stick of Aaron Myers. Sars in front by 2-20 to 1-22. John Cronin teed up Seamus Harnedy for the leveler on 63 minutes. Up steps Daniel Kearney, Sars back in front. The winner, surely. Imokilly goalkeeper Declan Dalton quickly put the sliotar back in play, possession worked to O’Sullivan on the South Stand side.
“There was only something like six or seven seconds left, it felt like things were after freezing a small bit for me,” recalls the 28-year old.
The difficult angle was no issue, O’Sullivan steering the sliotar between the posts at the City End. Replay booked, stag postponed.
“I’m lucky it went over the bar. If it hadn’t, I might have been done for some sort of match-fixing,” he quips.
“As soon as it had gone over, the reality set in. I wasn’t the most popular man going into Cloyne that Sunday night with all the lads who had days booked off. They were saying, ‘it wasn’t an easy shot, why didn’t you put it wide, you’d have got away with it’.”
And what did the best man, Anthony Quinlan, make of it? It was he, after all, who benefited least from O’Sullivan’s match-saving heroics.
“He is a hurling man, he understands. He knows the story with me and hurling. He’s putting up with it since we’re six years old.
“My father would probably have never spoken to me again had I gone on a weekend’s drinking and not turned up for a county semi-final. Anthony made a few calls and it was all sorted. It has been refixed for the first weekend of November. Barring a trilogy of replays with Blackrock, we should get away with it.”
The big day is in early December and so these are busy times for Imokilly’s inside forward.
“They are a distraction from each other and so you can’t get bogged down in either. You can go home and keep herself happy on the wedding side of things, you can slip away out the door for a couple of evenings too for training. We’re nearly there now (with the wedding) so hopefully, it will run off without a hitch.”
The youngest son of Munster Council chairman, Jerry, Paudie is the sole member of the Imokilly team to have played in a county senior hurling final. He’s been involved in three, in fact. He was just 15 when lining out at corner-forward for Cloyne in the 2004 decider against Na Piarsaigh.
Two years later, the then 17-year old was Cloyne’s top-scorer with 1-8 as they came up short to Erin’s Own. “Playing in a county final at 15 was crazy when you look back on it. That’s what happened in small towns back then.
We’d a population of only a few hundred people. If you’re good enough, you were old enough. Some of the lads I got to play with, the likes of Phil Cahill, they made it easier for me. I always considered them bodyguards, not team-mates.
“There is nothing like your club, but this is a senior county final and I might never get a chance to get back here. There are 30 lads in the dressing-room and we are all in the same boat. We’re determined to make the most of this opportunity. It might never come around again.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.