CHARLEVILLE (Cork) 1-15 ORANMORE-MAREE (GALWAY) 2-18
No county has taken as much satisfaction from the All-Ireland club hurling scene as Galway.
Thirteen senior titles have been annexed — spread across seven clubs — in the last three decades but six previous intermediate finalists had all come up short before Oranmore-Maree went the extra mile against a Charleville side that finished with 13 players in Croke Park yesterday.
“It isn’t about being the first, it is about being the best,” said manager Gerry McInerney.
It didn’t look great for their chances of making it seventh time lucky for the county at the interval when they trailed by six on the back of a half in which they had been second-best time and again to an opponent that harried and harassed them over every blade of grass.
“We were a bit nervous at the start,” said McInerney. “It was unusual because we weren’t picking up our men. The quick puckouts were kind of killing us and they worked the ball up very fast. Niall (Burke) was keeping us in it in the forwards but we were all over the shop.
“We had a few hard calls against us too. Very hard done by in the first half. We regrouped then at half-time and there was a lot of energy in the room. We had to mark up, go man for man. There was a lot of energy coming back out. We hadn’t hurled.”
Oranmore-Maree knew they were being outfought. They knew they had to scrap harder to win the ruck balls around the middle and they knew they had to prevent Charleville, and Darragh Fitzgibbon especially, breaking forward at speed and inflicting damage.
Doing that was only the start. Burke would be the finisher.
The Galway star ended the day with 1-11 to his name, the scores coming from all manner of means. Five frees formed the backbone of his man-of-the-match contribution but he added a 65, a goal from a penalty, and three points from open play too.
Even enough through the first quarter, Charleville’s work-rate and the input of Fitzgibbon allowed them to make the deepest initial inroads on the field and on the scoreboard where the lead leaked out to seven points just before the half-time pause.
The Cork side’s harrying of Oranmore-Maree happened everywhere and anywhere, starting in the opposition back lines. And making the most of it all was Fitzgibbon who roved at will and claimed their first half-dozen scores and set up the next two.
Oranmore-Maree didn’t designate a specific marker to the 2018 All Star who drifted far and wide to find space and to take responsibility for dead balls. He could actually have done greater damage, missing two pots from play in the opening 30 that he would have expected to convert.
If the extent of his importance to his side was a tad worrying at that point then it was soon laid bare as unfounded. The first goal arrived on 28 minutes and Fitzgibbon spent the entire passage of play watching from afar alongside his shadow at that particular time Liam Keane.
What he witnessed was sublime with a cleverly constructed move ending with a low ball into full-forward Daniel O’Flynn who fed Andrew Cagney and the latter took his time to engineer enough space to find the net with a confident finish.
Conor Buckley and Kevin O’Connor tacked on a pair of points to extend the hurt before Andrew Burke replied with the last score of a half. Oranmore-Maree really found themselves on the restart, claiming six of the next eight points and profiting further from Jack Doyle’s decision to poke Sean Bannon in the ribs during a spot of handbags and the referee’s decision to reward that with a red card.
It happened when Charleville were already reeling and compounded 15 minutes later when Cathal Carroll walked to the line for the very same offence.
The Galway side never missed a beat through it all.
The deficit was reduced by a further four points between those two red cards and parity arrived on 57 minutes before Charleville full-back Jack Meade brought Sean McInerney down for a penalty that was dispatched to the net by, who else, but Burke.
Charleville weren’t done just yet.
Two points from Fitzgibbon dead balls brought them back to within the bare minimum and they could have retaken the lead with seconds of normal time to play when Darren Casey’s shot from a tight angle was deflected away by goalkeeper Rory McInerney.
It was as close as they would get. Sean McInerney’s injury-time goal and a pair of points from Burke followed at the far end to leave six between them at the end. Quite the turnaround.
Scorers for Charleville: D Fitzgibbon (0-10, 7 frees, 1 ‘65’); A Cagney (1-1); K O’Connor, J Doyle, D O’Flynn and C Buckley (all 0-1).
Scorers for Oranmore-Maree: N Burke (1-11, 6 frees, 1 ‘65’, 1-0 penalty); S McInerney (1-2); A Burke (0-2); G McInerney, P Keane and E Burke (all 0-1).
CHARLEVILLE: C Collins; D Butler, J Meade, F Cagney; A Dennehy, J Buckley, C Carroll; J O’Callaghan, K O’Connor; D Casey, D Fitzgibbon, J Doyle; C Buckley, D O’Flynn, A Cagney.
Subs: T Hawe for O’Connor (55).
ORANMORE-MAREE: R McInerney; S Bannon, S Geoghegan, A Bannon; M Hannify, G McInerney, L Keane; N Geoghegan, R Maher; M Quinn, A Burke, N Burke; R Malone, P Keane, S McInerney.
Subs: E Burke for Quinn (44); N Qualter for L Keane (50); S Dunne for N Geoghegan (58).
Referee: C Cunning (Antrim).