Valley Rovers make history with first victory in revamped Páirc Uí Chaoimh

Valley Rovers 1-21 Blarney 1-8

Cork panellist Chris O’Leary scored 12 points as Valley Rovers took victory tonight in the first game in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, writes Denis Hurley.

Having lost to Carrigaline in the first round, Valleys bounced back with a win over Inniscarra and are now in the quarter-finals. Selector Neil O’Sullivan was happy that his team had focused on the game and not the occasion.

“It’s good now to look back and have a souvenir,” he said, “but we were trying not to think too much about it, the venue was a side-show.

“We didn’t want any distractions, just to concentrate on Blarney and getting the result. Most of Innishannon was here tonight, it was fantastic.”

Back in 1976, the old stadium was opened with a double-header featuring Cork against Kerry and Kilkenny. That was preceded by an hour of Irish song, music and dance as well as a procession of past All-Ireland-winning Cork captains before a blessing of the stadium by the Catholic bishops of Cork, assisted by Dr Morris, the Archbishop of Cashel.

The blessing and the hurling match were televised live by RTÉ, but this preamble was altogether more low-key, if not unanticipated – with reports of heavy traffic from all approaches as early as 6pm.

Though there were some misgivings about the €10 entry fee and lack of concessions for OAPs or students, the near-unanimous reaction was of being impressed. Croke Park personnel were present too, scouting ahead of the weekend’s bigger games.

With so many neutrals in the attendance of 10, 749, it made for a strange atmosphere, but the participants had to divorce themselves from the occasion and deal with what was, at the bottom of it all, a knockout championship game.

Blarney were out first – vacating a dressing room fitted out by their coach James Hughes and entering a pitch designed and maintained by former player Stephen Forrest – but that was the only lead they were to take.

Chris O’Leary had the first point, striking from play inside 32 seconds – he was to have the first wide and first pointed free too – while Blarney’s Alan McEvoy had the Buzz Aldrin role of the second point.

With the wind behind them, Valleys moved into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead as they pressed Blarney well, but frees from Mark Cremin helped to reduce the arrears, 0-5 to 0-4, by the end of the first quarter.

Valleys eased clear from there, O’Leary, Jack Walsh and Eoin O’Reilly on target, and the advantage wouldn’t recede thereafter. In addition, Blarney goalkeeper Conor Murphy had to deny Kevin Canty a goal and would also keep out Walsh, while at the other end Cremin kicked an effort wide.

By half-time, it was 0-11 to 0-6 for the Innishannon side, with full-back Tomás O’Brien having done well to block a Stephen Lohan effort coming up to the break.

O’Leary and Walsh increased that in the second half’s nascent stages. Cremin did send a sideline over for Blarney but Walsh’s goal, a low finish from Gary Farrell’s handpass, ended the game as a contest on 42, making it 1-13 to 0-7.

Blarney relocated Mark Coleman from centre-back to midfield in the second half as they sought to reduce the arrears, but it was Rovers’, and O’Leary’s, night. He scored a super point from the left on the three-quarter mark and then landed two frees from behind his own 65m.

By that stage, many of the crowd had begun to filter out, happy with what they had sampled. They missed a late goal from Blarney sub David Cremen, but it is Valleys who march on to a quarter-final tie with Mallow.

Scorers for Valley Rovers: C O’Leary (0-12, 7 frees), J Walsh (1-3), J Cottrell (0-3), E O’Reilly (0-2), K Canty (0-1).

Scorers for Blarney: M Cremin (0-3, 2 frees, 1 sideline), D Cremen (1-0), M Coleman (0-2 frees), C Power, A McEvoy, S Mulcahy (0-1 each).

VALLEY ROVERS: W Burke; E Delaney, T O’Brien, J Lynch; D Lynch, N O’Donovan, W Hurley; C Butler, C Desmond; K Canty, G Farrell, C O’Leary; J Cottrell, J Walsh, E O’Reilly.

Subs: D Looney for Canty (21, injured), D Lordan for Cottrell (53), S O’Regan for Hurley (58).

BLARNEY: C Murphy; B Walsh, P O’Leary, D Walsh; C Power, M Coleman, J Jordan; C O’Mahony, K Costello; S Lohan, C Murphy A McEvoy; M Cremin, D Whyte, S Mulcahy.

Subs: P Philpott for Costello (26), R Murphy for White, D Cremen for Lohan (both 45), E Hyland for O’Mahony (48), P O’Connor for Power (54), S Crowley for Cremin (60, blood).

Referee: S Stokes (Tullylease).

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