THEY were not necessarily the decisive factors, but Cloyne’s ability to produce a goal in each half and Donal Óg Cusack’s dependability were critical to them qualifying for their third consecutive Cork senior hurling championship final.
The fact is if holders Newtownshandrum had been a little sharper in attack, the outcome of yesterday’s rescheduled semi-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh could have been different.
On balance, however, nobody could really question Cloyne’s right to play Erin’s Own next Sunday — in the first clash between two east Cork clubs since Dungourney won the last of three titles against Sarsfields in 1909.
Played in ideal conditions (after incessant rain forced the abandonment of their meeting the previous week), the best that could be said about the contest was that it was fiercely contested from start to finish.
Skill-wise, it wasn’t the best advertisement for the competition, but it did produce notable scores from Ben O’Connor and, among other praiseworthy performances on both sides, excellent goalkeeping from Cusack.
And, when the game was delicately balanced, two opportunist points from his brother Conor broke Newtown hearts and finished off their challenge.
Both teams found it hard to settle, evidenced by the fact they managed only two points each by the 13th minute and more especially they each accumulated five wides. Interestingly, having taken the lead for the third time through the first of six scores from Ben O’Connor in the 19th minute, Newtown were to fall behind three minutes later, after Philip Cahill goaled. That came after Cahill was put in possession by Diarmuid O’Sullivan and he put the ball in the net after ‘keeper Paul Morrissey stopped his first shot.
It was just the boost that Cloyne needed, because while their backs were starting to get on top, they weren’t having the best of luck with some scoring efforts. Pat Mulcahy was doing a lot of tidying up at centre back for Newtown and Alan T O’Brien was playing the best of his hurling at midfield, where Jerry O’Connor never settled. Still, Diarmuid O’Sullivan managed to win some ball and his brother Paudie was lively in the right corner.
At the other end, Newtown often struggled, despite the best efforts of Ben O’Connor, who showed his usual capacity to gain possession but was limited at stages by Liam O’Driscoll’s close marking. Apart from him, they were weak at half-forward and were making little headway in the front line. Centre-back Killian Cronin was beginning to emerge as a key figure in the Cloyne defence, helped at times by being unmarked when ball was struck aimlessly down the centre.
As this tight game developed, the value of Cahill’s goal became apparent, more so when Donal Óg Cusack stopped a good effort from James Bowles in the 28th minute. Cusack excelled with a double save in injury time. He denied Cathal Naughton and then Jerry O’Connor. At the break, it was 1-6 to 0-5 for Cloyne.
While Newtown were to enjoy the backing of a diagonal wind, there was no real change in the pattern of the game. However, the holders were encouraged by a great score from team captain Philip Noonan inside two minutes and another from Ryan Clifford, which cancelled out a Paudie O’Sullivan pointed free.
The outlook was brighter when Naughton put over a good score after receiving from Ben O’Connor, their main hope of salvaging the game.
John Paul King came into the game after moving to centre forward and he produced a marvellous point from near the right sideline. Improved play was rewarded with an equalising score in the 49th minute from a 70-yard free.
Newtown were in the process of gaining a grip, with Dermot Gleeson doing great work in the full-back line. But, it quickly turned back in Cloyne’s direction after Jerry O’Connor missed the chance of putting the holders back in front and Paudie O’Sullivan produced a 51st-minute goal, which came from an opening created by Cahill.
It was just what Cloyne needed, though Newtown’s spirit earned scores through King and Ben O’Connor.
And, just when it seemed the game might end in a draw, Cloyne gained a two-point lead when Conor Cusack finished an effort from Colm O’Sullivan. Cusack scored again after Ben O’Connor had put over his last point.
In injury time Donal Óg Cusack was again to the forefront, clearing his line and after O’Connor was wide from a ‘65, it was all over for the holders.
SCORERS — Cloyne: P. O’Sullivan 1-4 (0-3 frees); P. Cahill 1-1; D. O’Sullivan and C. Cusack 0-2 each.
Newtownshandrum: B. O’Connor 0-6 (0-3 frees, 0-1 sideline); J.P. King 0-2; Jerry O’Connor, John O’Connor, P. Noonan, R. Clifford and C. Naughton 0-1 each.
CLOYNE: D. Óg Cusack; E. O’Sullivan, D. Motherway, B. Fleming; L. O’Driscoll, K. Cronin, J. Nyhan; J. Cotter, Donal O’Sullivan; C. O’Sullivan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, M. Naughton; P. O’Sullivan, P. Cahill, C. Cusack. Subs: I. Quinlan for Naughton (53rd minute); V. Cusack for Cahill (56th).
NEWTOWNSHANDRUM: P. Morrissey; D. Gleeson, B. Mulcahy, J. O’Mahony; M. Farrell, P. Mulcahy, P. Noonan (capt.); A.T. O’Brien, Jerry O’Connor; J.P. King, John O’Connor, B. O’Connor; C. Naughton, J. Bowles, R. Clifford. Subs: D. Mulcahy for Clifford (49th minute); S. O’Riordan for John O’Connor (55th); M. Bowles for Naughton (57th); J. O’Mahony for O’Brien and J. Herlihy for Farrell (61st).
REFEREE: D. Kirwan.
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