In a marvellous contest, the McRory Cup champions seemed set for a comfortable victory when they led 1-9 to 1-5 at the three-quarter stage. But then the Munster champions put in a storming finish that just fell short.
Abbey CBS mentor, Jody Gormley, was very relieved to hear the final whistle. “It was a very tight game at the finish. They caused an awful lot of trouble, particularly in the opening quarter during which we struggled to get out of our own half let alone win any possession. We re-arranged our team a bit and the switch of midfielder Kevin McKiernan to full back tightened that area up.
“We got a grip around midfield, and eventually began to play a bit.
“This is a very good Abbey team and we hit a purple patch in the third quarter which was probably when we won the game. Earlier, there were occasions when we took the wrong option looking for goals when points were there for the taking, but these lads are only learning about the game and this victory will bring them on a lot. We are in our first final of the Hogan Cup, but St Pat’s (Navan) will be firm favourites. They have a tremendous record in finals.”
Macroom couldn’t have asked for a better start. They stormed into a 1-2 to 0-1 lead after seven minutes through a great goal by David Gould and, but for a magnificent save by Abbey ‘keeper Cathal Murdock from Donal O’Sullivan in the third minute, the lead would have been greater.
The Newry school settled well after that early barrage of Macroom scores, and, with Kevin Dyas and Richard Gilmore giving them a grip at midfield, they were level after 20 minutes with a succession of superbly executed points. It took a splendid save by Macroom netminder Stephen Casey to deny Sean Murdock a goal.
After retiring level at 0-6 to 1-3, the Abbey resumed the second half in brilliant style and rifled over three points in as many minutes, with centre forward Cathal Magee, who won a minor All-Ireland medal with Down last year, leading by example.
Playing the possession game to perfection, the Abbey came forward in waves and the pressure eventually told when Cathal Magee finished a great move to the net which put his side 1-9 to 1-4 ahead.
Macroom, however, refused to capitulate and in a breakaway attack Donal O’Sullivan landed a point to stop the rot. It sparked off a tremendous recovery by the mid-Cork side, with four points in a row, three by the impressive Sean Kelly and, with two minutes remaining, the deficit was down to the minimum.
Unfortunately the Munster champions had nothing left in the tank and Niall Devlin’s point from a late ‘45 gave his side a victory they just about deserved.
Disappointed Macroom mentor Noel Dunne said: “We got the perfect start but lost our shape a bit, recovered and were going very strongly towards the end but we gave ourselves to much to do.
“It was has been a great season for the team and the school and as principal I’m extremely proud of each and every player who played with great honesty and integrity. I couldn’t ask any more of them.”
: Abbey: C. Magee 1-0; N. Devlin 0-3 (0-1 45); R. Cunningham (frees), R. Gilmore, K. Dyas 0-2 each; C. McGovern 0-1. Macroom: D. Gould 1-1 (0-1 free); S. Kelly 0-4; D. O’Sullivan 0-3 (0-1 free)
: C. Murdock; M. Digney, C. Murney, R. Grant; D. Rowland, K. McKernan, C. Coffey; K. Dyas, R. Gilmore; G. McGarvey, C. Magee, D. Clarke; N. Devlin, S. Murdock, C. McGovern.
: R. Cunningham for McGarvey; R. Gillen for McGovern; R. Digney for Murney.
: S. Casey; JJ Murphy, P. Lynch, J. Corkery; R. Buckley, F. Cotter, I. Casey; J. Ambrose, S. Kelly; J. Ryan, P. Lynch, P. Healy; D. O’Sullivan, D. Gould, M. McDonagh.
: J. McCarthy for Murphy; C. Dunne for McDonagh.
: M. Deegan (Laois).