For Cathal Casey, whose superb goal three minutes before half time was crucial, it was particularly pleasing as he missed out on the last victory at this level in 1994 through injury.
Courceys went into the game favourites following a number of impressive victories in earlier rounds. But, they failed to put away the many chances they created and paid the ultimate price.
There was little to choose between the sides in the early minutes. Both defences were rock solid and, as a consequence, neither side managed a score in the opening 10 minutes.
Liam Twomey finally broke the deadlock with a point soon after and it sparked off a great five minute spell for the Rovers. With Twomey doing well at midfield, they conjured up a smashing goal when Mick O’Donovan took off on a great run. He drew the defender to him before parting to the unmarked Seamus Hayes who gave St. Catherines ‘keeper Ian O’Connell no chance.
Courceys were clearly the better side at this juncture and Niall Murphy’s point from a 30 metre free stretched their lead to 1-2 to 0-0 after 13 minutes.
In trouble at midfield, the East Cork mentors moved to remedy the situation by switching Cathal Casey from wing forward with Shane Kearney going into the corner and both had the desired effect. Finally they got on the scoresheet after 14 minutes when Michael Hegarty had the first of his five points, from a free, before the real turning point of this keenly contested final came.
Put through by a long ball from Niall Murphy, his namesake John found himself one on one with the Catherines ‘keeper. A goal and Courceys would have been well on their way to victory, but Ian O’Connell made a superb save and from there on the Saints grew in confidence.
Casey was hugely influential at midfield, Denis Walsh began to win possession at full-forward, and significantly, Shane Kearney’s pace at corner-forward began to trouble the up to then solid Courceys defence and the scores finally began to flow for the East Cork side.
Hegarty pointed two frees in quick succession, Shane Kearney and Kieran Morrison chipped in with a point apiece and the sides were level for the first time after 25 minutes. Courceys were now struggling to contain the rampant Saints and when Casey first timed a great goal to give his side a 1-5 to 1-4 interval lead, Catherines were never headed again.
Niall Murphy tied the game for the second time three minutes into the second-half but it was only a temporary respite for his side as the Saints went on a scoring spree, scoring five points without reply.
In an effort to break Casey’s dominance at midfield, they moved John Murphy out, but the Saints clearly had the bit between their teeth and they held the Rovers forwards in a vice like grip.
Courceys’ short passing game could make no headway up front, and in a welter of excitement, Catherines, with Kieran Morrison, Richard O’Connell and Shane Kearney outstanding in attack, stretched their lead to 1-11 to 1-8 with a Morrison point in the 54th minute.
Surprisingly neither side managed another score but Courceys wasted a 20 metre free late in the game when Vincent Hurley failed to get any power behind the shot, and the teak tough Catherines defence held firm for their first victory in this grade for 10 years.
Scorers: St., Catherines: M. Hegarty 0-5 (frees); C. Casey 1-0; K. Morrison, R. O’Connell 0-2 each; S. Kearney, J. Sheehan 0-1 each.
Courcey Rovers: S. Hayes 1-1; N. Murphy (0-2 frees),. J. Murphy (0-2 frees) 0-3 each; L. Twomey 0-1.
ST. CATHERINES: I. O’Connell; A. Keane, M. Fitzgerald, A. Hogan; S. Fitzgerald, M. O’Keeffe, P. Cotter; S. KEarney, J. Sheehan; C. Casey, K. Morrison, P. O’Connell; R. O’Connell, D. Walsh, M. Hegarty. Subs. D. Farrell for Walsh; P. O’Neill for Casey; B. Hogan for Hegarty.
COURCEY ROVERS: A. Hegarty; B. Hayes, B. Downing, D. murphy; V. Hurley, T. Lordan, B. Hayes; D. Hayes, L. Twomey; N. Murphy, S. Twomey, D. Twomey; M. O’Donovan, S. Hayes, J. Murphy. Subs. K. Moloney for L. Twomey; S. Hurley for D. Twomey.
Referee: D. Copps (Ballyhea).