Valley Rovers experiences in this grade is littered with tales of regret in recent years, including a galling reversal at the same stage at the same venue against Ballingeary two years ago. That game was filed under ‘one-that-got-away’ but on Saturday they displayed a level of assurance to seal the deal and get the result they wanted.
In the opening quarter, Valley Rovers popped over five points, quality scores like Fiachra Lynch’s lovely effort after Denis Collins’ perceptive pass and clever scores like Hugh O’Donovan’s quick free sideways that enabled Kevin Canty to knock one over.
The good news was not just confined to attack. Canty and Chris O’Donovan were gaining the upper hand around the middle, while the blade of the Ballydesmond attack was being blunted. Wing-back Ray O’Donovan was doing a terrific job on Donncha O’Connor while full-back David Lynch shored up well against Niall Fleming.
But before the break it all began to change. It was not a case of Valley Rovers shortcomings, more that Ballydesmond adjusted to the patterns of the match and began to impose themselves on the action. Their ball-playing had more sense and thought to it with centre-back Jerry Healy proficient in this regard and they manufactured three nice points for themselves. Denis Kelleher clipped over the first, Donncha O’Connor nailed a free and Bertie O’Callaghan punched a third. Hugh O’Donovan grabbed a late free for Valley Rovers but the margin of their 0-6 to 0-3 half-time lead was a source of concern.
In the second-half the rain had a detrimental effect, turning the action from prize-fight to dogfight around the middle. Hugh O’Donovan kept up his end of the bargain for Valley Rovers with two frees but Ballydesmond kept in touch through Kelleher and a Donncha O’Connor free.
As the game drifted into the final quarter, the Duhallow side were still in touch as they trailed 0-8 to 0-5. Fleming launched a fantastic point to reduce the gap to two and Bertie O’Callaghan was beginning to master the kickouts. Then in the 53rd minute Valley Rovers had a chance to kill matters when Eoin Manning was felled near goal but Hugh O’Donovan blazed the resultant penalty right and wide. Two minutes later Andy Moynihan trimmed the gap to a point with a free and the momentum was theirs.
But Valley Rovers displayed impeccable nerves in the closing exchanges. Fiachra Lynch struck a fabulous point in the 57th minute, accelerating into space and finishing with his left leg and then Eoin Manning tapped over the insurance score in injury-time to seal matters.
Ballydesmond’s woes were compounded after the final whistle when Denis Kelleher was shown a red card after an altercation with referee James Dorgan.
Scorers for Valley Rovers: H O’Donovan 0-5 (0-5f), F Lynch 0-2, E Collins, K Canty, E Manning 0-1 each.
Ballydesmond: D O’Connor (0-2f), D Kelleher 0-2 each, B O’Callaghan, N Fleming, A Moynihan (0-1f) 0-1 each.
VALLEY ROVERS: A Quirke; N O’Donovan, D Lynch, S Manning; R O’Donovan, T Burke, D Collins; C O’Donovan, K Canty; J Burke, J Hurley, E Manning; F Lynch, E Collins, H O’Donovan.
Subs: K White for H O’Donovan (56).
BALLYDESMOND: F O’Sullivan; T Howard, S Murphy, S Kelly; J Kelly, J Healy, D Kelly; B O’Callaghan, S Kelleher; DJ O’Connor, A Moynihan, D O’Connor; D Kelleher, N Fleming, P Breen.
Subs: LJ Murphy for Breen (42), W O’Connor for DJ O’Connor (50), S O’Sullivan for Moynihan (57).
Referee: J Dorgan (Nemo Rangers)