It was a result that didn’t look likely at half time when they could only manage a two-point lead after playing with the aid of the strong wind, but they put in a tremendous second-half display to see off the challenge of the East Cork side who have now fallen two grades in as many years.
Mallow had many heroes in this victory. Corner back Gerry Hayes, centre back Denis Hayes, centre forward Pa Dineen and Cian O’Riordan made major contributions.
Between them O’Riordan and Dineen accounted for all but two of Mallow’s scores with the former grabbing the game’s only goal after 45 minutes.
With so much at stake, the game suffered as a consequence. Play was scrappy throughout and with both defences on top, scores were scarce.
Two evenly-matched sides were level five times before O’Riordan struck for the all-important goal which put his side five points clear and Mallow were never going to be caught.
Catherine’s won the toss, elected to play into the strong wind in the opening half and surprisingly made the better start. With Shane Fitzgerald a dominant full back and his outfield colleagues chasing every ball as if their very lives depended on it, they hit the front with a Shane Kearney point in the fifth minute.
Mallow, with the wind to their backs needed a sizeable half-time lead if they were to have any chance of keeping their status while the tenacious Saints, who had gone into the match having lost their last seven championship games, – four from last year when they were relegated from senior – weren’t going to go down on this occasion without a fight.
With Shane Kearney posing endless problems for the Mallow defence and Cal Aherne and Liam Cotter giving them a grip on midfield, the East Cork side were full bale for their 0-3 to 0-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Mallow found it very difficult to judge the wind and wasted several scoring chances. They hit nine wides in that opening half and were very dependent on Pa Dineen for scores. He showed excellent accuracy from frees and kept his side in touch for most of the opening moiety before the North Cork side finished the half strongly with two excellent points which were to prove crucial.
Catherine’s introduced Michael Hegarty for the second half and he levelled the game for the fifth time with two points from frees and it was still anyone’s game at the end of the third quarter as Mallow held a slender one point lead, 0-8 to 0-7.
With Denis Hayes magnificent at centre back, Mallow began to exert enormous pressure on the Catherine’s defence and it eventually paid off when Pa Dineen set up Cian O’Riordan for the all important goal.
Still Catherine’s hung tough through the excellent free-taking of Michael Hegarty and only O’Riordan’s goal separated the sides with five minutes remaining before the same player tacked on a point for the North Cork side to ensure they stay in the grade for at least another year.
Mallow will now turn their attention to football and look to save their senior status in the coming weeks, as they face a relegation battle against Ballincollig.
Scorers for Mallow: C O’Riordan 1-3; P Dineen 0-5 (0-4 frees); M Linehan, J Hayes 0-1 each.
St Catherine’s: M Hegarty 0-5 (0-4 frees, 0-1 65); S Cotter 0-2 (0-1 free); Shane Kearney, C Aherne (free) 0-1 each.
MALLOW: D McInerney; C Leahy, B Lane, G Hayes; F O’Neill, D Hayes, D Kerrisk; K O’Sullivan, J Hayes; M Linehan, P Dineen, M Maher; C O’Riordan, O O’Connell, K Sheehan.
Subs: F McCormack for O’Connell (half time); A Quill for Sheehan (45).
ST CATHERINE’S: E Aherne; A Hogan, S Fitzgerald, E Kenneally; M O’Keeffe, P Cotter, D O’Farrell; C Aherne, L O’Connor; S Cotter, J Sheehan, B Mulcahy; Seamus Kearney, Shane Kearney, S O’Brien.
Subs: P O’Connell for Seamus Kearney (half time); M Hegarty for Cotter (40); R Clancy for O’Brien (45); M., Dineen for J Sheehan (55).
Referee: P Downey (Inniscarra).