Lehane the hero as Midleton survive

THREE points in the second period of extra time by Conor Lehane gave Midleton a thrilling victory over neighbours Carrigtwohill in a gripping Evening Echo SHC relegation semi-final replay at Castlemartyr last night.

Two weeks ago at the same venue these teams served up an enthralling contest and with replays seldom living up to expectations the packed venue were not expecting a repeat.

However they got it and a bit more as these great East Cork rivals served up another classic encounter which, on the run of play, neither of them deserved to lose.

The Cork senior hurling championship, better known as the Little All-Ireland, has slipped alarmingly in recent years, but both Midleton and Carrigtwohill deserve every credit for restoring some pride to the competition. The real pity is of course that it took a relegation clash between neighbouring clubs to do it.

Midleton just about deserved their victory. Their hurling was that bit crisper and more skilful, but Carrig will point to the loss of the outstanding Niall McCarthy and Noel Furlong for most of the 20 minutes extra time with shoulder injuries, as the reason they failed. Prior to their departure both had been magnificent for their team.

Given the strength of the wind Midleton who played with the advantage in the opening half, needed a sizeable half-time lead if they were to persevere.

With so much at stake and given the intense rivalry which exists between the clubs, both sets of players threw into the fray with abandon.

The exchanges were extremely keen but fair with nothing to separate them in the opening 20 minutes during which they were level twice before Midleton finished strongly to go in at the break reasonably happy leading 0-11 to 0-5.

Seconds into the second half Carrig threw down the gauntlet to their opponents when Sean O’Farrell took a pass from Shane Healy before finding the Midleton net, and the former Cork senior was back for another goal when he got a touch to Niall McCarthy’s massive free from inside his own half which tied the game for the third time.

The tension both on and off the field was massive particularly after McCarthy gave Carrig the lead with a point and when Brian Lordan landed a beauty to put them two clear, Midleton were facing a final relegation game against Castlelyons to keep their senior status for another season.

However in a breakaway attack Conor Lehane broke clear for a goal and Carrig were forced to live on their nerves until Robert White pointed to tie the game for the fourth time and force 20 minutes extra time.

There was no let up in the intensity of the exchanges epitomised by a crushing tackle on Niall McCarthy which forced him off with a shoulder injury and at the end of the first period Conor Lehane’s point had Midleton in front by the minimum, 1-16 to 2-12.

The loss of centre back Noel Furlong also to a shoulder injury in the second period weakened the Carrig defence considerably and Conor Lehane took full advantage to land two points and while Carrig threw everything at Midleton in the closing minutes, the Magpies defence in which 37-year-old Peter Smith was majestic, held firm for a thrilling victory.

Carrigtwohill will now meet Castlelyons in the final relegation game next Wednesday night in Ballynoe to keep their senior status, but they are likely to be without McCarthy and Furlong which is going to make that task all the harder.

Scorers for Midleton: C. Lehane 1-5 (0-3 frees); M. O’Connell 0-6 (0-4 frees); L. O’Farrell 0-3; D. Ryan, J. Keane 0-2 each; W. O’Brien, S. O’Farrell 0-1 each.

Carrigtwohill: Sean O’Farrell 2-0; N. McCarthy (0-4 frees, 0-1 65), R. White (0-3 frees, 0-1 65) 0-5 each; S. Dineen, T. Hogan, B. Lordan, J. Barrett 0-1 each.

MIDLETON: B. Behan; A. Cahill, A. Kearney, P. Smith; S. O’Farrell, A. Ryan, J. Nagle; W., O’Brien, M. O’Connell; J. Keane, A. Cotter, C. Lehane; L. O’Farrell, D. Ryan, P. Haughney.

Subs: M. Downey for Haughney (40); E. Walsh for A. Cotter (45); S. Hennessy for D., Ryan (58); E. Ferriter for O’Brien (62); D. Ryan for O’Connell (65).

CARRIGTWOHILL: W. McCarthy; P. O’Sullivan, JP O’Riordan, S. Flannery; L. O’Sullivan, N. Furlong, S. Forbes; J, Barrett, K. McCarthy; S. Dineen, N. McCarthy, R. White; B. Lordan, S. O’Farrell, T. Hogan.

Subs: S. Healy for K. McCarthy (half time); P. Furlong for N. McCarthy (62); D. Hogan for N. Furlong (65); N. McCarthy for D. Hogan (66).

Referee:J. Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).

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