A key member of Gerald McCarthy’s Cork team during the players’ strike last year, the Rovers man hit 1-9 in a victory which sends Blarney into a relegation final with Blackrock.
The game carried a double reward for the winners – their senior status for 2011 and a place in round four of the championship – and as a result of the pressure the game failed to ignite for long spells.
Bride Rovers had the opening score after 50 seconds when Kieran Collins landed a point, but they were rocked half a minute later when John Hurley plucked Jack O’Regan’s delivery from the air before kicking home a Blarney goal.
The Rovers hurling was better but Blarney’s tenacity more than compensated. Two evenly matched sides were level five times before the Rathcormack side made their push for victory in the closing minutes.
Blarney will rue missing two second half penalties – one was blocked and they managed a point off the second – but there was a decided weakness in their attack where only the bustling Hurley troubled the Rovers’ defence.
After the early flurry of scores, 15 minutes elapsed before another arrived, a point by Mark Cremin. In that quarter, both teams were guilty of very poor shooting and they hit six wides each.
Blarney managed to keep their goal intact due to some tremendous defending by full back Darragh McSweeney and centre Joe Jordan, and they were full value for their 1-4 to 0-5 half time lead.
There was far more pep in the Rovers’ step on the change over and Johnson rattled over three points in a row. He had a penalty blocked but Sean Ryan pointed the rebound to put Rovers a point up at the end of the third quarter.
Blarney’s shortcomings in attack were obvious and only the accuracy of Cremin from frees, kept the Muskerry side in touch. Sheer persistence earned him a penalty in the 48th minute but his poorly struck effort was easily saved at the expense of a 65 which he pointed to tie the game for the third time.
As the tension began to mount, so too did the free counts – and both sides swapped points from placed balls to be level on two further occasions before Johnson landed his eighth point with six minutes remaining to give his side the lead they never subsequently lost.
Blarney threw everything at their opponents’ defence in search of that equalising point and it took some great defending by the Murphy brothers Barry and Brian, and Brendan Walsh to keep their line intact. As a result Blarney left gaps in their own defence and the pacy Rovers’ attackers exploited it to the full. Brian Murphy intercepted a Blarney move on his own half back line and in a superb passing movement upfield, Johnson was given the simplest of tasks of scoring his side’s second goal into an empty net just on the call of full time, to set up a fourth round tie against Carrigtwohill next Friday night in Ballynoe.
Scorers for Bride Rovers: J Johnson 1-9 (8f); K Collins, M Collins, S Boyce, J O’Driscoll, S Ryan 0-1 each.
Blarney: M Cremin 0-8 (6f, 1‘65); J Hurley 1-0; D Cronin 0-1.
BRIDE ROVERS: D Fitzgerald; S Kearney, B Walsh, T Moloney; Barry Murphy, Brian Murphy, A Collins; P Murphy, J Pratt; S Ryan, B Johnson, M Collins; S Boyce, K Collins, J O’Driscoll.
Subs: D Ryan for Boyce (25); M Kearney for Pratt (50); D Burke for O’Driscoll (55).
BLARNEY: T Hegarty; J Barrett, D McSweeney, P O’Leary; J Hughes, J Jordan, S Walsh; D Cronin, M McCarthy; J O’Regan, C O’Keeffe, M Cremin; B Hurley, J Hurley, C Murphy.
Subs: D Buckley for C Murphy (40); E O’Connor for C O’Keeffe (45).
Referee: G Harrington (Carrigaline).