St. Flannan’s were worthy winners of this Dr Harty Cup quarter-final in Charleville yesterday and had too much fire-power for a Colman’s side that was too reliant on inspirational team captain Michael Spillane for scores.
But, a nine-point win? Flattering, because this was an outstanding contest, a hugely entertaining game of hurling, with old-school referee Fergal Horgan (Tipperary) allowing two well-matched sides to really tear into each other. It finished in a mass brawl, which was a pity, because otherwise this was a sporting contest of high quality.
With just five minutes remaining, hot favourites St. Flannan’s were leading by a mere two points (2-12 to 2-10) and it was anyone’s game. Colman’s were still contesting strongly, still fighting and there was nothing to suggest the large crowd were in for anything but a nail-biting finish. Two goals and a point in those final minutes, however, all for Flannan’s, saw the Clare college pull clear, but it put a very false gloss on proceedings. The two goals were of the soft variety, the first especially, a long delivery by the impressive Conor O’Gorman from the left wing that deceived the Colman’s keeper, while the point came from way downtown, a boomer by the giant Peter Duggan from wide right, well inside his own half.
Flannan’s got off to the proverbial flyer. In the round-robin series their attack had been prolific, had averaged 4-18 per game, and here they were 0-4 to 0-0 ahead after just five minutes. They increased that lead to six by the end of the first quarter, 1-5 to 0-2, their goal a well-struck shot across the Colman’s keeper by corner-forward Jack Browne. The Flannan’s defence too was superb in this period, but with four of the Clare minor team that reached last year’s All-Ireland final in their ranks (Seadna Morey, Stephen Halloran, Enda Boyce and panellist Noel Purcell), little surprise there.
Finally, however, St. Colman’s worked themselves into the game. Their defence got to grips with that high-powered attack, the half-back trio of Pa Roche, Darragh O’Carroll and Bryan Carroll doing particularly well, while skilful midfielder Nathan Byrne also stepped up, and by half-time they had reduced the deficit to 0-2 points, 1-6 to 1-4, Michael Spillane with the goal after good work by Kieran Morrison.
Within minutes of the resumption Spillane was in again, his second goal, this time Michael Pyne and Hogan (again with the scoring pass) involved, and when Bryan Carroll then powered forward for a fine Colman’s point, the gauntlet was really thrown down to Flannan’s. How well they responded though; points from Conor O’Gorman (2) and outstanding midfielder Tony Kelly saw them quickly retake the lead and when corner-forward Shane O’Donnell robbed a defender for a fine individual goal in the 47th minute, it put them 2-10 to 2-7 clear and seemingly in the driving-seat.
Back came Colman’s, however, three fine strikes by Michael Spillane, younger brother Colm was also showing up well on the 40, putting the game back in the melting-pot with just those five minutes to play. Sadly for the Cork college, however, O’Gorman’s long-range fluke and O’Donnell’s opportunist second major ended matters.
Scorers for St. Flannan’s: S O’Donnell 2-1, C O’Gorman 1-4, P Duggan 0-4 (0-1 free), J Browne 1-0, T Kelly 0-3 (0-1 free), M O’Leary 0-1.
Scorers for St. Colman’s: M Spillane 2-7 (0-2 frees, 0-3 65’s), K Morrisson, C Spillane, B Carroll, 0-1 each.
ST. FLANNAN’S: E Enright; C O’Loughlin, N Purcell, S Morey; E Boyce, S O’Halloran (c), G O’Connell; T Kelly, J Colleran; C Doohan, M O’Leary, C O’Gorman; J Browne, P Duggan, S O’Donnell.
Sub: A O’Neill for Doohan (55).
ST. COLMAN’S: D O’Callaghan; W Walsh, C O’Leary, C Barry; P Roche, D O’Carroll, B Carroll; E Maye, N Byrne; M Pyne, C Spillane, K Morrisson; M Spillane (c), G Hogan, J Mannix.
Subs: D Mangan for Hogan (48), K O’Neill for Maybe (56), M Wade for Pyne (58).
Referee: F Horan (Tipperary).