The Rathcormac club have transformed a season that was in danger of slipping towards relegation a couple weeks back to emerge at the Cork SHC quarter-final stage for the sixth successive campaign.
It’s been a stunning turnaround considering they have only claimed two league victories from 12 games this year and suffered early championship defeats to Na Piarsaigh and Erin’s Own. In their third round tie with Bishopstown their prospects appeared grim as they trailed by four points with seven minutes remaining. But they recovered brilliantly to draw that game, won the replay and on Saturday, a 2-3 return from sharpshooter Daniel Dooley underpinned their success against Blackrock as they recovered from a five-point deficit in the first-half.
“It was looking very bleak through the league and after the first two championship games against Erin’s Own and Na Piarsaigh,” admitted manager Pat Barry afterwards.
“But what we do best is grind out results and that’s what we did again. I know we don’t have the 15 best out-and-out hurlers in the county but we compensate by working as hard as we can.”
Defeat was a sickening experience for a Blackrock team who had enjoyed such a sparkling opening round victory over Douglas. In the first half they replicated that standard of hurling and were full value for the 0-8 to 0-3 advantage they enjoyed in the 24th minute. Kevin O’Keeffe, Richard Dineen and Gary Norberg grabbed some beautiful points in that time frame.
However, they were rocked by the concession of goals either side of the interval to Dooley and could not forge ahead in a hectic finale. There is an argument that Blackrock were undermined by the fixture scheduling as they endured a seven-week hiatus from competitive action. In contrast this was Bride Rovers’ fifth championship game and their extra match sharpness told.
“I do feel sorry for Blackrock because of the structure,” reflected Barry. “We were coming in with a couple of games under our belts and that stood to us.”
Bride Rovers also benefited from a refusal to buckle under pressure. During the first-half their form was indifferent and they also saw a 26th minute penalty by Barry Johnson smartly saved by Alan Long. However Dooley finished tidily to raise a green flag three minutes later and a good point by David Burke saw them only 0-8 to 1-4 adrift at the break.
Dooley’s strike was a pivotal moment, as was his fierce whip to the net immediately after the break when a long ball by Michael Collins fell kindly to him. Dooley’s predatory instincts were excellent all night, while Johnson’s free taking was typically precise, and the half-forward duo of Collins and Burke also made a valuable impact.
At the back Bride Rovers tightened up significantly after having shipped eight points in the first 24 minutes of the game. They were undone in the 36th minute when Colin O’Leary batted home a goal after an exquisite crossfield ball by Brian O’Keeffe. But Blackrock only struck two points from play in the last 36 minutes of action and that was a testament to the defending of Brian and Barry Murphy, and Brendan Walsh.
The battling qualities exhibited by Chris Murphy, Wayne Sherlock, Richard Dineen and David Cashman ensured Blackrock remained very much in the hunt. Indeed the match was tied at 2-8 to 1-11 with ten minutes left. But it was Bride Rovers who outscored their opponents by 0-3 to 0-1 in the closing stages and goalkeeper Denis Fitzgerald’s brave late block to deny Cashman helped ensure they will face Erin’s Own or Cork IT in the last eight.
Scorers for Bride Rovers: D Dooley 2-3, B Johnson 0-3 (2fs, 1 65), M Collins, D Burke 0-2 each, S Ryan 0-1.
Scorers for Blackrock: D Cashman 0-5 (3fs, 1 65), C O’Leary 1-1, K O’Keeffe 0-2, G Norberg, R Dineen, E O’Farrell, B O’Keeffe 0-1 each.
BRIDE ROVERS: D Fitzgerald; A Collins, B Walsh, S Kearney; Brian Murphy, Barry Murphy, L Forde; J Pratt, B Johnson; M Collins, D Burke, P Murphy; C O’Keeffe, S Ryan, D Dooley.
Subs: M Kearney for Pratt (24), J Mannix for Burke (40), K Collins for O’Keeffe (59).
BLACKROCK: A Long; W Sherlock, F Ryan, C Murphy; B Ahern, K Murphy, G Norberg; R Dineen, G Howard; E O’Farrell, D O’Shea, C O’Leary; B O’Keeffe, D Cashman, K O’Keeffe.
Subs: S O’Keeffe for Howard, J Fitzgerald for O’Shea (both 53), D Gosnell for O’Farrell (58).
Referee: K Healy (Ballymartle).