In an eagerly awaited local battle, Castlehaven’s powerful kick at the finish proved pivotal to this success, as they reeled off three points without reply in the closing moments. They managed to overcome a lethargic opening-half display to show marked improvements in their football after the break and qualify for a third quarter-final in four years.
“We’re absolutely delighted,” revealed Castlehaven manager James McCarthy.
“We didn’t play well as we were very nervous. But we came good in the last 20 minutes and we were defensively sound as well. We thought we were good coming into it but we were dead on our feet early on.”
The pairing of these local rivals in championship fare for the first time in 11 years meant this game carried a great weight of expectation. And on a fine, dry evening it managed to live up to that.
The game was settled on the basis that Castlehaven put scores on the board during their spells of dominance. O’Donovan Rossa were excellent during the first-half, sharper to breaks, quicker in their movement of the ball and looking hungry all over the pitch and were full value for their 0-7 to 0-4 lead at the break but there was an undeniable sense that they should have been further ahead.
By the 19th minute O’Donovan Rossa led 0-6 to 0-4 but only notched one more point, a beautiful kick by Donal Óg Hodnett, before the break. That was critical.
But the contest reinforced the belief there is huge optimism for O’Donovan Rossa’s future prospects. The products of their U21 county winning team are starting to shine at senior level. Hodnett may have been an ankle injury doubt before the game but the fine performance he gave at full-forward belied that fact.
Other youngsters like Daniel Hazel and Rob McCarthy also showed up well, while Paddy Nealon did a brilliant man-marking job on Mark Collins before limping off with an injury at the end of the first-half.
His absence damaged O’Donovan Rossa’s prospects yet they stayed in contention, largely due to an outstanding display by Conor McCarthy at midfield. He was the game’s dominant performer with his athleticism and ball-carrying abilities giving Castlehaven major problems in that sector.
However, the key score that ignited the ‘Haven comeback was a 38th minute goal by Bernie Collins.
Damien Cahalane pumped a long free forward and as the O’Donovan Rossa defence hesitated, Collins intervened to fist to the net. After coughing up three goal chances in the first-half, Castlehaven had atoned for it by raising the solitary green flag of the game.
The match remained tight after that goal but Castlehaven began to leave their mark on proceedings. David Limerick and Sean Dineen worked hard at the coal face while Mark Collins and Brian Hurley became more influential figures in attack.
The marksmanship of Donal Óg Hodnett from play and frees kept O’Donovan Rossa in touch while his older brother Eoin did brilliantly to swivel and pop over a 55th minute point that tied the game at 1-8 to 0-11.
However Castlehaven finished stronger. Hurley clipped over a classy left-footed point, substitute Roland Whelton swung over a good score before goalkeeper Paudie Hurley came upfield to drive over a stunning free from the right wing in injury-time. Their defence sustained a late barrage of pressure and a last eight meeting with St Finbarr’s, who defeated them at that stage two years ago, was assured.
“We got better as the game went on and our panel worked,” outlined McCarthy afterwards.
“I was delighted for David Limerick as well, back playing in his first game in 15 months. We’re where we want to be and hopefully that game will stand to us. We have the players I think to progress but we’ll have to play a lot better to move ahead.”
Scorers for Castlehaven: M Collins 0-4 (3fs), B Collins 1-0, P Hurley (2fs), B Hurley 0-2 each, S Dineen, S Cahalane, R Whelton 0-1 each.
Scorers for O’Donovan Rossa: D Óg Hodnett 0-4 (2fs), C McCarthy (2fs), E Hodnett 0-2 each, R McCarthy, R Long, C Crowley 0-1 each.
CASTLEHAVEN: P Hurley; J Davis, T O’Leary, L Collins; C Hayes, D Cahalane, M Cahalane; S Dineen, M Dineen; A Cahalane, M Collins, D Limerick; B Collins, S Cahalane, B Hurley.
Subs: D Burns for Davis (24), R Whelton for M Dineen (54).
O’DONOVAN ROSSA: R Price; D Hazel, A Tanner, K Cotter; S O’Brien, P Nealon, J O’Sullivan; C McCarthy, P Gilmore; C Crowley, R Long, E Hodnett; T Hegarty, D Óg Hodnett, R McCarthy.
Subs: G Minihane for Nealon (inj. 28), P Crowley for Gilmore (49), S Crowley Jnr for Hegarty (55), D O’Sullivan for E Hodnett (61).
Referee: James Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).