This Premier IHC semi-final might not have been an epic, but it was played with real parish rivalry and intensity, with nothing between the sides to the final whistle until Sean Lordan’s terrific late point gave Courceys some ease with an insurance point.
Even then, Courceys lived on their nerves, trying to protect the worst lead in hurling, as never-say-die Kilbrittain went in search of a match-winning goal. And it so nearly materialised. First Alan Hayes shot agonisingly wide and, at the death, Ross Cashman’s late long free was cleared away with Jamie Wall unable to make use of the clearance.
But it was a victory Courceys deserved for, with a bit more control and accuracy in the opening half, they might have been well clear and certainly coach John Meyler won’t be pleased with what he saw in the first 30 minutes.
The opening 10 minutes were terrific, scores coming in quick bursts, with the excellent Cashman giving Kilbrittain an early lead. But they were soon hit by a rapid scoring burst from Courceys — Killian Moloney, David Hayes and Daire Lordan firing over excellent points. And it would have been even better had the two Lordans — Cian and Daire — not missed gilt edged chances.
Courceys looked to be shaping up well, Vincent Hurley superbly marshalling his defence. But, in the space of three minutes, we had three more quick-fire points, this time for Kilbrittain, as Darren Hickey and the superb Maurice Sexton twice found the target to put them ahead again, 0-5 to 0-4, after a lively opening quarter.
With Daire Lordan and Seamus Hayes menacing up front Courceys were always threatening, but some sloppy shooting kept a more clinical Kilbrittain side in command on the scoreboard as points from Sexton and Alan Hayes pushed them two clear after 20 minutes. But the sides could not be separated at half time, level for the fifth time at 0-8 apiece after Daire Lordan’s 65 conversion.
In truth the third quarter was pedestrian, both sides scoring just two points apiece and few players shining. Daire Lordan started the second-half at full-forward but made little impression. Maurice Sexton was a tower of strength for Kilbrittain, ending up their top scorer as well as doing exemplary defensive work.
The Courcey points came via another Lordan free and Seamus Hayes, with Maurice and brother Owen Sexton replying for Kilbrittain before the latter was forced off injured.
At 0-10 apiece entering the final quarter and the rain now teeming down it was time to stand up and be counted. Kilbrittain had two opportunities to put some daylight between the sides but Sexton was wide with a free and Wall, now on the wing, didn’t fare any better a few minutes later.
Instead it was Courceys, far more experienced, who set their stall as first David Murphy set up Sean Lordan for a fine score and Niall Murphy followed with another. Kilbrittain, last year’s intermediate champions, had to gamble now and played their final throw of the dice, moving Cashman to midfield in a bid to save the game. He did convert a free and there was just a point in it until Sean Lordan sent over that peach of a point to make it two again in injury time.
But Courceys were lucky at the death and they knew it. Alan Hayes’ shot was only inches from winning it for Kilbrittain and when Cashman’s last-gasp free effort was blocked down, Courceys were on their way to a final date with either Youghal or Newcestown who replay their semi-final next weekend.
Scorers for Courcey Rovers: D Lordan 0-5 (4fs, 1 65), N Murphy 0-3, S Hayes, S Lordan 0-2 each, K Moloney, D Hayes 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilbrittain: M Sexton 0-5 (2fs), A Hayes 0-3, R, Cashman 0-2 (1f), D Hickey, O Sexton 0-1 each.
COURCEY ROVERS: S Nyhan; D Duggan, B Hayes, D Lordan; O Gateley, V Hurley, D Murphy; D Hayes, K Moloney; D Lordan, S Lordan, S Hayes; S Holland, N Murphy, C Lordan.
Subs: Gavin Moloney for Holland (38), G Minihane for C Lordan (50), Gary Moloney for Gateley (56), J Murphy for N Murphy (56).
KILBRITTAIN: R Hayes; Damien Desmond, J Murphy, C Hickey; P Ryan, R Cashman, V O’Brien; D Hickey, J Deasy; M Sexton, J Wall, T Harrington; A Hayes, O Sexton, David Desmond.
Subs: C Moloney for O Sexton (37), D Harrington for Damien Desmond (52).
Referee: D Kirwan (Éire Óg).