Midleton bridge 22-year gap

MIDLETON captured their first Cork U21AHC title since 1989 at Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday evening, and while they made very hard work of it, they were deserving champions.

Despite coming up against a Duhallow side laced with experience, they showed tremendous character to carve out a six-point margin. With chances going amiss at both ends, a late goal from substitute Ian Kennefick sealed the deal.

“It is all about character,” said Mickey O’Connell, member of the Midleton backroom team.

“These lads are a fantastic bunch and I am delighted for them ultimately, and it is great for the club. 22 years we have waited. It is a great stepping stone. There are no guarantees. But Sars kicked on after winning a minor and U21 and I hope we can we can drive it on at senior level too.

“The Carrig [lost to Carrigtwohill in senior championship] game really hurt. You have to go to the well sometimes and you are going to have bad patches but it is time to put that ghost to bed. We were worried at half-time. We should have been six or eight points up. That is no disrespect to Duhallow. I think a lot of it was down to nervousness and rushing. There were times when there was no one around us but we just seemed to take the wrong option.”

While Midleton were the better team, their 12 first-half wides (14 overall) could have been detrimental. It was a night when little went right for them up front but great credit to their perseverance. Paul Haughney was their standout player at left corner forward hitting five points but the work rate of the lower numbers was immense.

Goalkeeper Tommy Wallis made a stunning save from Aidan Walsh near the end when it was a three-point game and there was another huge sigh of relief when Michael Vaughan’s rasping shot flew across the goal. With both defences holding out strongly, Killian Burke, Patrick O’Mahony, Padraig O’Shea and skipper James Nagle were watertight for Midleton.

It was a poor night for hurling. Duhallow had Aidan Walsh back in their side. But, it was Midleton who got the ball rolling with Haughney hitting three outstanding points while Duhallow had to wait until the 13th minute for Walsh to open their account.

Midleton continued to press on but it was worrying times as their wide tally accrued — Conor Lehane, in particular, was not having much luck. Duhallow trimmed the gap to a point and were very fortunate to go in at the break trailing by a mere two points, 0-6 to 0-4. As the rain came down and conditions deteriorated, the game was up for grabs.

However, the east Cork siderestarted brightly with Lehane more prominent at full-forward. Now it was Duhallow’s turn to be off target and eventually through free-taker Eamonn Brosnan they came within a point. It was nervy times as Paudie O’Keeffe landed a pair of excellent frees for Midleton to move them 0-11 to 0-8 in front with five minutes to go.

Duhallow pressed hard but to no avail.

Wallis denied Walsh in what was a major turning point. Vaughan also saw his shot tail wide. The next move saw the sliotar worked down field and Kennefick’s flick to the net ensures there is plenty of hope for the future down Midleton way.

Scorers for Midleton: I Kennefick 1-0, P Haughney 0-5 (1f), P O’Keeffe 0-3 (2fs), C Lehane 0-2 each, S Moore 0-1.

Scorers for Duhallow: E Brosnan 0-3 (2fs), A Walsh 0-2 (1 sl), B Sheehy, M Vaughan, L Daly 0-1 each.

MIDLETON: T Wallis; L Coughlan, P O’Mahony, K Burke; P O’Shea, J Nagle (capt), F O’Mahony; S O’Farrell, P O’Keeffe; C Walsh, S Moore, C Lehane; P White, L O’Farrell, P Haughney.

Subs: I Kennefick for P White (39).

DUHALLOW: D Kearney (Kanturk); S Hehir (Tullylease), B Withers (Banteer), K Tarrant (Banteer), M Ellis (Millstreet), W Egan (Kilbrin) (Capt), M O’Riordan (Kilbrin); P Egan (Kilbrin), B Sheehy (Tullylease); K SHeahan (Kilbrin), M Vaughan (Millstreet), A Walsh (Kanturk); E Brosnan (Meelin), L Daly (Kilbrin), A O’Flynn (Freemount).

Subs: B O’Sullivan (Meelin) for S Hehir (36), T O’Reilly (Kilbrin) for L Daly (42), E Sheahan (Kilbrin) for K Sheahan (45).

Referee: D Copps (Ballyhea).

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