Aghada back in the hunt as Nicks fall short

A Trevor O’Keeffe goal 10 minutes into the second-half proved decisive in this entertaining third round Cork SFC clash at Cobh on Saturday night.

With so much at stake — a place in the fourth round for the winners and a place in a relegation final for the losers — both sides went at it from the throw in and the small crowd had plenty to be enthused by.

Four times the sides were level, matching each other point for point in the opening 20 minutes and it was obvious a goal was going to have a massive bearing on the outcome.

Aghada, without the influence of Pearse O’Neill, played with the strong wind in the opening half and needed a sizeable half time lead to have any chance of winning.

However, a teak tough Nicks defence, in which goalkeeper Liam O’Connor, full-back Donal Óg O’Donovan and wing back Dave Cunningham gave nothing away, made it very difficult for the Aghada attack.

At the other end the Aaron O’Brien troubled the Aghada defence with his jinking runs but there was little reward against an excellent defence in which Billy Hennessy, Kieran O’Connor and Ronan Power excelled.

As the half wore on the East Cork side began to exert enormous pressure on the Nicks defence, principally due to the dominance of wing back Tom O’Neill and midfielder Brendan O’Flaherty, and with Shane Wall powering forward from corner back at every opportunity, they kicked three points in-a-row to open up an 0-7 to 0-4 lead after 25 minutes.

Indeed the margin would have been greater but, following a great run from defence by Wall, Nicks keeper O’Connor denied the impressive Cian Fleming a certain goal with a wonder save and Aghada’s half-time lead of three points didn’t look to be enough.

Nicks upped the ante on the resumption but faulty finishing cost them and they had to wait until the 35th minute for their next point, their first for 15 minutes.

Following that came the game’s only goal when John Paul O’Connor set Cian Fleming up for the initial chance. His effort was superbly blocked by O’Connor but the rebound fell to Trevor O’Keeffe who finished it to the net for a six-point lead.

Aghada were never going to be caught from that position and while Nicks threw everything at them, the loss of Dean Brosnan for a second yellow card offence, made their task next to impossible.

All credit to Nicks, they managed to cut the deficit to a goal as the game went into injury time. Four minutes were added but a resolute Aghada defence held firm to gain a place in round four against O’Donovan Rossa. The city side now meet the losers of Ilen Rovers/Na Piarsaigh in the relegation final to keep their senior status.

Scorers for Aghada: C. Fleming 0-5 (0-3 frees); T. O’Keeffe 1-1; G. Melvin (free), R. Power, M. Russell, K. O’Connor, E. Higgins 0-1 each.

Scorers for St. Nicks: B. O’Donovan (frees), A. O’Brien (0-3 frees, 0-1 45) 0-4 each; D. Goggin 0-2; D. Brosnan 0-1.

AGHADA: A. O’Donoghue; S. Cashman, B. Hennessy, S. Wall; K. O’Connor, R. Power, T. O’Neill; B. O’Flaherty, E. Healy; G. Melvin, M. Russell, JP O’Connor; T. O’Keeffe, T. Wall, C. Fleming.

Subs: E. Savage for O’Flaherty (40); E. Higgins for Melvin (42); B. Wall for Cashman (55).

ST. NICHOLAS: L. O’Connor; C. Spain, D. Óg O’Donovan, G. Moylan; S. Kennefick, T. Spain, D. Cunningham; David Brosnan, G. Callanan; Dean Brosnan, D. Busteed, P. O’Brien; B. O’Donovan, R. Brosnan, A. O’Brien.

Subs: D. Goggin for Moylan (15); C. Owens for Busteed (40).

Referee: M Collins (Clonakilty).

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