They crawled when they should have cantered over the line in a game they held the upper-hand for long stages. Leading by four points at the threequarter stage, 1-5 to 0-4, there was very little to suggest the East Cork side would reverse that deficit; the conditions were difficult, the scoring was low and they had just kicked three bad wides in-a-row.
But an insignificant-looking dust up led to Skibbereen wing forward Eoin Hodnett getting a second yellow card and down to 14 men they lost their way for 10 minutes as Aghada staged a rousing comeback.
Central to that were the substitutions they made and between John Connolly, Josh O’Shea, and Conor O’Driscoll — who scarcely amassed 30 minutes on the field between them, totalled six points.
Indeed, following Hodnett’s sending off it was all Aghada as Connolly and O’Driscoll kicked four superb points in a blistering six minute spell between the 52nd and 58th minutes to trim the margin to just two points and the chances of an upset increasing by the minute.
But Skibbereen called in their trump card — former Cork senior Conor McCarthy — and he immediately exerted a calming influence and used possession wisely.
McCarthy wasn’t started as he carried a niggling quad injury and with 15 minutes to go it looked as if he’d be spared. But as the situation became grave he entered the fray – heavy bandaging on his right leg and he helped steer his side to safety.
Allied to that was a vital turnover by hard-working midfielder Pat Gilmore as well as the insurance point from 18-year-old Kevin Davis on 60 minutes.
Davis, in fact, was their best – and youngest, player on the night and the son of former Cork star Don, was arguably the difference between the teams.
But his goal on 11 minutes when he latched on to a long delivery and stabbed home from close range was a score that Aghada shouldn’t have conceded and never really recovered from.
However, they can have few complaints. Though the East Cork side started well, their shooting let them down badly and four times in the opening 10 minutes they shot wide from scoring positions – Cork senior Pearse O’Neill guilty of the worst of these when he was clean through on goal and just the keeper to beat.
Skibbereen were wasteful too and Sean Carmody should have goaled just prior to that but he hesitated and his fisted effort trickled harmlessly wide.
But they were the better team and Hodnett ensured they had a two point lead at the break when he nailed a free on the stroke of half-time.
They pushed that margin out to five by the 42nd minute when first corner-back Daniel Hazel lofted over a mighty score before Eoin Hodnett and Davis kicked two more points from play. They could have been out of sight too had Thomas Hegarty goaled on 45 minutes when Davis released only for Andrew O’Donoghue to thwart him with a fine save.
But then Hodnett was given his marching orders and with Aghada landing two points in quick succession, the sniff of a shock wafted around. That was given further credence when O’Driscoll walloped over a beauty from a tight angle to make it 1-7 to 0-8 with two minutes left but that was as good as it got for them.
Scorers for O’Donovan Rossa: K Davis 1-3, C Crowley, D Óg Hodnett, D Hazel, E Hodnett, S O’Brien (0-1) each.
Scorers for Aghada: J Connolly, C O’Driscoll (0-2) each, G Melvin (0-1f), C Fleming (0-1f), M Russell, J O’Shea (0-1) each.
O’DONOVAN ROSSA: R Price; D Hazel, A Tanner, E Nealon; G Minihane, P Nealon, P Crowley; P Gilmore, S Carmody; E Hodnett, D Óg Hodnett, T Hegarty; K Davis, S O’Brien, C Crowley.
Subs: F Crowley for P Nealon (46), C Keohane for T Hegarty (52), C McCarthy for G Minihane (57).
AGHADA: A O’Donoghue; B Hennessey, R Power, S Cashman; T O’Neill, K O’Connor, S Wall; JP O’Connor, B Flaherty; M Russell, G Melvin, E Healy; P O’Neill, C Fleming, T O’Keeffe.
Subs: J O’Shea for E Healy, E Savage for G Melvin (both 36), B Crowley for B Flaherty (45), J Connolly for M Russell (50), C O’Driscoll for C Fleming (53).
Referee: Pat O’Leary (Kilmurry).