Equally, what a cruel way to drop down. Drama aplenty in this relegation play-off at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday as Bride Rovers and Cloyne battled to a standstill for the right to play in the SHC.
After trailing for most of this compelling decider, Cloyne upped the ante late on and, when James Nyhan set up substitute Colm O’Sullivan for a 57th minute goal to lead for only the second time, the red and black flags were flying high.
And it got even better when Eoin O’Sullivan, who had a super game, added a fine point in the 60th minute. All over. But in one final injury-time assault, Bride were awarded a 21m free well left of the Cloyne goal. For dissent, referee Colm Lyons moved it in front of the goal and although Rovers goalkeeper Denis Fitzgerald’s strike was saved, the ball found its way to David Burke who drilled it low past a plethora of defenders for a goal that caused joy and heartache in equal measure.
On the puck-out, the full-time whistle blew Cloyne’ chances away, a sad end for a club who probably played their best hurling of the year.
Bride Rovers selector Liam Barry could hardly hide his emotions describing it “an amazing victory and one very important for the club”.
“We are so relieved,” said Barry. “It would have been a disaster had we gone down because we have some fine young talent coming through. The tension was unbelievable. We really had to grind it out. I really thought it was gone but then David Burke’s goal, a Tipperary man, mind you.
“I really feel sorry for Cloyne, a great club, but we fought to the bitter end for this one and thank God we made it.”
There were heroes all over the park for Bride, none more so than Barry Johnson who was always in he thick of the action and scored 1-9. Corner-back Aidan Collin too played his part, saving what looked a certain goal chance from Conor Cusack in the 51st minute for a fruitless 65.
Bride were playing with the strong wind at their backs but Cloyne who nearly goaled in the first minute, Dillon Cahill’s strike whistling past the upright. But they did get one in the fourth minute when James Nyhan set up Conor Cusack for a beauty.
But Bride were right back in it in the 10th minute when Brian McCarthy brought down Sean Ryan and Johnson powered home the penalty to give his side a 1-4 to 1-2 lead.
Johnson was Bride’s main man in the second quarter with Brian Murphy and with Brendan Walsh feeding him, they led 1-7 to 1-5 at half-time.
Some fine hurling after the break, Cahill soon putting Cloyne level with two tasty frees. But they could never shake off a determined Rovers side and although Johnson’s accuracy from placed balls began to wane, they still led 1-11 to1-10 entering the final quarter. Paidí O’Sullivan had the pick of the points after a delightful dummy on Murphy.
The late drama culminated in Burke’s winner when all seemed lost. The curse of the two-point lead striking again.
Scorers for Bride Rovers: B Johnson 1-9 (5fs), D Burke 1-0, M Collins 0-2, R Murphy, J O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cloyne: D Cahill 0-6fs, C Cusack and Colm O’Sullivan 1-0 each, P O’Sullivan 0-3, J Nyhan (free), Domhnall O’Sullivan, E O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
BRIDE ROVERS: D Fitzgerald; S Kearney, B Walsh, A Collins; Barry Murphy, Brian Murphy, L Forde; M Kearney, B Johnson; M Collins, D Burke, P Murphy; J O’Driscoll, D Dooley, S Ryan.
Subs: J Pratt for M Kearney (42), J Mannix for O’Driscoll (49).
CLOYNE: A Walsh; B Fleming, D O’Sullivan, B McCarthy; Domhnall O’Sullivan, K Cronin, E O’Sullivan; J Nyhan, C Smith; D Cahill, P O’Sullivan, L Cahill; K Dennehy, C Cusack, M Walsh.
Subs: P O’Sullivan for McCarthy (ht), C O’Sullivan for Dennehy (42), J Cotter for Nyhan (60).
Referee: C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).