If the barometer of an inter-county footballer would be a stranger’s ability to walk into a match and pick him out from the pack, then Cork’s Donncha O’Connor passed the quality test with flying colours last night as he guided Duhallow into a Cork SFC semi-final meeting with O’Donovan Rossa next Saturday.
Here’s the rub though. Should Douglas have sacrificed centre-back Eoin Cadogan’s game in order to shut down his inter-county colleague? Duhallow played O’Connor at wing-forward, while Douglas wanted their star turn more central at No 6. Understandable. But by the time Douglas decided to make the switch onto the Cork All Star, O’Connor had claimed an eight-point haul — half of them from play — and piloted the only divisional side left in the championship through this quarter-final replay in Mallow.
Deserving winners? Probably, if only because they played more error-free football than the club side, which goes against the conventional wisdom. At different stages, Douglas had a three-point lead, but poor distribution — from keeper Brian O’Boyle out — kept giving Duhallow a route back into the game.
In Alan Cadogan, the younger brother of Eoin, Douglas had a genuine scoring threat in the first period. His sharpness was exemplified by his quick reactions to a 10th-minute flick-on to grab the game’s only goal.
It put Douglas in front, 1-1 to 0-2, for the first time, and though Barry Fitzgerald and a raking free from Mark Harrington kept them in front, Donncha O’Connor kept Duhallow in touch with some beautifully struck long-range points.
At the half Douglas led 1-5 to 0-5, a late Mulrooney point giving them impetus heading for the dressing room. Evidently, they left it there, because within four minutes of the restart, Duhallow were level at 1-5 to 0-8.
As Douglas’ attack grew more frenetic and less penetrative, Alan Cadogan was drafted out to the half-forward line. His appetite for graft teed up Shame McCarthy for a point, and when Mark Harrington struck two points within a minute to edge Douglas 1-8 to 0-10 ahead after 44 minutes, it was a quarter-final waiting to be shaped.
Ultimately, Duhallow showed the greater poise and intelligence, despite being reduced to 14 men when Eoghan O’Connor received a second yellow card with seven minutes left.
His colleagues hardly skipped a beat. Aidan Walsh was now roaming between midfield and wing-forward, and cleared a path for wing-back Jerry Healy to equalise.
With four minutes remaining Douglas defender — and captain — Cillian Hogan, fouled needlessly, and though Donncha O’Connor was off cue, Cork hurler Lorcan McLoughlin mopped up the loose ball to edge the division ahead.
Niall Fleming made it a two-point game making Finbarr Desmond’s late free meaningless.
Scorers for Duhallow: D O’Connor 0-8 (4fs), J Healy, A Walsh, N Fleming, T Collins, L McLoughlin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Douglas: M Harrington 0-4 (3fs), A Cadogan 1-1, B Fitzgerald 0-2, O Mulrooney, F Desmond (1f) 0-1 each.
DUHALLOW: K Murphy (Boherbue); J McLoughlin (Kanturk), P Gayer (Castlemagner), K Buckley (Knocknagree); J Healy (Ballydesmond), E O’Connor (Kanturk), S Murphy (Ballydesmond); B O’Callaghan (do), A Walsh, capt (Kanturk); D O’Connor (Balydesmond), D Gayer (castlemagner), T Collins (Dromtarrife); M Dilworth (Knocknagree), J Cott (Castlemagner), N Fleming (Ballydesmond).
Subs: AJ O’Connor (Kiskeam) for Buckley (45); L McLoughlin for Holland (48); N O’Sullivan (Dromtarrife) for Collins (56).
DOUGLAS: B O’Boyle; J Collins, C Hogan, R Keating; E Cotter, E Cadogan, J Lane; O Mulrooney, C Dineen; J Davis, M Harrington, T Sheehan; B Fitzgerald, S McCarthy, A Cadogan.
Subs: F Desmond for McCarthy (54).
Referee: J Bermingham (Bride Rovers).