Beaten in the 1990, ’97 and ’99 deciders, the Beara club also lost the first final after the grade was split in two and fell to Kinsale last year. When the 2012 campaign brought losses to Kanturk and Adrigole, dreams of atonement must have seemed fanciful.
A team meeting was the catalyst for the turnaround, and any doubts about the side’s character were dispelled yesterday. A point down at half-time, an Andrew O’Sullivan penalty helped them to push ahead, but Shane McCarthy’s 42nd-minute red card, when they led by 1-8 to 0-8, threatened to derail them.
When Daniel Goulding kicked two points before Kevin Hallissey levelled for Éire Óg, the momentum was firmly with the side from Ovens, but they could not forge ahead as Castletownbere defended stoutly.
After an Éire Óg attack broke down, full-back Donagh Wiseman initiated a superb break for Castletownbere and after he was fouled, Alan O’Regan put them ahead with a free before Andrew O’Sullivan and sub Ciarán Murphy restored the three-point advantage.
Though Aidan O’Connor and Hallissey responded for Éire Óg to cut the gap to a point, equalising chances were wasted and in injury-time the excellent Liam Hanley profited from Murphy’s good work to seal the win.
Hanley, as well as midfielders Andrew O’Sullivan and Dave Fenton as well as wing-back Trevor Collins, typified Castletownbere’s effort. After a poor start gave their opponents a three-point start, once the West Cork side got going they were well in the game and probably felt unlucky to be a point down, 0-7 to 0-6, at half-time.
Goulding, with seven of 13 points, carried the Éire Óg fight, a feat all the more admirable as he was starved of possession. Ciarán Sheehan battled well at midfield against Fenton and O’Sullivan, but his creativity in attack was missed.
After that excellent start, Éire Óg could not build on it though and a five-point blitz from Castletownbere — including two from Fenton — had them two clear before Goulding pulled one back.
Kevin Hallissey, played in by Sheehan, had a great chance to put them in front but was denied by a super James Power save and while Goulding slipped taking the resultant 45, it still carried to level.
When crowded out by the Éire Óg coverage, Castletownbere were finding it difficult to make inroads, with passes inside coming out quickly, though captain Alan O’Regan did touch over an Andrew O’Sullivan 45 to put them back in front.
Points from Alan O’Mahony and Goulding, sandwiching another Power save, from Dermot Herlihy, meant Éire Óg led at half-time, however With the wind to come, they were favourites.
O’Regan levelled early in the second half and then he was fouled in attempting reach a Fenton delivery in the large rectangle, with O’Sullivan giving Joe Kelleher no chance from the spot.
O’Sullivan added a 45 to open up a four-point lead, but the reduction to 14 men, coupled with Éire Óg’s resurgence, made for a dramatic closing quarter. In injury-time Hallissey also saw red for a second booking as Éire Óg chased the game. Seconds later Castletownbere were champions.
Scorers for Castletownbere: A O’Sullivan 1-2 (1-0pen, 1 45), A O’Regan 0-3 (1f), D Fenton 0-2, S O’Regan, D Murphy, J Walsh, C Murphy, L Hanley 0-1 each.
Scorers for Éire Óg: D Goulding 0-7 (3fs, 1 45), K Hallissey 0-2, A O’Mahony, C Sheehan, J Dineen, A O’Connor 0-1 each.
CASTLETOWNBERE: J Power; E Wiseman, L Harrington, D Wiseman; D Bán O’Sullivan, S McCarthy, T Collins; A O’Sullivan, D Fenton; L Hanley, S O’Regan, D Murphy; J Walsh, A O’Regan, G Healy.
Subs: C Murphy for Healy (44), S Bán O’Sullivan for S O’Regan (50), B O’Regan for Walsh, D Nolan for D Murphy (both 60).
ÉIRE ÓG: J Kelleher; R Dennehy, C O’Mahony, S McCarthy; M O’Shea, P McDonagh, É Lowney; L Murphy, C Sheehan; K Hallissey, P McDonagh, A O’Connor; D Goulding, D Herlihy, J Dineen.
Subs: D O’Connor for Lowney (ht), B Darcy O’Sullivan for Murphy (57).
Referee: K Murphy (Nemo Rangers).