Castlehaven’s Brian Hurley produced a Broadway performance under lights on Saturday at Páirc Uí Rinn, and yet instead of celebrating that, the instinctive reaction of many was: could Carbery Rangers have done more to shut down the Haven’s talisman?
They certainly could — by dropping a covering defender in front of the lethal full-forward, for starters — but all bar the Rosscarbery contingent in a Cork SFC semi-final crowd of 3,561 were glad they didn’t. Hurley was well bottled up in the quarter-final drawn game by St Finbarr’s’ Michael Shields, but he ran amok against his West Cork rivals as Castlehaven eased into Sunday’s football decider against Duhallow.
It was less Hurley’s total of 1-6 and more the execution of some of his scores that enlivened the after-match chatter around the old Flower Lodge.
Only two of his scores were from frees, and the second of those was a guided missile from the right-hand sideline. Fittingly, he also put his name to the score that shaped this semi-final, a 22nd-minute goal that said everything about his power and pace and a lot too about Rosscarbery’s questionable defending on the night.
One long delivery took out the entire Carbery Rangers full-back line as Hurley shook the net. It put five points between the sides (2-2 to 0-3), a gap that would not close thereafter.
Coming less than 10 minutes after Seanie Cahalane had scrambled Haven’s opening goal, it put a dead hand on the prospect of a juicy derby. There were 10 bookings but it never got close enough to get niggly.
Rangers began with purpose and intent. Last season’s 13-point shellacking at the same stage hurt, but their belief drained as Castlehaven pieced together a 2-5 to 0-6 half-time advantage.
Kevin MacMahon accounted for half of Rangers’ first-half tally, each executed superbly. After his third point in the 26th minute, he helped engineer a clear sight of goal for his former inter-county colleague John Hayes, but the latter struck the butt of an upright. The ensuing free felt a meagre consolation.
The opening salvos of the second-half were an apt synopsis of the evening. Rangers took tenancy in the Haven half for over three minutes without laying a glove on their opponents. Haven broke away and found Brian Hurley in a faraway corner from which he managed to excavate an inspirational point. When Mark Collins — starting in midfield — caressed over another point, and Hurley added to the highlights reel, it was 2-8 to 0-6. They could have turned out the lights.
It wasn’t even that Carbery Rangers foundered at this stage — to their credit, they kept plugging away with John Hayes an able and available target man, and Haulie O’Sullivan toiling away around midfield. Sporadically, they threatened to pick Castlehaven’s lock, with John Hayes the architect. Twice in a minute, Castlehaven keeper Paudie Hurley effected good stops from Declan and Seamus Hayes; had either found the net, Rangers may have found that extra gear.
Even then, however, it’s a stretch to suggest they would have made Castlehaven sweat. It’s superfluous to say James McCarthy’s men were resolute — what Haven side isn’t? This victory confirmed another Munster Club SFC campaign (as they’re meeting a divisional side in the Cork final) but they dearly want a fourth Cork title, and a first in nine years, after last year’s disappointment at the hands of UCC.
“That is what we’re born for in Castlehaven, going to county finals,” their coach, James McCarthy, once said, but no-one togs out to be in the parade. In the absence of the suspended Sean Dineen, they got a lot more around midfield from Dermot Hurley this time, and Roland Whelton provides a diligent outlet on the wing for them, but will they require a greater spread of scorers for the final? Stephen Hurley was carried off with a worrying injury that will keep the medical team working around the clock this week. His namesake Brian was outstanding, but his 1-6 tells another tale — apart from Seanie Cahalane’s goal, their only other scorer on the night was Mark Collins.
Something for Duhallow coach, Ned English, an able dealer, to be working on?
Scorers for Castlehaven: B. Hurley (1-6, two frees); M. Collins (0-3, two frees); S. Cahalane (1-0).
Scorers for Carbery Rangers: J. Hayes (0-5, four frees); K. MacMahon (0-3), M Mennis (0-1).
CASTLEHAVEN: P. Hurley; D. Limrick, L. Collins, T. O’Leary; M. Cahalane, D. Cahalane, C. Hayes; M. Collins, D. Hurley; R. Whelton, S. Hurley, A. Calahane; S. Cahalane, B. Hurley, D. Burns.
Subs: S. Nolan for S. Cahalane (38); S. Hurley for M. Cahalane (48); S. Collins for Hayes (60+2)
CARBERY RANGERS: M. Moloney; M. Kelly, S. Hayes, M. Mennis; S. Murray, J. O’Rourke, T. O’Rourke; M O’Sullivan, J. Fitzpatrick; S. O’Neill, J. Hayes, K. MacMahon; D. Hayes, B. Shanahan, S. Hayes.
Subs: G. O’Brien for Mennis (half-time); M. O’Donovan for T. O’Rourke (42); J. Murphy for O’Neill (45); J. McCarthy for Murray (57).
Referee: K Murphy (Nemo Rangers).