Three times in the past four campaigns the club has claimed the Cork Premier MHC crown and on Saturday, the U21 title was won for the first time since 1983 — the fifth time they’ve won it.
While the final scoreline indicates dominance, especially as Duhallow’s second goal came deep into injury time, five minutes into the second-half things were not so clear-cut. Having led 1-7 to 1-3 up at half-time, the city side saw their lead evaporate as Duhallow sub Shane Crowley got two points, with top scorer Kieran Sheahan and the unrelated Eoin Sheahan, another sub, all scoring.
But, by the time they scored again, a point from Mark Healy in the 49th minute, the game was gone from them as Blackrock reignited and just kept going, Eoin O’Mara’s goal and some excellent points from Shane O’Keeffe pushing them 2-13 to 1-7 clear.
“We let them back in at the start of the second-half,” reflected Blackrock selector Alan Browne. “Kevin O’Keeffe got a free then which hit the post and went over and we were lucky that it did as it gave us a bit of momentum again. It was vital not to let them get in front, and then once the lads got in front again they never stopped.”
Even when Healy’s point stemmed the flow of scores, Blackrock responded emphatically as Mark Ryan won a delivery from midfield by Eoin O’Farrell and finished to the net for his second goal to open up an 11-point lead which would not be reeled in.
Rather than relying on any one player, Blackrock were able to call on key performers at different stages. In the first-half, Kevin O’Keeffe contributed solidly on the scoreboard, but Blackrock were suffering from an overall shooting affliction, registering 10 wides before half-time.
That they led was largely down to Ryan’s first goal in the 19th minute. That made it 1-3 to 0-2 and three further points had them in a strong position, good saves from Duhallow goalkeeper Darragh Kearney keeping his side in it. When Duhallow were awarded a 20m free, though, Kieran Sheahan drilled it home, and he followed with a pointed free, giving them hope before the break.
The relocation of full-forward Michael Vaughan to midfield, where the O’Farrell brothers, David and Eoin, were processing a lot of ball, helped Duhallow still more. But then Shane O’Keeffe and Ryan clicked for Blackrock and they pulled clear again.
While Ryan was sent off with six minutes left following an altercation with full-back TJ Brosnan, who was booked, Blackrock had somebody else to shine, as teenage sub Callum Crowe got on the scoresheet, grabbing 1-3 in his brief cameo. Kieran Sheahan did have the last score, another goaled 20m free, but it was Blackrock’s night.
“We’ve had a great year with the underage, the U16 and the minors and to win the U21 after such a long period is fabulous,” Browne said. “You can see what it means to the players and to the Blackrock people who came to watch, the team spirit is excellent and hopefully this will be the future of Blackrock hurling.”
Scorers for Blackrock: M Ryan 2-0, C Crowe 1-3, K O’Keeffe (0-3f), S O’Keeffe 0-4 each, E O’Mara 1-1, A Murphy, D O’Farrell, E O’Farrell, D Cremin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Duhallow: K Sheahan 2-4 (2-2f), S Crowley 0-2, L O’Neill, D Sheahan, M Healy, E Sheahan 0-1 each.
BLACKROCK: P Delaney; S Murphy, A Hayes, R Laide; E Cantwell, A Murphy, C Cormack; E O’Farrell, D O’Farrell; S O’Keeffe, R Dineen, E O’Mara; D Cremin, M Ryan, K O’Keeffe.
Subs: P Deasy for Dineen (37), C Crowe for Cremin (44), D Stokes for S Murphy (46, injured), M Ahern for Cremin, E Smith for K O’Keeffe (both 59).
DUHALLOW: D Kearney (Kanturk); S Walsh (Kanturk), TJ Brosnan (Meelin), K Tarrant (Banteer); L O’Neill (Kanturk), B O’Sullivan (Meelin), D Sheahan (Kilbrin); P Egan (Kilbrin), D McAuliffe (Banteer); M Healy (Kanturk), K Sheahan (Kilbrin), T O’Reilly (Kilbrin); A O’Flynn (Freemount), M Vaughan (Millstreet), S O’Reilly (Kilbrin).
Subs: I Walsh (Kanturk) for O’Flynn, S Crowley (Kilbrin) for McAuliffe (both 25), E Sheahan (Kilbrin) for S O’Reilly (half-time), D Hannon (Newmarket) for T O’Reily (43), C Noonan (Lismire) for S Walsh (50).
Referee: G O’Connell (Lisgoold).