Since beating Glen Rovers at senior level just under two years ago, the East Cork side suffered seven consecutive championship defeats. Another one would have eliminated them from the championship, but instead they ended the run to set up a local derby with Youghal and condemn Carrigaline to a relegation decider with Ballincollig.
When a 2-10 to 1-5 half-time lead turned into a 3-13 to 1-6 advantage just short of the three-quarter mark, the outcome looked decided. Inspired by the dead-ball skills of Robert O’Shea, however, Carrigaline came back and an O’Shea penalty in the final minute cut the deficit to just three points. A free from Diarmuid O’Sullivan settled Cloyne, though, and afterwards manager Diarmuid Falvey was delighted to be able to relax and look ahead.
“The first thing is that it’s a huge relief,” he said.
“We have a habit of going quite well and then having a small bit of a blip towards the end, but tonight we were on the right side of it.”
Falvey accepted the winless run meant more pressure the longer it went on.
“You’d like to say that it hadn’t,” he said, “but it must do.
“We have really good players, maybe some of them coming towards the end of their time, but they’ve played in three county senior finals and even an intermediate one a way back, and it must be a terrible thing to feel that your powers are slipping.
“Sometimes fellas almost want it too much and it becomes too much of a thing mentally. I have no evidence of that but there must have been pressure on and I’m absolutely so proud of them.”
Cloyne scored nine goals when the sides met in the league back in May, and while they didn’t get near that tally here, they possessed enough of a threat in front of goal, with Diarmuid O’Sullivan an effective battering-ram at full-forward.
The Carrigaline defence found the former Cork star hard to deal with, but their task was made difficult by the fact that he was not the only focal point. Dillon Cahill was also lively, and it was he who got the first goal in the sixth minute, receiving a near return pass from Paul O’Sullivan to finish well after he cantered through.
That put Cloyne 1-3 to 1-1 in front, O’Shea having netted a 20m free to briefly give Carrig the lead. By the 18th minute, the lead had stretched to 2-7 to 1-1, Diarmuid O’Sullivan adding a blast of points to a kicked goal after he won the ball well, and Cahill also contributed with a fine score after being picked out by goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack.
Carrigaline had dropped O’Shea deep but Cloyne were also operating a two-man full-forward line and though O’Shea and Kevin Kavanagh bumped up the Carrig tally with scores before half-time, they were up against it with an eight-point interval deficit.
The opening stages of the second half looked to have put any hopes of a comeback to bed. With Killian Cronin and Eoin O’Sullivan central in defence for Cloyne, Carrig struggled to make inroads and at the other end Luke Cahill added another goal while Diarmuid O’Sullivan continued to fire the points.
Their opponents never threw in the towel, O’Shea’s frees keeping them in it, a 50th-minute goal bringing them to within seven points, and then he converted the penalty when Niall Coakley was fouled to leave just three between the teams. The ball was worked into Cloyne territory as they searched for an equalising goal, but a free out resulted and Diarmuid O’Sullivan had the final say.
Scorers for Cloyne: Diarmuid O’Sullivan 1-9 (5 frees, two 65s), D Cahill 1-2, L Cahill 1-0, B Fleming, E O’Sullivan, A Walsh, Domhnall O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carrigaline: R O’Shea 3-5 (2-3 frees, 1-0 penalty, one 65), N Coakley, R Keohane 0-2 each, K Kavanagh, P Ronayne 0-1 each.
CLOYNE: D Óg Cusack; B Fleming, K Cronin, J Sherlock; B McCarthy, E O’Sullivan, J Nyhan; A Walsh, S Smith; P O’Sullivan, Domhnall O’Sullivan, D Cahill; L Cahill, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, C Cusack.
Subs: K Dennehy for C Cusack (52), S Beausang for Nyhan (54), C Mullins for L Cahill (58), D Dineen for Sherlock (59).
CARRIGALINE: B O’Driscoll; K O’Connell, A Noonan, C Barry; C Hurley, J Moran, P Ronayne; M O’Sullivan, K Kavanagh; N Coakley, R Keohane, C McSweeney; K McIntyre, P Mullane, R O’Shea.
Subs: N Murphy for Mullane (16), S Griffin for McIntyre (39), S Conlon for Griffin (48, injured).
Referee: D Copps (Ballyhea).