A goal from John Halbert — who works abroad and who only returned home for the game on Saturday morning — was key in giving them a 1-9 to 0-7 half-time lead, with Shane O’Regan also on form from frees.
When an O’Regan point just after half-time was followed by a kicked Eoin Barry goal to put them 2-10 to 0-7 in front, the Hill were not going to be denied.
Manager Pat Heffernan admitted: “Turning with a five-point lead was huge. It was a great battling effort and it was always going to be difficult for Mallow to come back. It was a very strong wind. We lost the toss, but our intention was to play against it. John Halbert was excellent, to fly back this morning just showed his commitment. The club jersey means so much to him.”
While it was the Sarsfields jersey on the backs of Halbert and his team-mates due to a colour clash, there could be no denying the Hill commitment, especially without the services of the injured Paudie Cahill and Mossie Barry.
Halbert led the line as a roving full-forward while Barry’s link-up play was top-class and Jason Foley worked very hard at centre-forward, typifying the effort which saw the Mallow backs put under pressure.
O’Regan’s free-taking was allied to a brilliant midfield partnership with dual Cork minor Kevin O’Neill. Though Mallow opened the scoring through Fergal McCormack, it was the only time they led. The game was tied at 0-4 each when Halbert struck for his goal, reacting well when O’Regan’s ball broke inside, and then Barry profited from good work by Foley to make it a four-point game.
Aaron Sheehan’s frees were keeping Mallow in touch but O’Regan was just as good with placed balls against the wind and three from him meant that five points separated them at the turnaround.
He picked up where he left off upon the resumption and his free into the goalmouth allowed Barry to kick the loose ball home and stretch the gap to nine points. Mallow’s Denis Hayes then did likewise from Kevin Sheehan’s delivery, but they were finding it more difficult against the breeze, even with Aaron Sheehan withdrawn to the middle sector to give extra manpower. Halbert and O’Regan continued to ensure the Hill’s tally grew and in the 48th minute they opened a 3-13 to 1-8 lead as Halbert unselfishly opted to pass to Eoin O’Reilly for an easy goal conversion.
After wing-back Kieran Coakley’s monstrous effort and one from Buckley, they had a 13-point lead, though Denis Hayes was unlucky not to respond with a Mallow goal, doubling Patrick Herlihy’s pass over the bar. Neither that, nor Aaron Sheehan’s late goal from a penalty after Hayes was fouled, could haul in the Hill, however. They now look forward to a quarter-final meeting with Kilbrittain on September 7, the day before the All-Ireland final.
Scorers for Watergrasshill: S O’Regan (0-9, 7f), J Halbert (1-5), E Barry (1-1), E O’Reilly (1-0), K Coakley, J Foley (0-1 each).
Scorers for Mallow: A Sheehan (1-5, 1 penalty, 4f, 1, 65), D Hayes (1-2), P Herlihy, F McCormack (0-1 each).
WATERGRASSHILL: A Foley; P Cronin, I Gardiner, A Cronin; K Coakley, N O’Riordan, P O’Regan; K O’Neill, S O’Regan; W O’Leary, J Foley, W Connolly; E O’Reilly, J Halbert, E Barry.
Sub: D O’Farrell for O’Reilly (57).
MALLOW: A Long; E Crowley, K O’Connor, D Sheehan; J Hayes, F O’Neill, A Luttrell; BJ Ryan, P Herlihy; S Hayes, A Sheehan, M Maher; D Hayes, F McCormack, Y Browne.
Subs: K Sheehan for S Hayes (36), P Buckley for Ryan (42), C Leahy for Browne (51).
Referee: J Larkin (Douglas).