Ultimately, Castlehaven had the skill and the will to overcome the obstacles put in their way and deservedly advance to the penultimate stage of the Cork SFC. But they will remember how it took the strongest of resolve to get past the championship rookies.
A fourth-quarter scoring spree, after St Vincent’s were reduced to 13 men following the contested dismissal of substitute Derek O’Connor (for striking), allowed the West Cork side take control of a contest that had, up to then, been strongly disputed by the city side, whose battling qualities saw them shock the holders to establish a remarkable 1-7 to 0-3 lead by the 25th minute.
Castlehaven had their own reasons to take issue with referee James Bermingham, who dismissed Stephen Hurley on 23 minutes when his outstretched leg made contacted with the head of defender Frank Murphy. It appeared to have been accidental, but he got his marching orders anyway.
Darren O’Regan’s dismissal for a second yellow card after 37 minutes evened up the numbers and the contest too, and when O’Connor was dispatched to a chorus of objections it was all too much for a weakening St Vincent’s, who had already begun to struggle to cope with an ever improving Castlehaven.
The dismissals clearly irked St Vincent’s, but a disappointed coach Declan O’Connell held back on open criticism of the official: “I just think the game was ruined [by the sendings off] because it was a really good game up to that, the standard was good, it was tough, and our guys were in control, they acquitted themselves very well, but we ran out of steam in the end.”
A significant factor in the defeat was also Castlehaven’s late rally in the first half during which they struggled to cope with the enthusiasm of the city side boosted with a goal from Shane Duggan after just 40 seconds.
St Vincent’s powered on from there, successfully contesting midfield and pouncing on virtually every breaking ball. As the half drew to a close they looked fully in control, until Shane Nolan struck for Castlehaven’s fourth point in the 28th minute followed by a brilliant goal from Brian Hurley in injury time.
The champions hardly deserved to be in the hunt at 1-7 to 1-4, but the writing was essentially on the wall at that stage for St Vincent’s, more so when they were also reduced to 14 and then to 13 men.
Sean Cahalane forced a brilliant safe from Paddy O’Shea after the restart. Cian Barry and Anthony Harte struck points for the city side but Brian Hurley had three, Damian Cahalane and Mark Holland one each to level the game at 1-9 apiece within 10 minutes.
Barry and Mark Holland exchanged points before Hurley gave his side the lead for the first time with 13 minutes left on the clock. From then on it got easier and easier, and after the winners tacked on three unanswered points Mark Collins smashed in a second goal in injury time to complete the scoring.
Castlehaven selector Niall Cahalane admitted his side made heavy weather of the victory.
He said: “We started very slow, conceded 1-1 inside a couple of minutes playing in a breeze and we certainly weren’t going well. We went down to 14 men and we weren’t playing well, the thinking at half-time was that we were very much under pressure, we had a mountain to climb but we dug deep and Mark Collins was a big influence in that second half.
“We made a few moves, a few switches and I thought all the lads played very well in the second half.
“Their first sending off evened up things and after the second sending off there was only going to be one result because we had come back into the game.”
Scorers for Castlehaven: B Hurley 1-6 (0-1f), M Collins 1-2, D Cahalane 0-2 (1f), S Nolan, D Hegarty (1f), M Holland, M Hurley 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Vincent’s: S Duggan 1-0, K Lynch 0-3 (3f), J Buckley, G Kelleher, C Barry 0-2 each, A Hart 0-1
CASTLEHAVEN: P Hurley; L Collins, D Limrick, T O’Leary; D Cahalane, R Whelan, S Hurley; S Dineen, M Collins; J Davis, S Hurley, D Hegarty; D Hurley, B Hurley, S Nolan.
Subs: S Cahalane for J Davis, C Hayes for D Hurley (both h-t), M Hurley for D Hegarty (40), E Dennehy for Nolan (55), S Collins for L Collins (58)
ST VINCENT’S: P O’Shea; A O’Callaghan, F Murphy, W Murphy; C Kenneally, D Ó Reagain, K Goulding; S Ray, S Buckley; T O’Connell, K Lynch, S Duggan, G Kelleher, J Buckley, A Hart.
Subs: D O’Connor for S Duggan (20), C Barry for W Murphy (h-t), P Aherne for K Goulding (46)
Referee: J Bermingham (Bride Rovers).