Conor Lehane, again their leading scorer, inspired them with a vital goal in the 28th minute and they virtually owned the second-half with a powerful all-round display.
Team coach Peter Smith agreed they could have done with a sterner test, saying: “you could only play what was in front of you. Sars had a similar path. But, for the first half it was in the balance. The guys that are there won’t even remember the great years. They are making their own history and hopefully this will be the time they get over the line.”
Selector Bill Kelleher accepted Na Piarsaigh could have ‘no excuses.’ He admitted: “We had a good start, but for the first goal Midleton got, we lost the ball in the forward line. It kind of settled them and they came into the game and picked off their scores at will after that. We are disappointed, but they were superb on the day.”
With John Gardiner passing a fitness test, the city side got the perfect start when Cian Buckley followed the opening point with a 10th minute goal awarded by the umpire when goalkeeper Tommy Wallace was adjudged to have caught the ball behind the line. It reflected much better play, particularly in defence where Sean Óg Ó hAilpín bettered Lehane in early exchanges, while Gardiner was to the fore at midfield.
Notably, however, Midleton were quick to respond, with Luke O’Farrell opening their scoring and the second of two points from Brian Hartnett bringing them level in the 15th minute. The other score had come from Aidan Ryan and these three were to play major roles, along with Lehane who put them in front two minutes later (after switching to full-forward).
Additionally, the backs quickly grew in confidence and once more Paul Haughey and Peter Dowling formed a capable midfield pairing.
Na Piarsaigh remained in contention, but under mounting pressure, and went 10 minutes before Keith Buckley got their third score. However, by then it was clear Midleton were in the ascendancy, much more forceful in attack – with captain Padraig O’Shea also very prominent in the half-forward line .
In contrast, it was a struggle for the city side to get scores despite the work of the former Cork stars and current county man Christopher Joyce. Midleton went four points clear with their opening goal in the 26th minute — created by Hartnett’s industry in the corner — with Aidan Ryan kicking the ball over the line after ’keeper Alan Keating had stopped a powerful shot from him. In another two minutes, they had the ball in the net again, Lehane the scorer this time (O’Farrell the provider) with another demonstration of his brilliance and it saw them turn over at half-time leading 2-8 to 1-4.
Na Piarsaigh resumed with a third pointed free from Ian McDonnell and the fact they were confined to just one more point for the rest of the game (from sub Stephen O’Sullivan in the 41st minute) amply illustrated the grip Midleon were to exert on the play. Lehane, starting again on the wing on Ó hAilpín before again moving inside, put over a free and then scored from play and (having earlier pointed from a sideline), demonstrated his accuracy by putting over a ’65. That was in the 42nd minute, after Keating had denied O’Farrell a goal.
From there to the finish, it was virtually one-way traffic and Midleton could afford the luxury of replacing Lehane, Haughney and O’Farrell in the closing minutes.
Scorers for Midleton: C. Lehane 1-8 (0-3f, 0-1 ’65, 0-1 sideline); A. Ryan 1-2; B. Hartnett 0-4; L. O’Farrell, P. O’Shea and C. Walsh 0-2 each; P. O’Keeffe 0-1.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: C. Buckley 1-1; K. McDonnell 0-3 frees; K. Buckley and S. O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
MIDLETON: T. Wallace; K. Burke, P. O’Mahony, A. Kearney; S. O’Farrell, F. O’Mahony, J. Nagle; P. Haughney, P. Dowling; P. O’Shea (capt..), A. Ryan, C. Lehane; D. Ryan, L. O’Farrell, B. Hartnett.
Subs: C. Walsh for D. Ryan (35); P. O’Keeffe for Lehane (54); E. Walsh for Haughney (55); K. Mulcahy for O’Farrell (57); E. Mulcahy for P. O’Mahony (59).
Na PIARSAIGH: A. Keating; A. Brady, D. Mannix, E. Moynihan; S. Óg Ó hAilpín, C. Joyce, A. Dennehy; C. O’Mahony, J. Gardiner; K. Buckley, P. O’Rourke, I. McDonnell; S. Duggan, P. Gould, C. Buckley. Subs: A. Hogan for Gould (ht); S. O’Sullivan for Duggan (38); R. McGregor for Mannix (inj. 41); P. Cumming for K. Buckley (44); S. Glasgow for McDonnell (49).
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Eire Óg).