In cold, but otherwise perfect conditions at Banteer yesterday, this battle-hardened outfit received a tough examination from a resilient Rockchapel team who only 12 months ago were crowned county junior football champions.
The Duhallow men started impressively but were eventually overcome by the experience of Grenagh, a side that was relegated from the Premier grade two years ago.
“It took us a while, but we got there”, agreed selector Donie Dorgan.
“We lost a lot of breaking ball around midfield and we had to rectify that in the second half. Our backs were to the wall only for our goal before half-time and that was a huge boost. When we got on top around the middle the breaking ball was crucial. We got five points at the start of the second half and when we moved the ball at pace we got the benefit from it.”
And that was more or less the story of a match where both sides finished with 14 men. Rockchapel started brilliantly when Seamus Hickey showed blistering pace to bury the ball in the net after 30 seconds. The same player pushed the Rock 1-2 to 0-2 ahead before Grenagh posted three unanswered points — with one each from midfielders Tom Kenny and Gerry Russell and the ever-reliable DD Dorgan.
Slowly, Grenagh gained a foothold in midfield and the half back line, and achieved parity as a result coming up to the break. But a goal in stoppage time from Ultan Duggan propelled them into the lead for the first time, 1-5 to 1-3.
That spurred them on and by the 42nd minute they led by seven while Rockchapel found it hard to convert chances at the other end.
They replaced their numbers nine, 10 and 11 and while they did go on to out-shoot Grenagh (0-3 to 0-1) in the fourth quarter, Grenagh had done enough.
In separate incidents Clive Donovan got a second yellow card 10 minutes from time whilst Brendan Cahill saw red on 58 minutes. Referee Michael Sheehan issued nine yellow cards (seven to Grenagh) and two reds over the 60 minutes.
So Grenagh are one week away from a possible county double.
“It will be all about freshness this week,” revealed Dorgan. “We will go back training tomorrow night, it won’t be too intense. We will do a bit of ball work and shooting and build towards Sunday.
“It has been a long year,” he added. “Most of the lads played hurling bar two or three. But on the plus side they are game sharp.”
Scorers for Grenagh: DD Dorgan (0-5, four frees), U Duggan (1-1), T Kenny and G Russell (0-2 each), C O’Neill (0-1).
Scorers for Rockchapel: S Hickey (1-2), I Guiney (0-2, frees), L Collins and T Collins (45m) (0-1 each).
GRENAGH: M Barry; M Lehane, R Dorgan, C Donovan; S Dorgan, P McCarthy, K O’Neill; T Kenny, G Russell; C O’Neill, C Fitzgerald, DD Dorgan; T Walsh, L Walsh, U Duggan.
ROCKCHAPEL: T Collins; M Doody, E O’Callaghan, B Curtin; B Cahill, D J O’Callaghan, M Stack; C Keppell, J Doody; K Burke, C Murphy, W Murphy; I Guiney, L Collins, S Hickey.
Subs: C Aherne for C Murphy (half-time), D Curtin for K Burke (38), J O’Callaghan for J Doody (38).
Referee: Michael Sheehan (Liscarroll).