Having claimed the county junior A hurling title with a win against Kilbrin a month ago, there were no signs of fatigue from a long year as they ground out victory against Aghabullogue here.
While a pair of John Corkery points brought the Coachford side to within a point at 0-6 to 0-5 with 19 minutes left, it did not prove to be the catalyst for a fightback as Grenagh displayed the experience which had seem then win this championship six years ago.
DD Dorgan, as ever, was in sparkling scoring form, kicking six points, including vital efforts which made the game safe. As well, in being able to bring on John Russell -who had returned from the US for the game — at full-forward at half-time they had a luxury few teams at this level could afford.
Russell plundered two second-half points and gave them a valuable outlet while Tom Kenny and Russell’s brother Gerry took control at midfield.
Aghabullogue’s running game, employed to such good effect a week earlier in the semi-final against Glanworth, couldn’t cope with the pressure, exemplified by the tenacity of captain and centre-back Paul McCarthy. Though Corkery did finish with four points for Aghabullogue, he was not allowed to enjoy the kind of possession which had seen him run up huge tallies during his side’s run to the final.
From the off, Aghabullogue appeared jittery, with sloppy errors littering their play, but Grenagh’s wayward shooting meant that they didn’t fall behind to an irreparable extent. On the quarter-hour mark, with Grenagh leading 0-2 to 0-1, Ultan Duggan did almost tack on a goal for them but he side-footed wide after goalkeeper John Buckley had saved well from Liam Walsh’s effort. At the other end, Martin Barry looked assured when dealing with any point attempts which dropped short and also stood up well to Mark Long’s shot following Aghabullogue’s best move.
By that stage, Dorgan had extended Grenagh’s lead but a quick brace from Corkery tied matters as he began to escape the clutches of Michael Lehane. Dorgan, after good work from Kenny and Conor Fitzgerald, left his side a point ahead at half-time, though.
Things got even better for them in the second-half’s nascent stages as Dorgan nailed a long-range free and then Fitzgerald profited from Tadhg Walsh’s industry to open up the game’s biggest lead. Aghabullogue needed something special and Corkery provided it to narrow the margin to one, but Fitzgerald responded immediately for Grenagh. With their massed ranks squeezing Aghabullogue when in possession and with nobody other than Corkery able to take on scoring attempts — though wing-back and captain Mark O’Brien was excellent throughout — Grenagh were looking likelier victors.
John Russell’s introduction had bolstered their attacking presence and when he produced a wonderful pass to pick out Liam Walsh, it was 0-8 to 0-5 with 14 minutes remaining. Had Aghabullogue been able to react when Barry dropped Pa Finnegan’s shy scoring effort, then maybe the end would have been tense, but the netminder recovered and Grenagh grew in confidence.
John Russell eased them four ahead and then Dorgan’s booming score following Fitzgerald’s good interception had the air of a clincher about it.
There was still time for more as Dorgan stroked over a late free and then John Russell got his second. Lehane shipped a second yellow card in injury time but he left the field to a standing ovation as the Grenagh support recognised his contribution. His team-mates would not have long to wait before receiving similar acclaim.
Scorers for Grenagh: DD Dorgan 0-6 (two frees), C Fitzgerald, J Russell 0-2 each, G Russell (free), L Walsh 0-1 each.
Scorers for Aghabullogue: J Corkery 0-4 (two frees), J Kelleher 0-1 (free).
GRENAGH: M Barry; M Lehane, R Dorgan, C Donovan; K O’Neill, P McCarthy, S Dorgan; T Kenny, G Russell; T Walsh, C Fitzgerald, DD Dorgan; C O’Neill, L Walsh, U Duggan.
Sub: J Russell for Donovan (half-time).
AGHABULLOGUE: J Buckley; G Long, D Merrick, A Hogan; M O’Brien, D Twomey, R Dennehy; M Dennehy, B Buckley; S O’Sullivan, P Finnegan, M Long; E O’Sullivan, J Kelleher, J Corkery.
Subs: S Dennehy for G Long (half-time), A Barry-Murphy for Buckley (35), R O’Keeffe for Kelleher (48).
Referee: B Coniry (Crosshaven).