For the first time since the autumn of 2011 the mighty Haven have lost a Cork club championship match, in the end bowing out meekly to an inspired Carbery Rangers side who took a giant step towards capturing an elusive first county senior title.
The holders can have no complaints after a second-half capitulation to their West Cork neighbours and, with a huge scalp in their hat and a bounce in their step, Michael ‘Haulie’ O’Sullivan’s men march onto an eagerly anticipated quarter-final clash with next-door nemesis Clonakilty in Enniskeane on Sunday evening.
And, on the evidence of this performance, Rangers will be justified favourites after outscoring Haven 1-9 to 0-2 in a stunning second-half performance.
Deadlocked at the break — 1-5 apiece — Ross produced a second-half display of quite stunning conviction: defensively superb where Michael O’Donovan and Brian Shanahan excelled, while their forward unit, inspired by Seamus and John Hayes, tore the famed Haven defence to pieces. And all masterminded brilliantly from midfield where the silken skills of Kevin McMahon and partner James Fitzpatrick subdued Haven’s most potent source of possession.
“In the drawn game, we were cleaned out in midfield,” admitted O’Sullivan, “so we needed to strategise for that. Today, I thought the boys adapted well.”
The former Cork senior star added: “What pleased me most was that this was a team performance, especially from the subs who came on and contributed so well.”
Haven had no such cohesiveness on a day when panic suddenly entered their vocabulary. As the game seemed to be slipping from them in the third quarter after Rangers notched a spirit-numbing sixth consecutive point to move 1-12 to 1-6 ahead, Castlehaven, uncharacteristically, began to eagerly excavate paths towards goals, but all was in vain against a mean Carbery defensive unit.
And when John Hayes blasted home Rangers’ second goal from the penalty spot with 10 minutes remaining, the huge following from Rosscarbery were already celebrating in the packed stand.
It was a hard-hitting championship match with one red (Brian Hurley to two yelows), three black and eight yellow cards flashed by referee Colm Lyons who, otherwise, brilliantly officiated this tense derby, playing the advantage rule superbly and eagle-eyed for any off-the-ball offences. The Nemo official needed to show a black card to Michael Mennis after only three minutes as the early exchanges resembled a boxing match, neither side conceding much.
But, when Damien Cahalane burst forward on 16 minutes to finish a splendid Haven move to the net, it helped nudge them in front by 1-2 to 0-3.
Rangers replied in stunning fashion: firstly the impressive John O’Rourke pointed before Haven goalkeeper Paudie Hurley was adjudged to have fouled in the square only seconds after making a brilliant point-blank save. John Hayes coolly converted to the corner as the game’s intensity level moved up a few notches
The influential Shane Nolan kick-started a three-point sequence for Haven (Nolan’s proved to be Haven’s last point from play) to edge them 1-5 to 1-4 in front, but Alan Jennings had the half’s final say with a wonderful point to leave the sides deadlocked at half-time.
Those expecting a score-for-score second half were disappointed as the inspired Ross men fashioned scores at will. Though Damien Cahalane was detailed on Seamus Hayes, it made little difference as the brilliant playmaker and scorer from Ross caused Haven endless problems and six points in succession from Jennings, O’Rourke, (2), and John Hayes (3) prefaced the latter’s second major from the penalty spot after Sean O’Neill was fouled by Chris Hayes.
Haven did reply with two points, but nothing was going to stop them from marching forward when Brian Hodnett and John Hayes added further points to cap a memorable day for Rosscarbery.
“Today’s win was all about self-belief,” added O’Sullivan, before the club’s former midfield star headed off to plot the downfall of their hosts in six days’ time.
Scorers for Carbery Rangers: J Hayes 2-4 (2-0 pens; 0-3f); S Hayes and J O’Rourke 0-3 each; A Jennings 0-2; B Shanahan (45) and B Hodnett 0-1 each.
Scorers for Castlehaven: D Cahalane 1-1 (0-1 free); B Hurley 0-4 (3f); P Hurley 0-2 (2 45s); S Nolan 0-1.
CARBERY RANGERS: P Shanahan; J O’Riordan, B Shanahan, A Roche; T O’Rourke, P Hodnett; M O’Donovan; K McMahon, J Fitzpatrick; A Jennings, S Hayes, J Hayes; D Hayes, M Mennis, J O’Rourke. Subs: C O’Donavan for Mennis (3, black card); S O’Neill for O’Donavan (41); D O’Brien for S Hayes (50, black card); B Hodnett for O’Neill and S Murray for O’Riordan (both 58).
CASTLEHAVEN: P Hurley; J O’Regan, D Limrick, T O’Leary; C Hayes, D Cahalane, L Collins; D Hurley, S Dineen; M Dineen, S Hurley, M Collins; S Nolan, B Hurley, M Hurley. Subs: R Whelton for L Collins (37); S Cahalane for S Hurley (41); D Hegarty for D Hurley (47); C Cahalane for M Hurley (55); S Hurley for Hayes (60, black card).
Referee: C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).