Little wonder, then, this derby final required an injury-time point from substitute Paudie Shanahan to secure an historic first Cork IHC title for Fermoy at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
Hard luck on a battling Charleville, who appeared to have done enough to secure a draw, but Shanahan’s precious point proved to be the difference.
Wearing number 31, he had always been a first-choice player. But a serious ankle injury picked up during the summer took longer than usual to heal.
“It is unbelievable,” reflected an overjoyed Shanahan afterwards. “Brian O’Sullivan won the ball. He passed to Darragh O’Carroll and he spotted I was free. It was a bit of a ‘Hail Mary’ shot but it went over.”
Fermoy were just a point ahead after playing with the elements in the opening half and, for most of the third quarter, failed to score. But they showed huge character when David Geary put them back into a one-point lead with a 42nd minute goal.
This was a major turning point, but also a massive blow to Charleville as the sliotar should have been cleared. Geary had the ball in the net again three minutes later but after consulting with his umpires, referee Joe Larkin awarded a free out. It was nip and tuck from there to the end.
Charleville trainer Peter Finn said both goals — one in each half — were game-changers.
“The goals were mistakes. But county finals take on a life of their own. We were happy at half-time having played against the breeze. Their goals brought them back into it.”
Fermoy struggled early on as an Alan O’Connor goal moved Charleville into the lead. They maintained that dominance mainly through the outstanding Andrew Cagney, who would finish with nine points. However, Liam Coleman was unerring in his free-taking role for the Black and Amber. When Ruairi O’Hagan capitalised on a goalkeeping error Fermoy took over, 1-6 to 1-5.
James O’Brien raced through and when his rising shot skimmed over the bar, Charleville regained the lead. A pair of crucial points from Coleman and Jack Hutchings before the break handed Fermoy the narrowest of half-time advantages, 1-9 to 1-8. They also had struck nine wides to Charleville’s one.
And it got worse for the 2009 junior champions who made double substitutions at the break, bringing in John Ring and Shanahan as Charleville restarted impressively. Points arrived from Cagney, Derry Murphy and Darragh Fitzgibbon while Danny O’Flynn averted a certain goal chance.
Fermoy made a few switches — one to benefit them was the move of county footballer Tomás Clancy from centre-forward to midfield, where he won plenty of loose ball. Geary’s goal ensued, and they came more into the game.
“When you are struggling you have to make changes,” commented manager Denis Ring. “We made a lot of moves in our back line. We went strong straight up the middle. And we played a very direct game. It worked because we won the dirty ball.”
At the three-quarter mark, Cagney tied the match, 1-12 to 2-9. However, Fermoy regained the initiative once more as Coleman converted a pair of frees and Clancy pointed — against a lone Cagney white flag. However, two brilliant scores from Cagney levelled the contest once again (1-15 to 2-12). This set the tone right up to the end.
Coleman edged Fermoy in front after Cagney was guilty of overcarrying, but when sub Darragh Fitzgibbon fired the equalising point under pressure, it looked as if another day would be needed. But there was one last chance, and Shanahan’s effort sealed an incredible one-point win.
Scorers for Fermoy: L Coleman (0-8, seven frees), D Geary (1-1), R O’Hagan (1-0), M Brennan, P Shanahan, T Clancy, J Hutchings and K Morrisson (0-1 each).
Scorers for Charleville: A Cagney (0-9, six frees), A O’Connor (1-0), D Fitzgibbon and J O’Brien (0-2 each), B Dennehy, D Casey and D Murphy (0-1 each).
FERMOY: C Quinn; E Clancy, J Daly, R O’Callaghan; P Murphy, B O’Sullivan (Capt), D O’Carroll; K Morrisson, M Brennan; P de Róiste, T Clancy, L Coleman; R O’Hagan, J Hutchings, D Geary.
Subs: P Shanahan for P de Róiste, J Ring for P Murphy (both half-time).
CHARLEVILLE: C Collins; J Buckley, M O’Flynn, G Kelleher; B McCarthy, A Dennehy, B Dennehy (Capt); M Kavanagh, D O’Flynn; D Murphy, A Cagney, M Gammell; J O’Brien, A O’Connor, D Casey.
Subs: D Fitzgibbon for M Gammell (35).
Referee: Joe Larkin (Douglas).