Back then, the Ovens side kicked 14 points, as they did in Saturday’s final at Páirc Uí Rinn, while Rockchapel had seven white flags. The goal-count was four to one for the men in maroon though, and they advanced to the semi-final. Speaking last week, Éire Óg manager Harry O’Reilly cited the new defensive tightness as the main improvement this year and this was the culmination of a huge effort, which saw them allow just two goals in five championship games. Only two more were conceded in the league.
On Saturday, it took a while for O’Reilly’s side to click into gear in front of the posts, with the first quarter bringing them just one point and three wides. It wasn’t until early in the second half that they took control in an attacking sense, but the excellent defending ensured they never looked like ceding the initiative. The pressure applied on the Rockchapel forwards was exemplary, with numerous forays forward by the Duhallow side breaking down due to good blocks in defence. Importantly, it was focused pressure, with no needless fouls.
By half-time, Rockchapel had scored three points, one a free, and recorded just one wide. That they were still in the game was due to Éire Óg’s inaccuracy as much as anything.
Within six second-half minutes, however, that 0-5 to 0-3 half-time advantage had grown to a five-point gap. Daniel Goulding began the period as he ended the first by pointing and then Kevin Hallissey – just on as a sub as he hadn’t been fit enough to start – profited from a Goulding pass. When John Dineen sent over a free which had been brought forward, the John Lock O’Sullivan trophy was looking set for Ovens.
In the 38th minute, Rockchapel could have reversed the trend when they cut through Éire Óg for the first time. Liam Collins’ pass allowed DJ O’Sullivan a look at goal, but Chris Kelly pulled off a brilliant save and though Ian Guiney did get a Rockchapel point from the subsequent play, they couldn’t create any great momentum.
Goulding’s third point, a free after he had been fouled following a good win in the air, made it 0-9 to 0-4 and from the kickout Daniel O’Connor put six between them.
By then, the hurt from the 2012 final defeat by Castletownbere and last year’s IHC decider against Kanturk was being eroded as the Éire Óg faithful knew that they wouldn’t be denied.
The experience of those occasions meant they never looked nervy, even when the shooting sights were taking a while to calibrate. The play was composed, most notably from centre-back Alan O’Mahony and midfielders Liam Murphy and Fionn O’Rourke. Goulding was brought out to centre-forward in a switch with Sheehan as they sought to get going and three points, from Dineen, Sheehan and Ronan O’Toole had them 0-4 to 0-1 in front.
While Rockchapel briefly took hope from quick points from Collins and John Forrest, Goulding’s well-taken effort from O’Rourke’s pass ensured there was still breathing space for Éire Óg at half-time.
By the three-quarter stage, Rockchapel knew a goal was becoming more and more necessary, but if anything it was looking likelier at the other end. Collins did get his second point but the response was emphatic again, Sheehan with his second before Goulding got two more.
In injury-time, Kelly was called upon to make a late save after a goalmouth scramble and the resulting 45 was played short to Séamus Hickey, who pointed to make it 0-13 to 0-6. While Éire Óg would finish with 14 as Daniel O’Connor received a second yellow card, they were able to enjoy the closing stages, dreaming of a title and a tilt at premier intermediate.
It was perfectly fitting that Goulding would have the final say, getting his sixth point from Hallissey’s pass.
Scorers for Éire Óg: D Goulding 0-6 (one free, one 45), J Dineen (frees), L Sheehan 0-2 each, R Dennehy, K Hallissey, D O’Connor, R O’Toole 0-1 each.
Scorers for Rockchapel: L Collins 0-2 (one free), I Guiney, S Hickey, J Forrest, W Murphy 0-1 each.
ÉIRE ÓG: C Kelly; J Mullins, R Dennehy, C O’Mahony; D Herlihy, A O’Mahony, M O’Shea; F O’Rourke, L Murphy; R O’Toole, L Sheehan, D O’Connor; A O’Connor, D Goulding, J Dineen.
Subs: K Hallissey for O’Toole (half-time), P McDonagh for C O’Mahony (58), T O’Leary for O’Mahony (59, black card), D Sheehan for Dennehy (60).
ROCKCHAPEL: T Collins; M Doody, E O’Callaghan, N O’Callaghan; M Stack, B Cahill, J O’Callaghan; C Kepple, DJ O’Callaghan; DJ O’Sullivan, J Forrest, W Murphy; L Collins, I Guiney, S Hickey.
Subs: C Aherne for O’Sullivan (40), K Collins for Kepple (54).
Referee: K Murphy (Nemo Rangers).