O’Sullivan’s 40th minute goal put the Waterford champions in control with a 1-10 to 0-10 advantage, but they couldn’t kick on from that. Instead, Bruff finally began to get some measure of joy from a Cappoquin defence which had held the upperhand for long stages. Two Shane Bulfin frees brought them to within a point by the 48th minute, but incredibly, there was no alteration to the scoreboard until Colin Madden’s equaliser on 57.
During that scoreless period, Bruff had half-chances of goals from Madden and Seán Finn and looked to have the momentum, certainly so when they equalised.
Cappoquin centre-back Conor Murray was outstanding throughout, however, and it was fitting that he should launch the clearance which allowed O’Sullivan to pick up possession and fire over.
Victorious coach Fintan O’Connor was a relieved man at the final whistle.
“I thought we were under pressure, they were the coming team,” he said. “But the boys never gave up.”
O’Sullivan finished with 1-2 while captain Shane O’Rourke scored five points and was a reliable from dead balls. It was Murray who set the tone, though. He was imperious in the half-back line, especially in the second half as Cappoquin took control.
In the first period, Bruff had the better of the exchanges and led by 0-4 to 0-2, 0-6 to 0-3 and 0-8 to 0-4. Shane Bulfin had found his range scoring-wise with Jason Hayes, initially named as a sub, slotting in seamlessly alongside Paul Browne at midfield and helping himself to two points early on.
Cappoquin’s Andy Molumby had the best goal chance, running on perfectly to Finán Murray’s handpass but Eric Finn dealt well with his shot. Nevertheless, three points in five minutes, from Paul Murray, O’Sullivan and O’Rourke cut the gap to just a point and while Bulfin responded, another O’Rourke free left it 0-9 to 0-8 at half-time.
“We were chasing it and we were under pressure but there was a fair breeze and the sun was hard to get used to as well,” O’Connor admitted. “I suppose they were nervous too, it was a big day and there was a massive crowd. !The goal was crucial. We had a few goal chances in the first, we were knocking on the door for one and we needed a goal.”
It came in the 40th minute, with the sides level (0-10 each). Keith Landers’ delivery looked to have been dealt with by Finn but O’Sullivan dispossessed him. Though full-back Conor McEniry made a heroic block on his goal effort, the attacker managed to steady himself and fire home at the second attempt.
Despite the setback of falling behind for the first time, Bruff came back strongly but couldn’t regain the lead. After O’Sullivan put Cappoquin in front again at the end, the Limerick side had chances to equalise.
First, Bulfin’s free dropped short and Mike O’Hara shot wide, then Paul Browne was off-target from a long-range free. Their manager Gary Kirby accepted that the game had been there for them.
“It’s shattering, to be honest,” he said.
“We had enough chances to win two games and it was just one of those days, it didn’t go for us and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“I wouldn’t fault the boys, they’ve worked hard all year and given it their all. We had the momentum late on but it was touch and go all the way through, they missed a few chances and we did too.
“We’ve had a good year, though. They’re a great bunch of lads, they’re a young squad and there’s a good season ahead of them next year, I think.”
Cappoquin have senior hurling to look forward to too, but before that there’ll be an All-Ireland semi-final in the new year, against Antrim’s O’Donovan Rossa.
“It’ll be a great Christmas now, in fairness,” O’Connor said. “All along, I’ve been saying to the lads to take it easy, at least now I can tell them to do what they want!”
Scorers for Cappoquin-Affane: S O’Rourke 0-5 (three frees, one 65), K O’Sullivan 1-2, F Murray 0-2, P Murray, K Landers 0-1 each.
Scorers for Bruff: S Bulfin 0-6 (four frees), J Hayes 0-3, C Madden 0-2, P Browne, C Browne 0-1 each.
CAPPOQUIN-AFFANE: D O’Rourke; T Looby, C Looby, P Morrissey; D Cahillane, C Murray, S Murray; PJ Curran, P Murray; S O’Rourke, K Landers, A Molumby; S Coughlan, F Murray, K O’Sullivan.
Subs: A O’Sullivan for Coughlan (52), D McCarthy for Curran (60).
BRUFF: E Finn; B Finn, C McEniry, J O’Riordan; D Madden, C Madden, B O’Brien; P Browne, J Hayes; C Browne, C Madden, P O’Leary; S Bulfin, J Cooke, S Finn.
Subs: M O’Hara for Cooke (41), G Whelan for O’Leary (46), T Burke for C Browne (58).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).