Antrim representatives O’Donovan Rossa sprung from the traps to defeat 14-man Cappoquin with a skilful and steely performance at a blustery Mullingar yesterday.
Since an appearance in the All-Ireland senior final 26 years ago, the 15-times Antrim champions have rebuilt in the intermediate championship and they return to Croke Park on February 15 to face Kilburn Gaels.
“Our main objective was to install belief in the team and to try to get the younger players on board and believe in themselves,” explained manager Seamus Shannon. “It is a really young team and to get Rossa back up where it belongs, it takes those younger players to have the commitment and dedication the older generations had.”
Rossa dominated the skies from start to finish. “Anybody who wins the ball in the air generally wins the match,” Shannon observed. Conor McClelland ruled his patch at number six and wing-back Stephen Shannon scored four points, including two rousing efforts into the teeth of the breeze during the third quarter. In the absence of marquee forwards Stephen Beatty and Seaghan Shannon, Thomas Morgan stepped up with 2-3, including 2-1 from play.
Wind-assisted Rossa stunned the Munster champions after just 11 seconds when Thomas Morgan whipped first-time past Donal O’Rourke. The Antrim winners out-muscled their opponents throughout that opening period and displayed their aerial superiority. In the seventh minute, Deaglan Murphy supplied Morgan for his second as he sprinted past his marker and stung the far corner of the net (2-1 to 0-1). Rossa were totally on top against their shell-shocked opponents and were awarded a penalty on 15 minutes when Colm McVeigh was brought to ground. Faced by three defenders on the line, O’Rourke turned Gerard Walsh’s shot away for a ‘65’. The Ulster side also rued seven wides including five placed balls. Cappoquin’s task was made harder when county minor Andy Molumby was dismissed on a second yellow before the break. They reached the dressing room 2-5 to 0-2 in arrears.
Conditions worsened for the second-half as the rain swept in but the Waterford side upped their work-rate. Conor and Paul Murray led the recovery and they chipped away despite the numerical disadvantage. Aaron O’Sullivan batted the ball to the roof of the net on 45 minutes after a lengthy free from O’Rourke to leave five points between the teams (2-7 to 1-5). They didn’t move any nearer, however, as the talented Stephen Shannon replied with two superb strikes against the elements. Cappoquin selector Fintan O’Connor was tremendously proud of their fighting attitude. “They battled to the end and that’s all you can ask. There’s no shame in the way they bowed out.”
Scorers for O’Donovan Rossa: T Morgan 2-3 (2fs); S Shannon 0-4 (2 65s); J McGuinness 0-2; M Armstrong, D Murphy, C McVeigh 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cappoquin: A O’Sullivan 1-0; S O’Rourke 0-3 (3fs); A Molumby, P Murray, F Murray, K O’Sullivan, K Landers (f) 0-1 each.
O’DONOVAN ROSSA: C McDonnell; C Orchin, E O’Neill, K McDonnell; G Walsh, C McClelland, S Shannon; C McElhatton, D Murphy; C McVeigh, M Armstrong, C McGuiness; M Turley, T Morgan, A Orchin.
Subs: C Rocks for McElhatton (38); J McGuinness for McVeigh (42); M Kettle for Turley (48); G Bell for K McDonnell (59); J Quinn for A Orchin (61).
CAPPOQUIN: D O’Rourke; K Looby, C Looby, T Looby; P Morrissey, C Murray, D Cahillane; S Murray, P Murray; S O’Rourke, K Landers, A Molumby; S Coughlan, F Murray, K O’Sullivan.
Subs: A O’Sullivan for Coughlan (30); PJ Curran for K Looby (38).
Referee: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).