Valley Rovers, last year’s Premier Intermediate champions, is a club with serious momentum at the moment, and this victory — chiselled from a seemingly hopeless situation with five minutes left — will only serve to massage that feelgood magic.
They may not be the finished article — in truth Carbery Rangers are further down the track in that regard — but whatever the Innishannon lads lack, it isn’t gumption. Or stomach for the fight.
Trailing 0-13 to 0-8 with nine minutes remaining at the wonderfully named Henry Ford Park, there was no legitimate case for predicting how things would unravel for Rosscarbery. John Hayes was rightly being touted as man of the match, his orchestration of proceedings from a deep lying role ensuring their West Cork neighbours were never closer than arm’s length.
The 0-10 to 0-5 half-time lead would underpin that, Hayes working deliciously with his inside forwards, especially his brother, Seamus, in the full forward line. John Hayes’ withdrawn role was partly forced on Carbery Rangers who were unlucky to lose both midfielders, James Fitzpatrick and Michael Mennis, in the first 15 minutes.
Twenty minutes in, Rovers only trailed 0-5 to 0-4, with Fiachra Lynch making a favourable impression inside when Valleys were able to find him. However three points on the trot for Rangers, including a second from wing-back Robbie Kiely, had the Ross men five points to the good at the interval.
It was 0-11 to 0-5 a minute after the restart, and there was several junctures thereafter where the sizeable crowd was ready to put this one to bed. Alan Jennings and Brian Shanahan seemed to be making light of their unusual role as a midfield partnership, and despite Valleys insatiable appetite for work, they were making little dent into the deficit with 45 minutes gone. Substitute Darragh Lordan pointed well for Valleys, but Seamus Hayes fisted another Ross point at the other end.
By this point, Valleys were going for broke, Kevin Canty pushed from midfield into the edge of the square, and Fiachra Lynch out to midfield. Additionally, they introduced subs like Lordan, Eoin O’Reilly and Billy Crowley, all of whom were to make an impact on the game.
No-one changed the dynamic, though, as radically as Canty. Though Valleys went early and often to him at full forward, crucially the ball in from the likes of Lynch was radar-accurate, and allowed Canty to cause consternation. After Lynch had pointed a free, he dropped one in on top of Canty after 53 minutes, and the Valleys man deflected to the inrushing Darragh Crowley to goal.
Five minutes left, now there was only two in it - 0-13 to 1-8. Again Seamus Hayes punctured Valley’s momentum, but only momentarily. John Cottrell floated a beauty of a point, his third, with three minutes remaining before referee Kevin Murphy awarded another free for an off the ball infringement on Canty. Lynch pointed to leave just a score between them — at least Valleys were going to get a stab at the draw their perspiration merited.
“They just never give up, they’ve always had that attitude,” manager Ger Slyne said afterwards.
“There’s a lot of Under 21’s coming through to the team and they have this never-say-die attitude as well.”
The benefits were self-evident as this sparking first round tie drifted into the second minute of injury time. Kevin Canty again got on the productive side of the Carbery Rangers defence and was hauled down as he was preparing to pull the trigger. Stonewall penalty.
Would Fiachra Lynch settle for a point and extra time? His decision not appeared to have back- fired as Paul Shanahan parried his blasted effort for a winner, but the parry only looped up in the air for Lynch to gleefully fist the rebound to the net.
Cue delirium around the ground that hasn’t hosted a senior county championship game since 2000 — Heavenknows why not because the Ballinascarthy club got the opportunity to parade their €350,000 investment in facilities — but one had to feel a tad of sympathy for last year’s beaten senior finalists, who played too much good football to experience that sick feeling afterwards. “Losing our two midfielders early eventually cost us, because we lost a lot of ball to Valleys in the last 10 minutes,” admitted Rangers mentor Johnny Murphy afterwards.
They now meet the losers of Castlehaven and Clyda Rovers, and on this display their season has a long road ahead of it yet. Valleys may go into hurling mode now for the Premier Intermediate Championship, but the afterglow of this success will sustain them for a while yet.
F. Lynch (1-4, 3 frees), D. Crowley (1-1), J Cottrell (0-3), J. Murphy and D Lordan (0-1 each)
J Hayes (0-5, 3 frees), S Hayes, R Kiely (0-3 each), J. Fitzpatrick, K. Fitzpatrick, B. Shanahan (0-1 each)
P Shanahan; S Murray, B Shanahan, A Roche; T O’Rourke, P. Hodnett, R Kiely; M Mennis, J. Fitzpatrick; A. Jennings, C. O’Rourke, D Hayes; C. O’Donovan, S. Hayes, J. Hayes.
K Fitzpatrick for Mennis (5 mins), R. Hegarty for J Fitzpatrick (19); J O’Riordan for Hegarty (52).
A Quirke; N O’Donovan, D Lynch, T. O’Brien; D. Crowley, J. Lynch, A. Walsh; K. Canty, D. Murphy; G. Farrell, J. Walsh, J. Murphy; E. Delaney, F. Lynch, J. Cottrell.
D Lordan for J Murphy (36); E. O’Reilly for Delaney (49); B Crowley for Walsh (52)
K. Murphy (Nemo Rangers).