From Graham Callanan’s hair-raising point on 13 minutes to Stephen McDonnell’s burst to set-up a Patrick Horgan point approaching the interval, Donal Cronin’s block on Eoin O’Sullivan, Cathal Hickey’s flying save to deny Cian McCarthy to the defence-splitting move two minutes later which allowed David Cunningham to strike the decisive goal of the contest; Glen Rovers showed up big time.
Where they failed to raise a gallop 12 months ago, Richie Kelleher’s troops exhausted every available avenue of energy and effort on this occasion. And, in the process, glorious redemption did the Blackpool hurlers achieve.
It was against this backdrop that saw several players and supporters fighting back tears at the finish. 26-years is a hell of a wait for a club of Glen Rovers’ stature and yesterday’s win, their 26th Seán Óg Murphy triumph, moves them ahead of St Finbarr’s to second on the roll of honour behind Blackrock (32).
All the sweeter was this win given their climb to Everest started from a very low base; Ballymartle marking their card in the opening round in late May. And when Kelleher’s charges fell over the line against Carrigtwohill in the second round, nobody could have foreseen that four months down the line the green, black and gold flag would flutter from atop the summit of Cork hurling.
“I can’t believe this is after happening, this is the best day of our lives,” remarked Patrick Horgan.
“We went to a level I don’t think other teams can go to. We showed today how hungry we were and how much we wanted it. When we show up, no one is going to live with us.
“You could see there when we knocked in the first goal, the place nearly fell down. Nearly everyone in the whole stadium was from the Glen. You had people coming home from the other side of the world to wish us on today. It is great to repay everyone.”
Ahead by 0-10 to 0-8 at the break, the Glen’s first-half performance was defined by the savage intensity and relentless foraging of their defensive unit. Stephen McDonnell, Callanan and the Moylans, Brian and Gavin, exerted colossal pressure on Sars’ big-name players. The net result was that Cian McCarthy, Kieran Murphy and Robert O’Driscoll were never allowed to settle into proceedings, with several shots snatched at in the opening half an hour – Pat Ryan’s side clocked seven first-half wides.
At the other end, Dean Brosnan (0-3) and Patrick Horgan (0-4 frees) kept their account ticking over. Level on six occasions in the first-half, the winners made a telling burst approaching the interval – two Horgan frees and a David Cunningham point nudging them two in front.
Sars, though struggling to match the high-octane tempo tabled by their opponents, were by no means chasing an insurmountable target. Conor O’Sullivan, William Kearney, Ran Ryan, Daniel Kearney and Gavin O’Loughlin were motoring nicely and there was plenty left in the tank from the reigning champions, or so went the general consensus.
When Glen Rovers stepped on the throttle early in the second-half, however, they simply had no response, no semblance of a challenge could they muster.
Horgan and Cian McCarthy traded frees, but then followed two in quick succession from Horgan and Conor Dorris. The gap was now at four and could have been greater had Craig Leahy not deflected Dorris’ drive over the crossbar.
McCarthy nailed his second free to narrow the deficit, but the Glen had caught the scent of blood by this juncture. Horgan split the posts after Eoin O’Sullivan over-carried and the centre-forward struck his eighth minor on 45-minutes to put five between the teams (0-15 to 0-10).
With the title slipping from their grasp, Sars introduced Liam Healy and Tadhg Óg Murphy. The latter, latching onto a probing delivery into the Glen square, flashed the sliotar across the face of Cathal Hickey’s goal. At the other end, William Kearney produced a fine block to repel Conor Dorris’ low drive.
Back up the field swept Sars, Cian McCarthy gathering Eoin Quigley’s delivery. Head down. Strike. Save, a superb save at that from Hickey. McCarthy flung over the resulting ’65, but their back-to-back title bid was dealt a critical blown when David Cunningham, set-up by Dorris and Busteed, rattled Alan Kennedy’s net on 48 minutes. The same player made it 1-16 to 0-11 turning the bend for home, Glen Rovers now out of sight.
Wing-back David Dooling sent a second nail into the Sars coffin on 53 minutes, racing unchallenged through the heart of the opposition defence to bury past Kennedy.
Cian McCarthy struck a late consolation goal for Sars. It mattered little. Their copybook had long since been irreparably blighted. The full-forward line managed a single point over the hour. Half of their forward unit were withdrawn by the 52nd minute. Midfield was a problem despite Daniel Kearney’s endeavours, while their half-back line, the wall upon which Glen Rovers perished 12 months ago, was pulled ragged.
P Horgan (0-9, 0-7 frees); D Cunningham (1-2); D Brosnan (0-3); D Dooling (1-0); G Callanan, D Busteed, C Dorris (0-1 each).
C McCarthy (1-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ’65); G O’Loughlin (0-3); E Martin (0-2); R O’Driscoll, R Murphy (0-1 each).
S Kennifick for Phelan (52), G Kennifick for Cunningham (55).
T Óg Murphy for R Murphy (34 mins), L Healy for K Murphy (44), C Duggan for O’Driscoll (52), P Leopold for Martin (53).