The Fermoy captain admitted to restless nights in the week between the missed opportunity of a drawn county final and Saturday’s triumphant replay. However it was the thinking done during those long nights and the talking between his Fermoy teammates and mentors that resulted in a Championship-winning performance: clocking up their highest total of the season, all from play too, and with every forward scoring.
What a difference a week makes.
“We were hurt and we were embarrassed going back to Fermoy last week,” said O’Hagan.
“It was a tough, tough week. I didn’t really sleep much during the week. I was going over it in my head — not to score in the 30 minutes of football in the second half — even in games I was beaten by 50 points, we still managed to get a score. But that 30 minutes last week drove us on. We were talking about it all week long: Monday night, Wednesday night, Friday night. We’d the video analysis done and the one thing we really singled out was the breaks around the middle of the field.”
That’s the meat of Fermoy’s victory. They learned more. They learned to live or die on the midfield breaking ball. And, as manager Noel Crowley told his men, “Don’t leave it all to Ruairi today, give him a hand.”
They certainly did that in the second half. Resuming at 0-4 apiece, O’Hagan’s lead point from the throw-in was followed by 1-1 coolly garnered in the 60 seconds of the 33rd minute by Padraig de Roiste.
However Mayfield maintained the threat of a repeat comeback until injury time. Three times they pulled back the deficit to a single goal but each time Fermoy had a response.
Dan Lucey’s red carding for a 47th-minute elbow didn’t help the Northsiders either, although they still entered the five minutes of injury-time three behind.
But their gamble for a goal left open spaces for Alan O’Connor (twice) and O’Hagan to pick off the points that sealed a memory that will last a lifetime for the captain.
“We talked about it last week — what matters to you. It’s not really the medals and the cups for us. It’s the moment I go into that dressing room over there, those five minutes, that’s what I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
It’s not their first such memory either, with 18 of Fermoy’s 20 used players having sat in the winning Intermediate Hurling dressing room 370 days ago.
The lessons from that campaign stood to Fermoy this year too, especially when it came to managing the interlude between drawn game and replay. Twice last year they lost a late lead. Both times they learned quickly and decisively won the replay.
This final may have been a different code but featured the same marginal gains approach. The shooting display was much improved on both sides, with five scores registered before the first wide was waved.
But Fermoy’s defence, as ever, won their battle, Tomas Clancy and de Roiste gained control of midfield and their attack, helped by the black card dismissal of Padraig Fitzgerald, began to show signs of what would follow in the second half.
If O’Hagan has his way, it will double as a sign of greater things to come: “We got a job done today, we’re going Premier Intermediate in both hurling and football, and that’s what we want. We want to push on for senior.
“That’s what we’re about — it’s an ambitious group. And we have some savage players coming up under-16. I was coming off and I met three or four of them and I said, ‘Lads, it’s up to ye to drive it on again.’”
P de Roiste (1-1); R O’Hagan (0-3); T Clancy, A O’Connor (0-2 each); M Brennan, K Morrison, R O’Callaghan, D O’Carroll (0-1 each).
P Condon (0-5, 4 frees); R Scannell, S O’Donovan, S Fitzgerald, D O’Neill (0-1 each).
L Coleman; J Pyne, S Shanahan, A Baragry; P Clancy, B O’Sullivan, P Murphy; T Clancy, K Dorgan; D O’Carroll, R O’Callaghan, P de Roiste; K Morrison, R O’Hagan, M Brennan.
I Brennan for Dorgan (ht), A O’Connor for I Brennan (inj, 50), E Clancy for P Clancy (53), J Daly for O’Carroll (57), T Grumbridge for M Brennan (65).
E Bond; S O’Sullivan, P Fitzgerald, T Boyd; D O’Neill, K Brosnan, S Kelly; S O’Donovan, S Fitzgerald; N Kelly, D Malone, D Lucey; S Hackett, P Condon, R Scannell.
T Lotty for P Fitzgerald (BC, 28), D Hayes for Malone (43), B Hegarty for Lotty (60).
D Murnane (Macroom).