Up until Griffin’s strike in the 37th minute against Fenor of Waterford, this was a nip and tuck affair, but after that it was all Dungourney, and they ran out comfortable winners.
That wasn’t how the contest shaped up early on. Despite the horrific weather earlier in the weekend, Mallow’s main pitch was in very good nick and the wind was negligible yesterday. With conditions as good as they can be at this time of year, both sides tore into each other from the start. Though Dungourney looked to have an edge in quality, Fenor worked hard and were economical in their shooting.
Before six minutes passed Dungourney had two points on the board, a Shane Hegarty free and a Ryan Denny 65, but they’d also struck four wides. That illustrated the pressure Fenor were under, and they needed centre-back Jim Halley to anchor the Waterford side’s defence.
Up front they gradually came to grips with Dungourney, and their dangerman Ben Gallagher, influential early on, hit two points, one a free, to tie matters up.
Denny, who dictated matters in the middle of the field with James Leahy for Dungourney, hit two more points, with Sean Cheasty responding with a spectacular score from an acute angle.
Ciarán Kirwan levelled the scores when Halley placed him with a clever 65, and the teams swapped points in the dying minutes of the half, a good Paudie Harney score matched by a Gallagher free before the break.
Five points apiece at the change of ends.
Dungourney were quickly into their stride on the resumption — Denny hit a long-range point from the throw-in, but Gallagher again responded, with a free and then a fine point from the wing. Denny, inevitably, equalised with a free.
Then Fenor came looking for a goal — a high ball into the Dungourney square was beaten out by Mark Hegarty, and a sequence of calm handpassing ended with a long delivery from Leahy into the opposing goalmouth: Griffin fielded well, beat a man and slammed home a fine goal to push his team three points ahead.
Shane Casey added a good point from the right wing a minute later, and it was all Dungourney. Denny pointed a long-range free, then fielded the resulting puck-out and drove the ball back over the bar. When Griffin hit another point at the three-quarter stage it was 1-11 to 0-7, and Fenor were struggling to keep up.
They never gave up, but they couldn’t make headway against an impressive Dungourney half-back line. As the game wore on, Fenor managed just one more point, while the final ten minutes saw the East Cork side hit five more points, a sweet strike from the left sideline by Paudie Harney the pick of the bunch. Fenor also lost Ben Gallagher in the last minute to a second yellow card.
The victory, which was greeted with jubilation by the sizeable Dungourney contingent in the Mallow stand, brings to an end Waterford’s run of victories at the grade — last year Modeligo joined Ballysaggart on the roll of honour.
Fenor launch their club history this week and were hoping to have one final glorious chapter to add before going to print, but it wasn’t to be.
For Dungourney, the celebrations were tempered by the knowledge that they face Glenmore of Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final. The 16 wides they hit yesterday would be fatal in that company. As they said in Gone With The Wind, however, that’s one to be worried about tomorrow.
R. Denny (0-2 65s, 0-6 fs) 0-11; J. Griffin 1-2; P Harney 0-2; S. Casey, S. Hegarty (f) 0-1 each.
B. Gallagher (0-3 fs) 0-5; C. Kirwan 0-2; S. Cheasty 0-1.
D. Hennessy, E. Ahern, M. Hegarty, M. Wall, J. Ronayne, J. Leahy, J. McCarthy, N. Motherway, R. Denny, Kenneth Kelleher, S. Hegarty, B. Ahern, J. Griffin, S. Casey, P. Harney.
Kevin Kelleher for Kenneth Kelleher, 50; K. Rohan ( c) for J. Leahy, 53; S. Hickey for J. Ronayne, 56; R. O’Neill for S. Casey, D. Murphy for J. Griffin, both 59.
R. Hennessy, F. Whelan, D. Kelly, L. Middleton, P. Kelly, J. Halley ( c), J. Flynn, N. Hennessy, A. Kiely, A. Whelan, C. Rockett, B. Gallagher, T. Campbell, C. Kirwan, S. Cheasty.
W. Cullinane for A. Whelan, HT; O. St John for Rockett, 47; D. Sullivan for P. Kelly, 52; E. Lonergan for T. Campbell, F. Cleary for N. Hennessy, both 57.
R. McGann (Clare).
Special mention to Mallow GAA for the condition of the grounds yesterday. One official said there was water flowing around the sides of the field at 9am, but the playing area was in top-class condition for throw-in, a considerable achievement given the weather for the three days beforehand.