Then again, this wasn’t simply a first round clash. This was a West Cork derby.
Locking horns at Rosscarbery were two teams who couldn’t have enjoyed more contrasting fortunes last summer. The ‘Haven were beaten by Nemo in the county final replay while Clonakilty staved off relegation with their sole victory of the campaign over Aghada.
And yet, from the 10th to the 48th minute of this absorbing contest, it was Clonakilty who led. And even when sub Shane Nolan edged Castlehaven in front for only the second time on 53 minutes, their opponents returned swinging – sub Ian Falvey converting from the dead-ball having himself won the free. Castlehaven sub Darragh Cahalane kicked what would prove the winning score on 58 minutes, but not before James McCarthy’s charges survived a minute and a half of stoppages fraught with tension and incident.
An Ian Falvey delivery into the Haven square had several blue and white hooped jerseys flapping for possession before ‘keeper Paudie Hurley eventually took control of the situation. A Sean O’Donoghue effort in the ensuing passage was deflected out for a ’45 which Tom Clancy failed to convert having slipped on the greasy surface when approaching the kick.
It shouldn’t have been this close, should it?
“People said all we had to do was show up, but that is never the case in a West Cork derby,” said relieved Castlehaven manager James McCarthy.
“West Cork derbies always bring a bit of bite and that’s what you want. There was a great crowd, great atmosphere and it was a right good game. We’d love to have this type of game all the time. Fair play to Clon, they put it up to us big time.
“We are on the road a long time and I suppose the bit of experience showed.”
Having shared six points inside the opening quarter, last year’s county finalists were dealt a significant blow on 16 minutes with Brian Hurley black-carded for a late challenge on Clonakilty sweeper Gearoid Barry.
An air of vulnerability now hung over the favourites and Clon weren’t long in seizing on their opponents’ misfortune. Sean McEvoy kicked the underdogs in front after Liam O’Donovan pick-pocketed Shane Hurley in possession.
Their advantage was doubled as Zach Harrington, Denis Murphy, Falvey and Clancy combined in a sweeping move which ended with the latter splitting the posts.
Mark Collins, one of the few Haven players to swim against the tide in the opening half, ended a 12-minute barren spell to reduce the deficit to the minimum.
Momentum, though, was with Paul Holland’s side. Sean White and Denis Murphy were lording the midfield battle, while the youthful exuberance of David Lowney and Ross Mannix in attack delivered four first-half points; 0-8 to 0-5 the interval scoreline.
Castlehaven, as was to be expected, were a completely different animal at the change of ends.
Within three minutes of the restart, Michael Hurley had raised a white flag, Damien Cahalane dropped his shot into the grateful arms of James O’Brien while two further efforts were sent wide. This would be quite a long road home for Clon.
To be fair, though, Holland’s charges continued to take the game to their West Cork rivals and their three-point advantage was still intact entering the final quarter – Lowney (0-2), Mannix and McEvoy on target.
Mark Collins had, by this juncture, assumed responsibility for spearheading his team’s comeback effort and three second-half points from the boot of the Cork footballer were crucial in dragging Castlehaven back into contention.
Three on the trot from sub Shane Nolan, Conor Cahalane and Collins’ fourth levelled matters on 49 minutes, 0-12 apiece, and thereafter, only one outcome was likely. Clonakilty had expended vast amounts of energy in suppressing their opponents for large spells, but failure to open up a gap of greater than three points left the door ajar for Castlehaven. Just the one white flag raised in the closing 16 minutes didn’t help either.
M Collins (0-4); B Hurley (0-2 frees), S Nolan, M Hurley (0-2 each); C Cahalane, S Cahalane (0-1 free), Darragh Cahalane, Stephen Hurley (0-1 each).
R Mannix (0-4, 0-3 frees); D Lowney (0-3); S McEvoy, D Murphy (0-2 each); I Falvey (0-1 free), T Clancy (0-1 each).
P Hurley; J O’Regan, D Limrick, T O’Leary; C Hayes, Damien Cahalane, R Whelton; C Cahalane, D Hurley; Shane Hurley, M Hurley, Stephen Hurley; S Cahalane, C Cahalane, B Hurley.
Darragh Cahalane for B Hurley (16 mins, bc); S Nolan for Whelton (37), C Nolan for Hayes (53).
J O’Brien; T Clancy, Z Harrington, C Sheehy; G Murray, L O’Donovan, C O’Donovan; S White, D Murphy; D Lowney, G Barry, J Henry; S McEvoy, I Falvey, R Mannix.edge
P O’Sullivan for L O’Donovan (40 mins), S Nagle for Sheehy (54), S O’Donoghue for Henry (54).
K Murphy (Nemo Rangers).