Last year, the East Cork club’s time at senior looked to have come to an end after 14 years when they lost to Bishopstown in a relegation play-off, but a reprieve was granted as part of modifications to the championship system. Two wins from seven RedFM SHL games ahead of yesterday had them going in as underdogs, but for three-quarters of the game they looked like comfortable winners.
While Seán Bourke opened the scoring for Muskerry inside a minute, it was the only time they led as Killeagh responded with a goal, David Cahill producing a lovely finish from Shane Smiddy’s pass. The corner-forward repeated the feat in the 19th minute to make it 2-3 to 0-4 and three unanswered points at the outset of the second half put them eight clear, 2-8 to 0-6.
Colin Murphy’s goaled 65 gave Muskerry renewed belief and frees from him had the divisional side within a point with six minutes left. Killeagh kept their composure, though, and Eoghan Keniry got a third goal to rubber-stamp progression to a first-round tie with Newtownshandrum.
“The victory is very pleasing,” said Killeagh manager Mark Landers afterwards, “but the manner of it was even more so.
“We had gone eight points ahead and Muskerry came at us and brought it back to a point with only a few minutes left on the clocks. We showed fierce character and I thought, in particular, Eoghan Keniry did that. He had missed a couple of frees in the first half but he got them in the second half and got the goal that decided it.”
Keniry finished with 1-6 while Daniel Walsh and Shane Smiddy also impressed on the scoring front as five of the six starting attackers registered for Killeagh. Two Keniry points in the wake of Ian Barry-Murphy scoring for Muskerry early on made it 1-3 to 0-3 and but for a great Niall Buckley block, Cahill would have had another goal. While Mark O’Sullivan had another response for the Mid-Cork side, another green flag wasn’t long in arriving.
Keniry was involved in the build-up, finding Gary Leahy, whose shot was well-saved by Paul Hallissey — a late addition to the Muskerry side – only for Cahill to pull the rebound home.
Mark O’Sullivan wasn’t far away with a Muskerry goal attempt, but by half-time Killeagh had pulled 2-5 to 0-5 clear and Leahy’s point within a minute of the restart was followed by two from Keniry, one a free.
Colin Murphy’s frees were just about keeping Muskerry in touch, and their importance was amplified when a goal came as Murphy’s 65 dropped in for 2-9 to 1-7.
Cahill might have responded in kind after Daniel Walsh’s excellent overhead handpass set him away, but his low shot flew across goal and wide. Walsh’s point did push them six clear again but Muskerry had found some momentum and Murphy’s frees were allied with points from Joe Jordan and Seán O’Donoghue to cut the gap to the minimum.
It was a time for Killeagh to answer questions, and they did so. Collins set up Smiddy for a point and then Keniry brought relief as his mazy run ended with him firing home a ground shot after losing possession.
Muskerry will have to face either Erin’s Own or Cork IT in round 2B, while Killeagh advance to a first-round tie with Newtown.
“We’ve a very committed panel of players,” Lander said.
“We got the two goals early on and might have got a few more, ultimately you have to keep going for 60 minutes and that’s what was borne out today. Our lads had to fight on their backs for an hour, you’d have to give credit to Muskerry for the way they came back into the game but ultimately it’s the winner takes all.
“We’ve two more matches guaranteed, we’ll be training Tuesday night now and we’ll hope that everyone will be there and raring to go for the next round.”
E. Keniry (1-6, 3 frees, 1 65); D. Cahill (2-1); D. Walsh (0-3); S. Smiddy (0-2); G. Leahy (0-1)
C. Murphy (1-8, 1-0 65, 7 frees); S. Bourke (0-2); M. O’Sullivan, S. O’Donoghue, I. Barry-Murphy, J. Jordan (0-1 each)
B. Rochford; S. Murphy, P. Carroll, C. Fogarty; K. Murphy, P. O’Brien, K. Lane; M. Fitzgerald, B. Collins; J. O’Connor, D. Walsh, S. Smiddy; E. Keniry, G. Leahy, D. Cahill.
A Keniry for Fitzgerald (34), S Treacy for O’Connor (55).
J. O’Keeffe (Inniscarra); J. Carey (Dripsey), Alan O’Mahony (Éire Óg), N. Buckley (Aghabullogue); D. O’Connor (Éire Óg), J. Jordan (Blarney), D. O’Herlihy (Éire Óg); M. Coleman (Blarney), S. O’Donoghue (Inniscarra); C. Casey (Inniscarra), S. Bourke (Grenagh), D. Bowen (Ballincolig); I. Barry-Murphy (Aghabullogue), M. O’Sullivan (Dripsey), C. Murphy (Blarney).
Aidan O’Mahony (Inniscarra) for Casey (16, injured), M. Coleman (Blarney) for O’Herlihy (34), J. Ryan (Cloughduv) for Bowen, C. Cotter (Kilmichael) for Aidan O’Mahony (both 47).
C. Lyons (Nemo Rangers).