Spirit of Glen Rovers adds lustre to rich and special tradition

Glen Rovers 0-19 Erin’s Own 2-11: Acentury ago, Glen Rovers GAA club was formed in Blackpool. When the club applied to register, the GAA official voiced his ignorance. He was told he’d hear of the Glen soon enough.

Spirit of Glen Rovers adds lustre to rich and special tradition

That promise was fulfilled. Decades of achievement mean that the famous green, black, and gold jersey is known throughout the GAA world, and yesterday’s county final win came from a playbook recognisable to older Glen followers.

A tough, physical game narrowed into a frantic closing period, but, with a senior title up for grabs, the Glen found a way to breast the tape just ahead of their counterparts, blending belief and know-how, and maybe something else, to get the win.

Erin’s Own were the side in the opposite corner yesterday, and, based on their ability to get goals, they looked like bringing the Seán Óg Murphy Cup back to Glounthaune, as the game entered the final ten minutes.

They had the momentum and were ahead on the scoreboard; their physically powerful forwards were making the ball stick up-front; and their opponents, dominant in the first-half but wasteful on the scoreboard, were struggling to get a sight of goal themselves.

In those closing stages, however, the Glen’s experience was surely a factor. Erin’s Own had some survivors from their fine team of a decade ago — the last Cork club side to put titles back-to-back — but, for many of their players, it was a first county final.

The Glen would surely empathise with their opponents, having learned a cruel lesson themselves in the 2014 final, against Sarsfields, but, yesterday, they showed lessons are only absorbed when applied.

In the last few minutes, they could look to a gritty refusal to lose, the benefits of Dave Moriarty’s conditioning work, and key players making key plays, none more than Patrick Horgan.

The Cork star hit six of the last seven points, which made the scoreboard turn, including the injury-time score that put the Glen three ahead.

The Glen’s efficiency was a long-time coming. At half-time, it was 1-3 to 0-11, with Erin’s Own managing two scores from play: Their opener, from Eoghan Murphy, and James O’Flynn’s neatly finished goal; the Glen had 11 scores and eight wides, a reasonable indication of their general superiority.

They brought all the intensity to the middle of the field and their half-back line, of David Dooling, Brian Moylan and Graham Callahan, gave them the launchpad for success.

Credit Erin’s Own, who put the Glen to the pin of their collars with a ferocious second-half: Maurice O’Carroll’s superb finish, from a tight angle, and Murphy’s dead-eyed accuracy nudged the men from Glounthaune two ahead coming into the closing stages.

Horgan then took the game not so much by the scruff of the neck as the entire shirt-front, hitting those points.

In injury-time, he embodied the nightmare of every club manager in Cork, winning the ball and soloing down the left-wing with the time and space to pick his shot: His score had a finality to it, a sense that it underlined the Glen’s credentials.

Erin’s Own went out on their shields, nonetheless. They came looking for a late, late equalising goal, and worked the ball deep enough into the Glen half for that to be a live possibility, but Cathal O’Mahony’s shot flew over the bar. Full-time: 0-19 to 2-11.

A county final takes on a wider significance, of course.

How would yesterday function as a barometer of the health of Cork hurling, in a year when the county lost to Wexford for the first time in six decades, for instance?

If nothing else, it indicated the size of the task facing Cork manager, Kieran Kingston, and his backroom team.

In the warm glow of memory, the autumn decider was usually the spark for a thousand animated conversations, fuelling the long walk up the Marina, with prospects for the red jersey the following spring newly discovered in break-out performances.

Granted, the route has changed significantly, with the strolling crowd thronging the Boreenmanna Road on its way to the city centre, but has the substance of those discussions remained constant?

Yesterday, for instance, Robbie O’Flynn was the player most neutral observers came to see with a view to the National Hurling League next year: Is that too soon for him? Do Cork have any choice?

In the curtain-raiser, Fermoy hit a cracking goal at the start of the second-half to jolt the Premier Intermediate final to life.

Bandon, their opponents, had a touch more fluency and relied on their ability to score from out-the-field, but their north Cork opponents made them earn the win in a notably hard-hitting game, one which ended with a couple of bad-tempered red cards and little in the way of fresh blood for Kingston and Co.

Glen Rovers and Erin’s Own would, no doubt, retort that their mission statement, yesterday, was focused on a result around 5.20pm, rather than next February or March.

But the fact remains that two of the main architects of their clubs’ successful runs, Graham Callanan, of the Glen, and Shane Murphy, of Erin’s Own, were Cork senior panellists a decade ago.

It’s a tribute to their dedication, conditioning, and attitude that they are able to dominate the local championship, at this point in their careers, but it’s no endorsement of opponents a decade younger than them.

This will hardly detain either club. The Glen’s celebrations kicked off with the traditional rendition of ‘The Night The Goat Broke Loose’, directly after the presentation of the trophy, but those celebrations will hardly have the raw edge of emotion of last year, when a quarter-century famine was ended.

Erin’s Own will be heartbroken this morning, but a sober evaluation of their year will show progress. The test for them, next season, is to use the experience of losing a county final as the foundation stone for an assault on the 2017 title.

The test for the Glen comes a little sooner, in the shape of an encounter with the Limerick county champions, in the Munster club championship.

That’s a challenge to consider next week, though. Now is for basking in two titles in a row — as the hero of the hour, Patrick Horgan, said after the game yesterday, back-to-back county championships were a distant prospect when the Glen were destroyed by Sarsfields in that 2014 final.

It might not be as emotional as last year’s win — no title could be — but, in the cold light of day, they’ll see the achievement for what it was.

From the beginning, 100 years ago, the Glen took pride, ahead of games, in something intangible, something that they believed set them apart from other clubs, when it came to the crucible of the championship: The spirit of the Glen.

Yesterday, they showed how something intangible can be real, if you believe in it.

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