Last season’s semi-finalists looked destined to open their campaign on a sour note after conceding five points on the bounce between the 39th and 43rd minute to fall 1-14 to 1-9 behind. Flannan Cleary’s students had already pegged back a six-point deficit late on in the first half and they were going to be hard pressed to repeat the trick as the clock ticked into the final quarter.
But fight back they did, and it was a pretty remarkable 10-minute burst that St Colman’s produced coming down the home stretch to run out four-point winners and, in the process, secure top spot in group E.
A Niall O’Leary free on 50 minutes — the St Colman’s centre-back, along with Jamie Sheehan, was the outstanding performer for the winners — represented their first score in almost a quarter of an hour. Two minutes later and it was game back on as Sheehan, set-up by sub Diarmuid Lenihan, whipped the sliotar to the Midleton net, to make it a one-point ball game, 1-14 to 2-10.
Momentum was now firmly with Fermoy and but for a fine save from Midleton CBS keeper Ross Walsh, Brian Roche would have been the provider of goal number three. As it was, O’Leary converted the resulting ’65 and Fermoy hit the front for the first time since the 30th minute when O’Leary nailed another placed ball effort in the subsequent action.
A Diarmuid Lenihan point and O’Leary’s fifth of the afternoon completed an eight-point swing with the clock in the red.
Midleton required a green flag to force extra-time and the sizeable crowd in attendance braced themselves for an additional two periods when lively corner-forward Liam O’Shea skipped inside two green shirts. His low shot, though, crashed off the post.
Fermoy swept down the field where Brian Murphy rubber-stamped the win.
How different the landscape had been at half-time, as 1-4 without reply from Midleton had edged them into a 1-7 to 1-6 interval lead. Jamie Sheehan’s opening goal, followed as it was by a superb Niall O’Leary point, had put Fermoy 1-6 to 0-3 in front after 22 minutes.
The remainder of the half, however, belonged to Midleton with Liam O’Shea (1-1) and Liam Gosnell (0-3 frees) wreaking havoc inside.
The pair were to the fore in delivering that second period of dominance midway through the second half, but five wides during this spell, at a time when Fermoy were there for the taking, was to prove their downfall.
Midleton, despite the defeat, still progress to the knockout stages, though their last 16 opponents are not yet known.
J Sheehan (2-4, 0-4 frees); N O’Leary (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘65); B Murphy (0-2); S O’Connor, B Roche, A Creed, D Lenihan (0-1 each).
L O’Shea (1-3, 0-1 free); L Gosnell (0-6, 0-4 frees); C Terry (0-2); P O’Brien, S O’Meara, J Stack (0-1 each).
E Davis (St Catherine’s); E Wallace (St Catherine’s), K Neville (St Catherine’s), R O’Sullivan (Fermoy); S McCarthy (Fermoy), N O’Leary (Castlelyons), E Roche (Bride Rovers); S O’Connor (Bride Rovers), C Cronin (Watergrasshill); D Lardner (Fermoy), J Sheehan (Kilworth), B Roche (Bride Rovers); J Mehigan (Ballyhooly), B Murphy (Castlelyons), A Creed (Fermoy).
J Scannell (Fermoy) for McCarthy (HT), F Hickey (Ballyduff Upper) for Mehigan (38 mins), D Lenihan (Ballyhooly) for C Cronin (47), S Kenny (Ballyduff Upper) for Lardner (50), C Ryan (Bride Rovers) for A Creed (62).
R Walsh (St Colman’s), J Landers (Killeagh), A Daly (Midleton), E O’Sullivan (St Colman’s); R McConville (Midleton), S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), A Walsh Barry (Carrigtwohill); B Twomey (Carrigtwohill), G Millerick (Fr O’Neill’s); C Power (Midleton), C Terry (Aghada), S O’Meara (Midleton); L O’Shea (Lisgoold), P O’Brien (Midleton), L Gosnell (Carrigtwohill).
J Stack (Kiltha Óg) for C Power (35 mins), C Gunning (Midleton) for McConville (48), L Duggan Murray (St Colman’s) for Millerick (58).
S Stokes (Tullylease).