Sarsfields, Midleton, Carrigtwohill and Glen Rovers have all fallen at Munster’s first hurdle in recent years, with the Glen, who open their provincial campaign away to Limerick champions Patrickswell this Sunday, bidding to become the first Cork club since Newtownshandrum to follow up their county championship triumph with a win on the road.
Mind you, the rot had set in long before the winter of 2010. Newtownshandrum’s three titles (2003, ‘05 and ‘09) aside, no other Cork club has conquered Munster since Midleton edged out Cappawhite by the minimum in the 1987 final.
Glen Rovers manager Richie Kelleher believes the inability of the Cork champions to move beyond the Munster semi-final for the past six years is linked to the dip in fortunes of the Cork hurling team during the same period.
“Cork’s recent record in this competition would have a bearing on how we look at this weekend’s semi-final because it shows what we’re up against. Cork teams have struggled at this level in the last couple of years. Cork have struggled at inter-county over the last number of years,” he remarked.
“Clare won the All-Ireland in 2013, Tipp are All-Ireland champions as we speak. They’ve been strong at Munster Club level. Limerick, who won an All-Ireland U21 and have been competitive at senior inter-county, have won the last three Munster Club titles.”
Kelleher added: “The struggle of Cork teams can be put down to a bit of luck, commitment from guys, picking the right players. There is so much that goes into it. It is never one thing.”
The hurlers of Sarsfields, Carrigtwohill and Midleton would probably agree.
As De La Salle’s Bryan Phelan struck a ‘65 with the clock in the red at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Sarsfields’ Daniel Roche was adjudged to have deliberately moved in front of Phelan.
The ‘65 went wide, but referee Seamus Roche awarded a free which the Waterford champions slotted to reduce the gap to the minimum.
And then, in the fourth minute of second-half stoppages, De La Salle centre-back Kevin Moran struck a glorious equaliser from close to the right touchline near halfway to force extra-time. On a scoreline of 0-22 to 2-15 it finished in favour of the visitors.
Carrigtwohill led Crusheen 0-8 to 0-6 at the break. They should, however, have been further clear.
Said Carrigtwohill manager James O’Connor afterwards: “We had a couple of goal chances, but the ball just wouldn’t go in. We had wave after wave of attack, but we’d go in so far and could not finish it off.” It ended 0-19 to 1-10 in Crusheen’s favour.
Thurles Sarsfields and Cork champions Sarsfields were level 1-18 to 2-15 heading into additional time.
The latter were again undone by injury-time heroics, with Thurles sub Richie Ruth firing to the net in the 61st minute to propel the Tipperary champions into the Munster decider.
Conor Lehane’s 50th minute rasper, at a time when Midleton were on the comeback trail, skinned the outside of the post at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and ended up in the side-netting.
The Midleton sharpshooter was well shackled as Sixmilebridge scored a 1-17 to 1-13 semi-final win.
More extra-time heartache for Sarsfields, this time away to Kilmallock. Pat Ryan’s charges were six in arrears with 10 minutes remaining and while a Kieran Murphy kicked goal prolonged their challenge, Paddy O’Loughlin and Graeme Mulcahy hit successive points in the second period of extra-time to send the home team through.
Ballygunnner won the toss at Walsh Park and elected to play into the gale. Glen Rovers were five up at the break but were hit for 10 unanswered points upon the resumption. Indeed, Ballygunner ended up outscoring their opponents 0-16 to 1-1 in the second-half to run out seven-point winners.
“Them winning the toss and knowing they would have that strong wind in the second-half was a big factor,” reflected Kelleher. “Now, that wasn’t the sole deciding issue. They were a big strong team and put us away.”
He’s desperately hoping they won’t depart the Gaelic Grounds with that same feeling in the pit of their stomach.
“We struggled last year. We might struggle again this year. I didn’t think we’d win the county this year. We did. It would be great to now buck this trend of Cork clubs going out early because Cork needs a boost. We will do our best to provide that boost.”