The Cork college, having led for the opening 45 minutes of yesterday’s thrilling contest, found themselves three points in arrears and reduced to 14 men as the clock ticked into the fourth minute of second-half stoppages.
In a desperate last throw of the dice, Fermoy, having won a free just inside the opposition 45-metre line, sent several green shirts onto the edge of the St Flannan’s square in a bid to conjure up the required major. Centre-forward Diarmuid Lenihan stood over the placed ball and, in the most dramatic fashion imaginable, his strike travelled all the way to the net. 3-13 to 2-16 now read the scoreboard. Extra-time.
Greg Larnder was sprung from the bench as St Colman’s returned to the full complement for the two 10-minute periods. And it was they who retook the initiative with points from Jamie Sheehan and Lenihan (free). Points from Flannan’s midfield pair, Ross Hayes (free) and Sean Kennedy, sandwiched a Brian Roche effort, but Fermoy’s lead had extended to three come the turnaround. St Colman’s sub Eoin Carey made it 3-19 to 2-18 in the 71st minute and it was game over when Barry Murphy struck their fourth goal.
The winners had made most of the early running and led 1-3 to 0-2 after 10 minutes, Brian Roche, set-up by Shane O’Connor, beating ’keeper Ronan Callinan with a low strike. The Jamie O’Connor-coached St Flannan’s responded with four unanswered points through Tom O’Rourke (three frees) and Ross Hayes (free) to level up proceedings. There was, certainly, an over-reliance on this pair to provide the bulk of the Ennis College’s scores. In the end, they’d contribute 1-15 of their 2-19.
Two apiece from Lenihan and the lively Roche re-established St Colmans’ three-point cushion come the break. On 36 minutes, they moved further clear. Lenihan and Adam Creed were involved in putting through Barry Murphy and the full-forward made no mistake from close range.
Trailing by 2-10 to 0-9, the road back looked bleak for the Clare outfit. To their credit, though, they’d outscore their opponents by 2-5 to 0-1 in the ensuing quarter of an hour to hit the front for the first time.
Their opening goal was the direct product of a superb Gearoid Cahill run through the centre of the Colman’s defence. The full-forward offloaded to O’Rourke and the corner-forward’s drive flew past keeper Eoin Davis.
Less than two minutes later, Flannan’s celebrated a second goal, and the lead, as Sean Meaney reacted quickest to a Ross Hayes delivery. Cahill and O’Rourke (free) split the posts in the subsequent action and, all of a sudden, the underdogs were 2-14 to 2-11 clear.
That gap carried through into time added on and Fermoy’s day looked done when full-back Jamie O’Leary received a straight red card for a frontal challenge on Cahill.
That Colman’s prevailed spoke volumes for the character and belief in this team.
D Lenihan (1-10, 1-9 frees); B Roche (1-5); B Murphy (2-1); J Sheehan (0-2); A Creed, J Mehigan, E Carey, C Cronin (0-1 each).
T O’Rourke (1-11, 0-9 frees); R Hayes (0-4, 0-4 frees); S Meaney (1-1); G Cahill (0-2), S Kennedy (0-1).
E Davis (St Catherine’s); E Roche (Bride Rovers), J O’Leary (Castlelyons); E Wallace (St Catherine’s); S McCarthy (Fermoy), N O’Leary (Castlelyons), K Neville (St Catherine’s); S O’Connor (Bride Rovers), S Kenny (Ballyduff Upper); B Roche (Bride Rovers), D Lenihan (Ballyhooly), J Sheehan (Kilworth); F Hickey (Ballyduff Upper), B Murphy (Castlelyons), A Creed (Fermoy).
G Lardner (Fermoy) for Kenny (41 mins); D Dennehy (Watergrasshill) for Creed (50, inj); E Carey Kilworth) for Hickey (58); C Cronin (Watergrasshill) for Dennehy (60); J Mehigan for Lardner (70).
R Callinan (Kilmaley); M Russell (Clarecastle), P Casey (Ballyea), E Thynne (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield); C Donnelly (Clarecastle), D Mescall (Inagh-Kilnamona), E Wallace (Clarecastle); R Hayes (Crusheen), S Kennedy (Kilmaley); E O’Hara (Clarecastle), C Haugh (Ruane), T Hannon (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield); T O’Rourke (Kilmaley), G Cahill (Corofin), S Meaney (Kilmaley).
D O’Brien (Eire Óg) for O’Hara (37 mins); N Galvin (Clarecastle) for Meaney (56); S Meaney for Kennedy (70, inj); C McNamara (Clarecastle) for Donnelly (75).
R Moloney (Limerick).