The Turner’s Cross school, featuring nine of last year’s Frewen Cup (U16½AFC) winning squad, didn’t score after Mark Cronin made it 0-8 to 0-4 in the 46th minute, but crucially they only conceded two more points as they dug in strongly to claim this Corn Uí Mhuirí (Munster PPS U18½AFC) victory.
For joint-manager, Cork captain Paul Kerrigan, it was the kind of win that could stand to them.
“It was a unique situation, you could cut the tension with a knife,” he said.
“There was a lot of familiarity here, a lot of the players are probably on Rebel Óg squads together.
“We’re not going to play sparkling football all the time, and it’s good for them to know that they can come out of a battle too.
“Rochestown came with a good gameplan and for a lot of the first half they frustrated us. We had to work very hard for the scores, in fairness to Rochestown, and they had to work hard for theirs too.
“It was a game that felt like a draw all the way through, until the end.”
Críost Rí’s 2011 win remains Cork’s last triumph in the competition, while 2013 was the last time they had been in the semi-finals. Rochestown’s recent pedigree is stronger and, while Críost Rí had the better of the play for much of the first half, just a point separated the sides at half-time, 0-4 to 0-3 the score.
At midfield, Críost Rí captain Jack Ryan was very impressive with corner-back John Corcoran a stand-out too, but the swelled defensive ranks of ‘Roco’ made them difficult to break down while the switching of Eoghan Riordan and Nathan Walsh to the full-back line to pick up Cillian Myers Murray and Mark Cronin respectively did much to limit their influence.
When James Holland tied the game within 30 seconds of the restart, it appeared that the same even pattern would pertain for the second period, but slowly Críost Rí began to get a handle as they benefited from the greater space available.
Daniel Lucey put them ahead with a well-taken point while Cronin’s free to make it 0-6 to 0-4, following a flowing move, was the biggest lead the game had seen up until then. Mark Brosnan might have got the goal to put them out of sight, but when he and Cronin added further points, they looked relatively safe anyway, four clear with a quarter of the game left.
Dylan Ward pulled one back for Roco, but Críost Rí might have been in for a goal again, only for Brosnan’s pass to put Cronin through to be deemed illegal. In the next play, Cian Denn had a sight of goal for Rochestown but Barry Cripps’ heroic block denied him.
That was emblematic of Críost Rí’s desire not to allow a green flag and for the remaining seven points Roco could only muster a Holland free. Ward had a quarter-chance at the death but he fired across goal and Críost Rí prevailed.
Tralee CBS will be the semi-final opponents, on Saturday, February 4.
“The target for our lads was that we haven’t played in a semi-final or a final for a few years,” Kerrigan said. “We wanted to make sure that they played on a weekend for the school. We won’t fear anyone and I don’t think anyone will fear us. We spend a lot of the time working on ourselves, we have two weeks now to build it up.”
M Cronin (0-3, 1 free), C Myers Murray (0-2, frees), J Ryan, D Lucey M Brosnan (0-1 each).
J Holland 0-3 (1 free), D Ward, C Russell, M McAuliffe (0-1 each).
D Moran (St Finbarr’s); A McGowan (Nemo Rangers), B Cripps (Nemo Rangers), J Corcoran (Nemo Rangers); M Hitchmough (Shamrocks), P Cummins (St Michael’s), D Kelly (Douglas); J Ryan (Sliabh Rua), K Forde (Nemo Rangers); J Coughlan (Nemo Rangers), D Lucey (Mayfield), J O’Brien (St Finbarr’s); M Cronin (Nemo Rangers), M Brosnan (Carrigaline), C Myers Murray (St Finbarr’s).
R Dalton (Nemo Rangers) for Forde (30, injured), J O’Brien (Nemo Rangers) for Coughlan (58).
D O’Keeffe (Douglas); E Riordan (Carrigaline), R Ó Colmáin (St Michael’s), N Walsh (Douglas); D Corkery (St Michael’s), D Ward (Douglas), J Golden (St Michael’s); J Lyons (Nemo Rangers), C Denn (St Michael’s); D Andrews (Shamrocks); M McAuliffe (Douglas), L Grainger (St Michael’s); J Holland (Douglas), C Russell (Douglas), C O’Mahony (Douglas).
A Hennessy (St Michael’s) for Golden (27, injured), S Hilliard (Cobh) for Corkery (half-time), D Cormack (St Michael’s) for Andrews (45, injured), B Powter (Douglas) for Denn (57).
M Meade (Limerick).