The Rockies, who began with 10 of the starting team from the 2017 decider, found themselves in a spot of bother when trailing Carrigtwohill early in the second-half.
Having led 1-8 to 1-7 at the turnaround, Carrigtwohill stretched their advantage out to three, thanks to a brace from the sprightly Liam Gosnell and centre-forward Tomás Hogan.
Thereafter, however, they would not score again from play. A pair of Gosnell frees was their sum total across the closing 23 minutes of fare. The young corner-forward, excellent for Midleton CBS on their journey to the Harty Cup final earlier in the year, was their sole attacking threat, accounting for 0-11 of their 1-12 total and, with goalkeeper Shane Devlin having converted a first-half penalty, only one other outfield player wrote his name onto the scoresheet.
Not that it needs saying, but such reliance on a single individual never ends well. So it proved here, as a far more balanced Blackrock side — they finished with 10 scorers — roared into proceedings in the second-half to run out seven-point winners.
Central to their second-half push was centre-forward Alan O’Callaghan. He began their revival when knocking over a routine free and, after David O’Farrell narrowed the gap to the minimum, O’Callaghan tied proceedings for the fifth occasion, following Daniel Meaney’s excellent dispossession of Ronan Power.
The Rockies hit the front when O’Callaghan landed a monstrous free from well inside his own half and, though Gosnell squared matters with his seventh dead-ball effort of the afternoon, Carrigtwohill were totally overrun in the closing 12 minutes and were duly outscored by 0-8 to 0-1. O’Callaghan, standing on his own 45-metre line, landed his third free, with Kevin O’Keeffe (0-2, one free), Stephen Murphy, Mark O’Keeffe and Meaney also contributing.
Their 1-19 haul was all the more impressive when you consider Blackrock went into battle without three key members of their 2017 attack: Michael O’Halloran, Shane O’Keeffe and Ciarán Cormack. The last of these was listed among the replacements, though he did not feature, and, while O’Halloran is abroad, he is expected to be available when the championship is back up later in the summer.
Where management won’t be best pleased is their lethargic first-half showing. Three Gosnell frees had Blackrock on the backfoot from very early on and Carrigtwohill’s lead should have been doubled when the same player broke inside the cover, his shot superbly kept out by keeper David O’Shea.
We didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal of the contest, though. On 13 minutes, Alan O’Callaghan’s pass to Daniel Meaney cut open the opposition defence, with the midfielder holding his nerve to drill a low shot past Devlin.
The Carrigtwohill goalkeeper was to be involved in a second green flag, which materialised minutes later, trotting upfield to clinically dispatch a penalty past O’Shea after John Cashman upended Brendan McCarthy.
Carrigtwohill almost had a second goal when O’Shea miscontrolled a Gosnell sideline cut, but the danger was cleared.
Points from Tadhg Deasy and Eoin Smith to level proceedings sandwiched three missed opportunities by their opponents, but with the Blackrock defence having no solution to the movement and accuracy of Gosnell, they’d move back out in front approaching the break, as the corner-forward threw over three from play and two frees.
Ultimately, Carrigtwohill’s dependence on Gosnell to tally the vast bulk of their scores is what proved their undoing and, even if he did carry them for three quarters of an hour, it was unfair to place such responsibility on young shoulders.
A O’Callaghan (0-7, 0-3 frees); D Meaney (1-2); K O’Keeffe (0-3, 0-1 free); E Smith, D O’Farrell, S Murphy, G Regan, T Deasy, M O’Keeffe, J O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
L Gosnell (0-11, 0-8 frees); S Devlin (1-0, 1-0 pen); T Hogan (0-1).
D O’Shea; D Tyner, J Cashman, G Norberg; E Smith, N Cashman, A Murphy; D O’Farrell, D Meaney; S Murphy, A O’Callaghan, G Regan; T Deasy, K O’Keeffe, J O’Sullivan.
M O’Keeffe for O’Sullivan (47).
S Devlin; P O’Sullivan, P Hogan, C Harte; C O’Connell, R Power, A Walsh Barry; J Horgan, L O’Sullivan; S Roche, T Hogan, B Twomey; L Gosnell, B McCarthy, S Rohan.
J McCarthy for Roche (48 mins); S Dempsey for Power (54).
S Stokes (Tullylease).