Castlehaven and Duhallow must do it all over again after extra-time failed to separate them in an epic semi-final replay played in Páirc Uí Rinn last night. Duhallow had looked to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when Knocknagree’s Anthony O’Connor goaled in the 82nd minute to give his side a 2-15 to 1-17 lead.
However, huge credit must go to the ’Haven as they mustered one final attack and Conor Cahalane was the toast of the town when he slotted over the equaliser to rapturous cheers from the Castlehaven faithful.
This game was an example of senior football championship at its finest. It had everything from an exhibition of score-taking from Michael Hurley and Michael Vaughan, excellent goal-keeping from Anthony Seymour and Patrick Doyle, while there were plenty of spills, thrills and bellyaches for the large crowd to enjoy.
Both teams moved the ball fast both through the hands and with the foot, always looking to go forward and, while mistakes were frequent, they were always forgivable due to the positive intentions.
Duhallow had the better of the exchanges in general during the opening period, but the ’Haven never let them get too far ahead. Milstreet’s Michael Vaughan gave them the lead after 30 seconds and Donncha O’Connor doubled their lead soon after, but Castlehaven were soon level through Michael Hurley and a wonderful individual effort from Damien Cahalane.
Two O’Connor frees, another classy effort from Vaughan and a fizzing effort from Fintan O’Connor stretched Duhallow’s total out to six after 20 minutes, with Castlehaven only responding through Mark Collins and Michael Hurley.
Eoghan McSweeney then had a chance to put real daylight between the teams, but the Knocknagree man’s effort crashed off the crossbar, though Vaughan was on hand to tap over a point from the rebound.
Conor Cahalane then announced his arrival on the scene with two points from play, before Mark Collins levelled matters at 0-7 apiece as the first-half entered stoppage time, but there was still time for points from Aidan Walsh and Anthony O’Connor to give Duhallow a deserved 0-9 to 0-7 advantage at the interval.
The second-half belonged to Michael Hurley. The Cork star scorched through for a goal straight from the re-start and added four more points as the half progressed. It was an electric performance that saw him put his side in pole position. Vaughan and the evergreen Donncha O’Connor kept Duhallow in the hunt, but they looked in big trouble when they trailed by 1-14 to 0-12 with four minutes to go.
Séamus Hickey narrowed the gap to four, Doyle saved brilliantly from Conor Cahalane, before Darragh Moynihan pounced on a loose ball in the Castlehaven square and punched it home to leave the minimum between them. An injury-time equaliser from Vaughan then sent these too evenly matched sides into extra-time.
Inevitably, the pace dropped as the high-octane approach of both teams began to take its toll. The first period saw scores only from Conor O’Driscoll and Donncha O’Connor to leave the sides deadlocked at 1-15 each though Duhallow were again grateful to ’keeper Doyle, who saved brilliantly from Cahalane again.
The Haven seemed to have finally done enough when Mark Collins put them two in front with two close-in frees, particularly as Duhallow’s shooting boots had seemed to desert them as they kicked three wides in-a-row.
For the first time in the game, though, they didn’t look to go forward as they tried to hold onto possession in their own half. When Aidan Walsh turned it over and fed Anthony O’Connor for that goal, it seemed they would pay the ultimate cost, but Conor Cahalane’s heroics set the stage for part three of this saga next weekend.
Castlehaven: M Hurley 1-6, M Collins (frees) 0-4 and C Cahalane 0-4 each, D Cahalane (0-1 ’45) 0-2, C Maguire and C O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
Duhallow: M Vaughan 0-5 and D O’Connor (0-3 frees) 0-5 each, A O’Connor 1-1, D Moynihan 1-0, S Hickey 0-2, A Walsh and F O’Connor 0-1 each.
Castlehaven: A Seymour, R Walsh, D Limrick, C O’Sullivan, J Davis, Damien Cahalane, S Collins, M Collins, S Dineen, S Hurley, R Whelton, Darragh Cahalane, C Cahalane, B Hurley, M Hurley.
Subs: C O’Driscoll for Dineen (h/t), D McCarthy for Whelton (h/t), C Maguire for S Hurley (41 mins), J Walsh for Davis (53 mins), R Whelton for S Collins (f/t), J O’Regan for Whelton (inj, 66 mins), S Cahalane for O’Driscoll (h/t, e/t), S Nolan for M Hurley (inj, 76 mins).
Duhallow: P Doyle (Knocknagree), B Daly (Newmarket), J McLoughlin (Kanturk), K Crowley (Millstreet), L O’Neill (Kanturk), K Buckley (Knocknagree), L McLoughlin (Kanturk), P Walsh (Kanturk), A Walsh (Kanturk), F O’Connor (Knocknagree), D O’Connor (Ballydesmond), E McSweeney (Knocknagree), A O’Connor (Knocknagree), S Hickey (Rockchapel), M Vaughan (Millstreet).
Subs: J O’Connor (Boherbue) for F O’Connor (blood, 15th-16th min), D Moynihan (Ballydesmond) for A O’Connor (39 mins), K Cremin (Boherbue) for L McLoughlin (blood (45-46 mins), J O’Connor (Boherbue) for F O’Connor (55 mins), K Cremin (Boherbue) for Vaughan (inj, 67 mins), A O’Connor (Knocknagree) for Moynihan (h/t, e/t).
Referee: James Bermingham (Bride Rovers).