A rousing finish from Glen Rovers - during which they hit 1-4 without reply - saw Richie Kelleher’s charges avenge last year’s county championship exit at the hands of Midleton.
Trailing by 0-15 to 0-12 entering the final quarter, and having not led since the 14th minute of the first-half, Glen Rovers’ fate appeared to be sealed when Midleton talisman Conor Lehane slipped inside David Dooling and found himself one-on-one with opposition goalkeeper Cathal Hickey.
The Midleton crowd rose to their feet to cheer the expectant goal, but Hickey threw himself at Lehane’s low drive and the sliotar rebounded to safety. The Glen quickly worked possession up the field and you could sense the momentum shifting when the play ended with Patrick Horgan splitting the posts from distance.
Lehane may have redeemed himself shortly after when seamlessly cutting inside two Glen defenders to fire his 11th point of the contest on 50 minutes, but it was to prove his team’s last of the day.
The sides were level a minute later, Simon Kennefick blasting to the net following a powerful burst through the centre of the Midleton rearguard by Dean Brosnan. The overtaking score was straight out of the top drawer, Horgan nailing a free from the 45-metre line of his own half. Thereafter, Conor Dorris’ fourth and Hoggy’s ninth saw them across the line with four to spare, scarcely believable in the context of a second-half where, at one stage, the winners found themselves four adrift of last year’s beaten county finalists.
“Cathal Hickey has saved us on many occasions throughout the years and he did so again here,” said Glen manager Richie Kelleher of the goalkeeper’s pivotal second-half intervention.
“When Conor Lehane got it, you are thinking this is a back of the net job. In fairness to Cathal, he just threw his body at it and we went up the field and got a score. It lifted everyone.”
Kelleher added: “We started okay, but then we were chasing them and chasing them. They were doing a lot of moving all over the pitch. We were trying to hold our defensive shape which meant they had a lot of space out around midfield. With Conor Lehane at full-forward for them, we couldn't afford to get sucked out the field. We just think we are that bit tougher, we dug in, got the scores and the breaks at the end.”
Stationing Stephen McDonnell at full-back to stand beside Lehane was never an option for the Glen, what with McDonnell undergoing surgery on his knee as recently as a fortnight ago. The Cork senior, who operated between midfield and the half-forward line, tired in the second period and was withdrawn in the final quarter.
His Cork teammates dominated the opening exchanges and the first-half was nearly as much Patrick Horgan versus Conor Lehane, as it was Glen Rovers versus Midleton. The East Cork side were marginally ahead at the break, 0-11 to 0-10, with Lehane’s scoreboard contribution also slightly better than that of his Cork forward colleague.
The Midleton sharpshooter finished the half with 0-8 beside his name, half of that tally arriving from play, including a sumptuous effort in front of the main stand as he was falling to the ground. He was equally effective from the dead-ball, converting three frees - one of which he won himself - and a ‘65 arising from a fine Hickey save to deny Tommy O’Connell. Hickey was again alert when Lehane went low from a 20-metre free, the Glen ‘keeper knocking the sliotar over the crossbar.
Down the other end, Horgan was responsible for 0-4 of the Glen’s 0-10. It was he who earned the sole free which he stroked between the posts in that opening half, as well as setting up Liam Coughlan for both of his white flags. The Glen supporting cast was far more prominent on the scoresheet than those assisting Lehane, with Conor Dorris clipping three from play.
Ross O’Regan, Lehane (free), and Seán O’Meara moved the Magpies into a 0-14 to 0-10 lead six minutes into the second period, but, tellingly, they’d manage only two further scores in the closing 24 minutes.
Minus Luke O’Farrell, Finbarr O’Mahony and Padraig Nagle, rest assured that a full-strength Midleton will have a sizeable say yet in the championship.
For now, though, it is the Glen who are sitting pretty.
Scorers for Glen Rovers: P Horgan (0-9, 0-4 frees); C Dorris (0-4); L Coughlan (0-3 each); S Kennefick (1-0); D Tynan (0-1).
Scorers for Midleton: C Lehane (0-11, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ‘65); S O’Meara, R O’Regan (0-2 each); C Beausang (0-1).
Glen Rovers: C Hickey; D Morris, D Dooling, A Lynch; R Downey, B Moylan, D Noonan; S McDonnell, A O’Donovan; D Brosnan, S Kennefick, D Tynan; C Dorris, P Horgan, L Coughlan.
Subs: G Kennefick for McDonnell, D Cronin for Tynan (both 49 mins).
Midleton: T Wallace; P O’Farrell, E Moloney, S Smyth; S O’Farrell, S O’Leary Hayes, L Dineen; C Walsh, T O’Connell; A Ryan, S O’Meara, C Beausang; G Manley, C Lehane, R O’Regan.
Subs: E Mitchell for O’Farrell (43); J Hegarty for Ryan (47).
Referee: C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).