There was drama aplenty in Castlemartyr yesterday evening as Aghada saw off the challenge of their neighbours from Cloyne in a gripping first round encounter of the Cork PIHC.
Where to begin? Cian Fleming’s two goals? The 38-minute second-half? A string of last-gasp saves from Dónal Óg Cusack and Trevor O’Keeffe? Or the late Cloyne penalty that went over rather than under the bar?
When the dust settled, however, it was Aghada’s powerful final quarter that made the difference. Aaron Berry levelled the game for the seventh time in the 43rd minute and from there to the end, Aghada outscored Cloyne by 0-7 to 0-2.
Tim Hartnett came alive with two points from midfield, Michael Russell registered three placed balls and Pierce O’Neill just rolled back the years in making room for others to profit from his good work.
Michael Cahill pointed for Cloyne, but crucially for them, Brian O’Shea’s penalty sailed over the bar which left time for Fleming and Daniel Creedon to stretch their team’s lead from a dangerous three to an unassailable five and spark celebrations from the Aghada faithful that were more akin to September than May.
Their manager, Alan Morrissey, tried to put it into words what the victory meant to them. “Cloyne have had the better of us for years. We were down a few bodies but we’d some young players who stepped up toit.
We badly needed it. We didn’t win a game last year. The county final (in 2017) was the last game we won, and we really wanted to put that right today. It’s just amazing, I can’t put words to it.
What will make the victory all the sweeter for Aghada was that two of their star forwards, Will Leahy and John Looney, were out injured. And their loss was felt in the opening half when Cloyne had the better of proceedings.
Cian Motherway put them ahead after four minutes, while Paudie O’Sullivan, Dylan Cahill, Keith Dennehy and O’Shea also found the mark. Aghada struggled for scores, relying on two frees each from Russell and Mark McCarthy before Kevin O’Hanlon had their first point from play in the 27th minute to level the game for the fourth time at 0-5 apiece.
Dylan Cahill edged Cloyne back in front, but they would be left rueing their profligacy in the opening half as they shot eight wides, five from frees and were dealt a sucker punch on the stroke of half-time when Cian Fleming bundled the ball beyond Cusack after Pierce O’Neill’s initial effort was saved.
O’Sullivan and Dennehy responded to make it even-stevens at the break and Cloyne pushed ahead with points from the same players on the resumption as it was Aghada who began to rack up the wides.
Their cause came alive again though, when Fleming pounced for his second goal, batting home after great work from O’Hanlon and Kaelin O’Donoghue. O’Sullivan and Michael Cahill pushed Cloyne ahead again, but from there to the end it was all about Aghada whose pace, poise and, as Morrissey pointed out, greater cause would see them home.
At the end of it, we were fighting for another man outside, Kieran O’Connor, he’s in our thoughts big time. We’re wearing the wrist bands for him, he’s keeping on the fight inside the hospital and we’ll battle like mad for him out here.
C Fleming (2-1); M Russell (0-5, 4 frees, 1 ’65); M McCarthy (1 free, 1 ’65) and T Hartnett (0-2 each); D Creedon, A Berry and K O’Hanlon (0-1 each).
P O’Sullivan (0-4, 2 frees, 1 ’65); K Dennehy (0-3, 1 free); M Cahill D Cahill and B O’Shea (0-1 s/line, 0-1 pen) (0-2 each); C Motherway (0-1).
T O’Keeffe, J O’Donoghue, D Rice, A O’Connell, J McDonald, S Wall, M McCarthy, T Hartnett, M Russell, D Creedon, P O’Neill, A Berry, K O’Hanlon, C Fleming, A Stafford. Subs: K O’Donoghue for Stafford (22 mins), J Tynan for Rice (46 mins), R Kennedy for Berry (59 mins).
D Óg Cusack, J Sherlock, E Motherway, D Jermyn, B Minihane, P O’Sullivan, B O’Shea, C Smith, C Motherway, B Walsh, D O’Sullivan, D Cahill, M Cahill, C O’Sullivan, K Dennehy. Subs: C Mullins for Walsh (h/t), I Cahill for E Motherway (42 mins), J Hallihan for D O’Sullivan (blood, 56 mins-end).
Ger Scully (Killeagh).