Éire Óg had to overturn a seven-point second-half deficit in Mourneabbey on Saturday to qualify for the Cork Premier IFC quarter-final. Last year’s semi-finalists produced a devastating fourth quarter that saw them come from 2-9 to 0-8 behind to prevail by one.
The rally was initiated by Cork senior Ronan O’Toole who hit the net in the 45th minute. His goal was followed by a run of five points — a brace from effective second-half substitute Kevin Hallissey — and former Cork player and top scorer Daniel Goulding’s goal enabled them go three ahead with five minutes left to play, and ultimately hold out.
Éire Óg manager Harry O’Reilly didn’t hide his relief: “That was a battle. We knew that coming here. There are 15 teams in this competition and there is only a kick of the ball between every team. It is the best competition in Cork as it is the most even.
"We knew what we were up against, they gave us a beating in the league. We were prepared for it, but we were very slack starting off. We were lackadaisical in the first half. I thought we were dead and buried at one stage, we were under fierce pressure.
All we wanted was to be in the hat for the next day. With 15, 20 minutes left it looked like we weren’t going to be in the hat so I’m delighted.
That draw sees them up against another mid Cork team Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, a side they beat by three points in round one last year. Éire Óg were quickest out of the blocks moving 0-4 to 0-1 up but Newmarket drew level and were a point ahead when full back Alan Ryan came up field to blast a penalty after Barry O’Connor was fouled.
Points followed from Conor O’Keeffe and Daniel Culloty to push them five clear approaching half-time. The loss of Ryan to a black card was a blow — Éire Óg closing with two Goulding points to leave the interval score, 1-6 to 0-6.
The Duhallow men restarted emphatically when Culloty found the net after brilliant work by O’Keeffe. They remained in the ascendancy kicking some fine points, the advantage was out to seven midway through the half.
Then Éire Óg upped their game. Inspired substitutions - including Hallissey - and a fantastic goal from O’Toole after a lengthy run ignited their challenge.
They were on a roll and Goulding’s goal put them three clear. Newmarket brought the deficit back to one point — O’Keeffe the scorer of their last three points — and even with seven minutes of additional time, they couldn’t get any closer.
Éire Óg fielded without goalkeeper Chris Kelly who was suspended for 12 months earlier in the week. “Chris is a big player for us. He is a Cork player. He is a very dedicated player. Chris lives for football. Of all them lads there, he lives for it, he breathes it night and day. We feel upset for him more than anything else,” said O’Reilly.
D Goulding (1-8, 0-5 frees), R O’Toole (1-1), K Hallissey and J Murphy (0-2 each), C O’Callaghan (0-1).
D Culloty (1-3, 0-1 free), C O’Keeffe (0-7, 0-3 frees), A Ryan (1-0 pen), K O’Sullivan (0-2), B O’Connor (0-1).
E Kelleher; J Kelleher, J Mullins, D Herlihy; D Dineen, John Cooper, D McCarthy; L Sheehan, R O’Toole; E O’Shea, J Murphy, C O’Callaghan; D Goulding (Capt), D Murphy, B Hurley.
K Hallissey for D Murphy (37), M Corkery for J Mullins (43), Joe Cooper for E O’Shea (46), M O’Shea for J Kelleher (59), A O’Mahony for L Sheehan (60).
J O’Keeffe; P Browne, A Ryan, J Guiney; P Allen (Capt), B Daly, A Browne; M Cottrell, C Browne; R O’Keeffe, T O’Keeffe, K O’Sullivan; B O’Connor, C O’Keeffe, D Culloty.
J Ryan for A Ryan (28 BC), TJ Brosnan for R O’Keeffe (48), D Hannon for C Browne (50), G Forde for P Browne (55), TJ Bodie for T O’Keeffe (59).
Patrick O’Driscoll (Bride Rovers).