A first county SFC quarter-final since 2011 awaits Newcestown after they dug deep to see off Mallow at Coachford on Saturday evening.
While the West Cork side didn’t score after captain Carthach Keane capped a fine display with a point to put them 0-15 to 0-11 ahead in the 52nd minute, their defending was strong enough to ensure that their opponents couldn’t overtake them.
Against Valley Rovers the previous week, Tadgh Twomey scored 1-4 for Newcestown, but this time he wasn’t on the scoresheet, albeit ensuring that he gave James Loughrey enough to think about so the Cork star couldn’t put his stamp on the game in an attacking sense.
The winners had seven scorers and manager Tom Wilson felt a series of marginal gains added up in their favour.
“It was spread around today,” he said. “We gave Mark Kelly the tough job of covering Matty Taylor and tracking his runs and things like that, but at the start of the second half he went up and got a great point himself.
“All of those little things, where a fella does more than his basic job, that’s what’ll get you over the line in a game like this. The last 10 minutes or so, we had to pack our defence. Once we made sure that they didn’t get a goal, a couple of points wasn’t going to win the game for them, so that’s what we had to achieve.”
Newcestown — who never trailed — have had former Cork players Colm and Brian O’Driscoll in their backroom team over recent weeks and there was a cohesive and structured look to their defending. This was characterised by Cian Twomey, who made three key interventions in the closing stages, and Micheál McSweeney, who sacrificed much of his own game to curb Cian O’Riordan’s influence to three points from play.
In attack, Daniel Twomey and David Buckley each scored four points while Keane played a big part in ensuring that Newcestown stymied the Mallow kickout in the first half. Given their strong performance from restarts, an 0-8 to 0-6 half-time lead didn’t do them justice, but Mallow were efficient with their chances, Ryan Harkin on target in injury time to cut the gap.
He scored again after the North Cork side won the second-half throw-in but Newcestown responded through Kelly and then won the next two kickouts as Colm Dineen and Daniel Twomey made it 0-11 to 0-7, the biggest lead of the game up to then.
Sub Kevin O’Mahony gave Mallow an outlet from restarts and they came back strongly. A Loughrey foray almost resulted in a goal attempt but he was fouled and O’Riordan converted the free and Mike O’Rourke pointed too. However, Newcestown were always able to respond and the Meades, Luke and Jack, made it 0-13 to 0-9 by the three-quarter stage.
Again, Mallow came through Harkin and O’Riordan frees but Newcestown remained steady. Sub Eoin Kelly and Tadgh Twomey combined for Buckley to get his fourth and then Keane, having won a mark from the kickout, ended the ensuing move to open up a four-point lead again on 52.
Immediately after that, Seán McDonnell’s pass gave O’Riordan a sight of goal but his shot was straight at Christopher White. An advantage had accrued and O’Riordan sent the free over while Harkin cut the gap to two but Newcestown’s massed ranks were proving hard to break down. O’Riordan made it a one-point game in injury time but Mallow couldn’t find a leveller, Cian Twomey heroically blocking sub Killian O’Connor’s effort to ensure Newcestown moved on. As well as the quarter-finals, it means they will be premier senior in 2020, but Wilson is only concerned with the more immediate mission.
“First things first is the quarter-final,” he said. “We won’t be looking forward to next year until we hear the draw for next year. For this year, it’s all about the quarter-final, it all switches to Ilen Rovers in two weeks’ time. That’s our next job, we have a job of work to get every fella ready again.”
Scorers for Newcestown: D Buckley, D Twomey (0-3 frees) 0-4 each, L Meade, J Meade 0-2 each, C Dinneen, C Keane, M Kelly 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mallow: C O’Riordan 0-7 (0-4 frees), R Harkin 0-4 (0-1 free), M O’Rourke (free), S McDonnell, M Taylor 0-1 each.
NEWCESTOWN: C White; M Kennelly, C Twomey, M McSweeney; G O’Donovan, L Meade, C Dinneen; F Keane, S O’Donovan; M Kelly, C Keane, D Buckley; J Meade, T Twomey, D Twomey.
Sub: E Kelly for Kennelly (60).
MALLOW: J Murphy; M Quirke, J Loughrey, O Carroll; A Cahill, A Cashman, M Taylor; E Stanton, S Merritt; K O’Sullivan, R Harkin, M O’Rourke; C O’Riordan, S McDonnell, P Herlihy.
Subs: K O’Mahony for Carroll (half-time), P Hennessy for Cahill (40), J Dillon for O’Rourke, K Sheehan for Herlihy (both 46), K O’Connor for Merritt (54).
Referee: J Ryan (Macroom).