Many memorable encounters have graced Clonakilty’s Ahamilla GAA complex but few more compelling than Saturday’s Éire Óg Premier IFC semi-final victory over Bantry Blues.
The Muskerry side dominated the opening 19 minutes and built a seemingly unassailable 1-8 to 0-2 lead. But roared on by a vociferous crowd, Bantry underlined their class by holding their opponents scoreless for the next 20 minutes, turning the semi-final completely on its head in the process.
A rampant Blues netted three goals in that spell to take the lead but were guilty of turning over possession with 10 minutes of a gripping contest remaining.
Éire Óg smelt blood and made the west Cork club pay. A sweeping move ended with Kevin Hallissey arrowing the ball into the bottom corner.
It was a brilliant finish and the catalyst for an Éire Óg side, whose fitness levels have been enhanced by Paudie Kissane’s involvement, to secure their place in this year’s county final.
Add in eight Daniel Goulding points, plus a welcome Ciarán Sheehan cameo off the bench, and it proved a good day’s work for Harry O’Reilly’s side.
“We started really well, were eight or nine points up, playing the way we wanted to play and sticking to our game plan,” Éire Óg manager O’Reilly said.
Maybe it was overconfidence, I don’t know, but we completely deviated from the game plan. That gave Bantry a foothold and they got a couple of scores including a great goal which gave them heart.
“Early in the second half, we looked dead and buried. We are very fit this year though, something that has caught up with us in other years. We knew we would come strong in the last 15 minutes, we have a strong squad and that told in the end.”
Éire Óg got off to a whirlwind start and were 0-6 to 0-1 in front at the conclusion of the first quarter thanks to three Daniel Goulding frees plus additional Kevin Hallissey (in for the injured Colm O’Callaghan), Liam Sheehan, and Ronan O’Toole scores.
Bantry struggled to match their opponents’ intensity and conceded a poor goal from their own kick-out when Brian Hurley found the net from close range.
Amazingly, that was Bantry Blues’ cue to take control of a semi-final already slipping from their grasp. James Casey scored a point prior to Shane Murray thundering a shot in off the crossbar. The west Cork side were relentless and added an unanswered 1-4 — including a fine Kevin Casey goal — to lead 2-6 to 1-8 at the interval.
Not even the loss of Eoghan O’Shea to a black card could halt Bantry’s progress as Kevin Casey stole in for his side’s third goal six minutes after the restart. The teams exchanged three frees apiece heading into the final quarter, when Éire Óg turned over possession and worked the ball to the opposite end for Kevin Hallissey to score a crucial goal.
That knocked the heart out of a Bantry side that contributed much to a cracking encounter but were unable to prevent Éire Óg from adding four late points to book a place in the 2019 Cork PIFC decider.
D Goulding (0-8, 5 frees), K Hallissey (1-1), B Hurley (1-0), J Murphy (0-2), L Sheehan (1 free), R O’Toole, D Dineen, E O’Sé and J Cooper (0-1 each).
K Casey (2-1), S Coughlan (0-4, 3 frees), S Murray (1-0), R Deane (1 free) and S McSweeney (0-2 each), J Casey and S O’Neill (0-1 each).
E Kelleher; K Kelleher, J Mullins, D O’Herlihy; D Dineen, J Cooper, D McCarthy; L Sheehan, R O’Toole; E O’Sé, D Murphy, J Murphy; D Goulding, K Hallissey, B Hurley.
J Cooper for D Murphy (40), M O’Shea for D Dineen (40), C Sheehan for L Sheehan (48), D Hurley for R O’Toole (56).
D Casey; E O’Sé, J O’Leary, R O’Mahony; K Coakley, B Foley, E Minihane; S O’Leary, R Deane; S O’Neill, J Casey, K Casey; S Coughlan, S McSweeney, S Murray.
C O’Leary for E O’Shea (33, black card), J Downey for J O’Leary (39, blood), D Daly for S Murray (47).
C Dineen (Douglas).