Last year’s beaten Cork county SFC finalists Duhallow remain on course to go one step further than 2018 after they ground out victory over Newcestown at Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday.
Having reached the quarter-finals in 2016, Duhallow were semi-finalists in 2017 and then fell to St Finbarr’s in the 2018 decider. A win over Nemo Rangers – who beat them in the semi two years ago – would continue the incremental progress and end the title wait going back as far as 1991.
Duhallow manager Pádraig Kearns was satisfied his team got over the penultimate hurdle.
“At the start of the year, all we wanted to do was get back to the final, whatever way possible,” he said.
We haven’t fixed last year yet, we’re just back to where we were and we have to drive on now.
“It wasn’t a great game but I thought the referee did well, he let the play go on. Newcestown are a good team, they were always going to give us a game. They’re hardy boys, they nearly beat Imokilly last year in the hurling. I wouldn’t take anything away from Newcestown’s performance, they were well-drilled and they’re a good team.”
While Tadgh Twomey opened the scoring for the wind-assisted Newcestown in the first minute, Duhallow almost had the tonic of a goal immediately after that, with Anthony O’Connor crashing a shot off the post after a scramble.
With Carthach Keane and Jack Meade dropping deep, Newcestown’s massed ranks made it difficult for Duhallow to create openings in the very early stages. However, after Séamus Hickey got the north-western divisional side off the mark on eight minutes, four quick points followed as they began to force turnovers around the middle – though not always fairly, in Newcestown’s eyes.
Newcestown replied strongly, with Jack Meade latching on to a kickout break to set up David Buckley, with Daniel Twomey adding two more in quick succession and by the 21st minute it was 0-5 to 0-3.
Despite having lost Donncha O’Connor to injury, Duhallow stayed calm – they won all of their first-half restarts, generally going short to John McLoughlin – and points from Cork U20 hurler Conor O’Callaghan and Fintan O’Connor saw them with a 0-7 to 0-4 advantage at half-time.
From the throw-in at the start of the second half, the hard-working O’Callaghan set up Cork star Eoghan McSweeney to extend the lead to four and, though Newcestown had an instant response with Tadgh Twomey’s second, they wouldn’t come any closer for the remainder.
The West Cork side did fashion a goal chance of sorts on 36 as Colm Dinneen fed Seán O’Donovan, who was allowed to carry the ball deep into the Duhallow goalmouth. When he was stripped of possession, any touch would have sent the ball into Patrick Doyle’s net but Duhallow bundled it clear and Anthony O’Connor sent over a free for the division to provide some breathing space.
With the flow of the game becoming more interrupted with niggly challenges and a welter of yellow cards, two more Anthony O’Connor points allowed Duhallow to move further clear as the clock ran down.
Newcestown did give themselves a slight ray of hope as Luke Meade and Daniel Twomey had points, both benefiting from the industry of Jack Meade, but Duhallow’s resolve never looked like wavering.
With goals required, Newcestown dropped a couple of balls into the danger area but Duhallow cleared and were almost in for a breakaway goal but for an important Murt Kennelly intervention.
However, a breakthrough couldn’t be found at the other end and Duhallow sub Ian Walsh, played in by Séamus Hickey, added another point deep in injury-time.
A O’Connor (0-4, 3 frees); F O’Connor (0-2); K Crowley, E McSweeney, S Hickey, D O’Connor, C O’Callaghan, I Walsh (0-1 each).
D Twomey (0-3, 2 frees); T Twomey (0-2); D Buckley, L Meade (0-1 each).
P Doyle (Knocknagree); B Daly (Newmarket), J McLoughlin (Kanturk), M Mahoney (Knocknagree); K Crowley (Millstreet), K Cremin (Boherbue), L O’Neill (Kanturk); P Walsh (Kanturk), A Walsh (Kanturk); F O’Connor (Knocknagree), E McSweeney (Knocknagree), C O’Callaghan (Dromtarriffe); A O’Connor (Knocknagree), S Hickey (Rockchapel), D O’Connor (Ballydesmond).
S Hickey (Millstreet) for D O’Connor (18, injured), A Ryan (Newmarket) for P Walsh (44), L McLoughlin (Kanturk) for S Hickey (56), I Walsh (Kanturk) for F O’Connor (58), E O’Callaghan (Rockchapel) for O’Neill (60).
C White; E Kelly, C Twomey, M McSweeney; G O’Donovan, L Meade, C Dinneen; F Keane, S O’Donovan; M Kelly, D Buckley, C Keane; J Meade, T Twomey, D Twomey.
M Kennelly for C Twomey (16, injured), C O’Neill for M Kelly (38), T Horgan for F Keane (56)
J Bermingham (Bride Rovers).