Just five years on from winning the Cork IFC grade, Éire Óg are Premier IFC champions after edging past St Michael’s on a beautiful autumnal day in Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday.
Since their promotion, they have shown they are capable of competing at this level getting as far as three semi-final appearances and one quarter-final.
In this showdown, Éire Óg got nothing easy. The sides were level 0-11 apiece with eight minutes remaining but the mid Cork outfit had no shortage of effort when it came to helping them take ownership of the Billy Long Cup.
They found another gear when it mattered, and crucially managed to keep their noses in front all the way.
They can especially thank their captain Daniel Goulding in attack, while the introduction of former Cork footballer and Aussie Rules player Ciarán Sheehan midway through the second half provided them with that extra bit of know-how.
Football fans will, of course, spare a thought for St Michael’s though, who were losing their fifth final in this competition in eight years, including the last three deciders.
Éire Óg had to regroup after an opening day loss to Cill na Martra last Spring, but worked their way through the backdoor route splendidly, gaining a lot of experience and momentum along the way, no more so than their extra-time round two victory over Aghada.
St Michael’s made a nervous start as Éire Óg showed their skill and aplomb to go 0-6 to 0-2 up inside the first quarter. Goulding kicking three of these from placed balls while there was one each from Jack Murphy, Diarmuid Dineen and Brian Hurley.
St Michael’s, meanwhile, had missed a couple of good chances, including a decent opportunity for Shane O’Keeffe that went across the goal and wide. They did manage to cut the gap to two following points from Tadhg Deasy and Keith Hegarty.
As well, their goalkeeper Martin Burke made a brilliant save from Hurley to keep them in contention.
Two more by Goulding from the dead ball pushed Éire Óg three up but St Michael’s closed out with quickfire points from Billy Cain and Eric Hegarty left them just one behind at the interval, 0-8 to 0-7.
St Michael’s, just like in the first half, put themselves in good positions at the restart but got no return.
Instead, it was late Éire Óg replacement Colm O’Callaghan who pushed the advantage to two. St Michael’s failed to convert a free, and with Éire Óg looking sharper, Goulding made it a three-point match.
Their joy didn’t last long as they were hit for three St Michael’s points from Deasy, Eric Hegarty (free) and Liam O’Sullivan and with 10 minutes of the second half gone, the scores were level, 0-10 apiece.
Éire Óg battled back through another O’Callaghan point and it was at this midway juncture Sheehan came off the bench.
Undeterred, St Michael’s rallied with O’Sullivan landing his third point.
And it was all to play for now. However, they couldn’t maintain that momentum with the Muskerry men cutting off the supply going forward in those vital closing stages.
Sheehan set up Goulding for a tasty point in the 55th minute, and this was followed by one from centre back John Cooper four minutes later – again put through by Sheehan.
With the clock in the final minute, Goulding sent over his sixth placed ball to leave three between the teams.
St Michael’s were awarded a close in free in stoppage time but Deasy opted to take his point. And with some fine display in the Éire Óg defence, time ran out for St Michael’s.
Éire Óg holding on for a famous win.
D Goulding (0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 45), C O’Callaghan (0-2), D Dineen, J Murphy, B Hurley and John Cooper (0-1 each).
T Deasy (0-4, 0-2 frees), L O’Sullivan (0-3), E Hegarty (0-2, 0-1 free), T Lenihan, K Hegarty and B Cain (0-1 each).
E Kelleher; J Kelleher, J Mullins, D O’Herlihy; D Dineen, John Cooper, D McCarthy; L Sheehan, R O’Toole; E O’Shea, J Murphy, K Hallissey; D Goulding (Capt), C O’Callaghan, B Hurley.
C Sheehan for K Hallissey (43), M O’Shea for D Dineen (48), Joe Cooper for E O’Shea (55), D Murphy for B Hurley (58), A O’Mahony for L Sheehan (BC 61).
M Burke; D Cormack, R Dineen, O O’Sullivan; T Lenihan, A O’Callaghan, B Cain; D Meaney, S O’Keeffe; D Lenihan, T Deasy, K Hegarty; E Hegarty (Capt), D Cremin, L O’Sullivan.
E Sheehan for D Lenihan (half time), A Hennessy for K Hegarty (46), E Buckley for L O’Sullivan (53), E Hickey for E Hegarty (62).
Alan Long (Argideen Rangers).