The sweet left peg of Daniel Goulding was very much in evidence at beautiful Ballingeary on Saturday, the former Cork All-Ireland-winner firing over eight sublime points as Eire Óg opened their Cork SAFC Group B account with a merited victory over Bantry Blues.
Goulding’s tally only incorporated one from play, a real beauty in the fourth minute, to cancel out Bantry’s opener from a Tim Foley free, but the rest were of vital importance, including a 35-metre second-half sideline peach well worth the admittance charge alone.
In fairness to Bantry, they improved massively in the second half with the introduction of Ruari Deane when trailing 0-8 to 0-4 and brought the deficit down to two points by the 39th minute. But that’s as good as it got with the talents of centre-back John Cooper, Ciarán and Liam Sheehan, as well as a steady defence keeping them at bay.
Credit too Éire Óg goalkeeper Chris Kelly who made two wonderful saves, the first from Shane McSweeney late in the first half and another from Steve Coughlan early in the second, just when Bantry were showing their teeth. But though they fell short, Bantry showed enough potential to put it up to both Mallow and Kiskeam in their remaining group games.
Éire Óg’s Cavan coach Harry Reilly had mixed views afterward. “We were good at times, but some basic mistakes let us down. This performance certainly wasn’t good enough to win a championship. We have the nucleus of a good team, most of our players are under 25, and with experienced players like Daniel and Ciarán we are in a good place.
“Bantry gave us a tough game last year and this one was no different. When Ruari (Deane) came on he gave us plenty to think about. We made life very hard for ourselves but, look, it’s the first game of the year, forget challenges, a win is a win, and we will move on from here and improve.”
A lively opening half, Bantry playing with the strong breeze to their backs and, after Foley had given them that quick lead, Goulding’s cracking equaliser, after good work by Dermot O’Herlihy and Liam Sheehan, set the tone for Éire Óg. By the 15th minute, he had tagged on three more points, two frees and a 45, as Eire Óg led 0-4 to 0-1.
Certainly, Éire Óg had the lion's share of possession with Jack Cooper, Jack Murphy, and both Sheehans on top of their games. Another Goulding free stretched their lead in the 17th minute before Sean O’Leary had Bantry’s second point. But it was the Mid Cork side who pressed ahead with former Cork U20 player Colm O’Callaghan and Brian Hurley adding on points.
Substitute James Casey and Arthur Coakley did get fine points for Bantry with Éire Óg keeper Kelly making that fine save in between but the Ovens side were well deserving of their 0-8 to 0-4 interval lead.
Deane made an immediate impact when introduced as Bantry thundered into the game. Centre-back Eoin O’Shea, who had a fine match, Coakley, and Foley, with his second free, helped reduce the deficit to two with goalkeeper Kelly also denying Stephen Coughlan what could have been a game-changing goal.
Leading 0-9 to 0-6 entering the final quarter, Éire Óg were under pressure but that sweet sideline point from way out on the right re-energised his side and they ran out comfortable winners. Bantry’s cause was not helped by late black cards to McSweeney and Foley but in the end, it was the sure boot of Goulding that made the big difference.
D. Goulding 0-8 (0-5, Frees, 0-1 45, 0-1 sideline), C. O’Callaghan 0-2, E. O’Shea, B. Hurley, L. Sheehan 0-1 each.
T. Foley 0-3 (frees), A. Coakley 0-2, S. O’Leary, J. Casey, A. Coakley 0-1 each.
C. Kelly; D. O’Herlihy, J. Mullins, C. McGoldrick; D. McCarthy, J. Cooper, D. Dinneen; J. Murphy, R. O’Toole; L. Sheehan, C. Sheehan, C. O’Callaghan; D. Goulding, E. O’Shea, B. Hurley.
M. Casey; C. O’Leary, R. O’Mahony, T. Cronin; E. Minihane, E. O’ Shea, S. Keever’s; B. Foley, S. O’Leary; J. O’Neill, A. Coakley, D. Daly; T. Foley, S. McSweeney, S. Coughlan.
J. Casey for Keevers (inj 11mins), R. Deane for Minihane (ht).
Cormac Dineen (Douglas).