Glen Rovers were given a real test of their championship credentials against a young and resilient Carrigtwohill outfit at sun-splashed Cobh this afternoon.
While a late, fortuitous Liam Gosnell goal did give the final scoreline a different sheen, Carrigtwohill can be very pleased with their performance against a Blackpool side with eyes on silverware this season.
Thanks to their opening round draw with Na Piarsaigh, Carrig are still in with a fighting chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages, but a lot will depend on their final group game against St Finbarr’s.
If Carrig were seeking redemption following last season’s semi-final pummelling against the same opposition, then they atoned with a spirited display that drew praise from their manager, Mickey ‘Da’ Fitzgerald.
“We came here with a game-plan and the most pleasing thing is we stuck with it until the end. We probably could have chased the game more but we’re trying to be smart in what we do.
“The big motivation coming here today was could we close that 16-point gap from last year. That’s done and I know we got a goal in the end but it’s a step forward for Carrigtwohill.”
The Glen, meanwhile, will play Na Piarsaigh in their final group game, a mouthwatering northside derby that the Blackpool club will hope to win to finish top of their group. The carrot for doing so may give them the reward of a coveted semi-final spot as the competition’s best group winner.
Glen Rovers failed to match the sparkle and intensity evidenced in last weekend’s stunning win against St Finbarr’s. Here they laboured to victory, but such a performance was inevitable given the energies they exuded in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last weekend.
The winners were made to work hard for victory against a Carrig side in which Gosnell enjoyed a fine hour pulling off a string of stunning long-range points.
Another to impress for Carrig up-front was James Mulcahy, who won a lot of high ball and frees, while Sean Walsh was excellent from placed-balls. Further out the field, Tomas Hogan and Aaron Walsh Barry, Pat O’Sullivan, and Ronan Power shone. This is a good, well-organised Carrigtwohill unit that should hold no fears when facing St Finbarr’s.
The Imokilly club deployed a sweeper system to try to stymie the Glen’s goal threat while Pat O’Sullivan did a good man-marking job on Patrick Horgan, who was kept to one point from play. While Horgan had a quiet day by his high standards, Conor Dorris was in brilliant form for the winners. The corner-forward picked off a litany of beautiful points from his left side, and took his 40th-minute goal with aplomb – a score that put daylight between the sides.
The narrow confines of the immaculately kept Cobh grounds may have benefitted Carrig who knew they needed to stymie an exciting Glen forward unit. With Liam O’Sullivan playing as an extra defender, their game-plan worked a treat as the Glen struggled to gain an upper-hand on their opponents in outfield play and on the scoreboard.
The contest was a far cry from last year’s one-sided semi-final affair when the Glen ran riot. This game was more stop-start, however, with too many frees interrupting any momentum both sides had tried to generate. This was evident in a very cagey opening quarter that saw the sides level on four occasions. Frees did dominate play but when scores did arrive from open play, Jamie McCarthy and Dorris stepped forward to show real class.
By the 15th minute, Dorris was on hand to take advantage of a flawed puck-out by the otherwise dependable Shane Devlin, and Dean Brosnan tacked on another before the first half water-break at which point the Glen led 0-7 to 0-5.
The Glen seemed to lift their game after the short break with Patrick Horgan landing two frees but Carrig refused to wilt in the heat with the unerring Sean Walsh (2) and Gosnell landing three points to leave them one in arrears (0-9 to 0-8) at half-time.
It remained a close affair for the opening ten minutes of the second half before Dorris struck for an all-important goal. While the Glen struggled to create any goal chances up to this point, Simon Kennefick did brilliantly to find Dorris unmarked in a central position 20m from goal and the latter - without looking at the target – unleashed an unstoppable shot to the back of the net.
In fairness to Carrig, they never gave up. They made some good substitutions with former Cork great Niall McCarthy putting in a good late shift. Gosnell displayed some wonderful touches to keep Carrig in touch but the Glen always had that extra gear – even if it wasn’t the top one they hit today – to keep distance from their opponents.
When Kennefick landed a point two minutes into injury time to push the Blackpool men 1-18 to 0-15 in front, it seemed game over until a speculative outfield shot from Gosnell slipped from the grasp of the otherwise dependable Cathal Hickey to the net.
But the goal arrived deep in injury time and proved the game’s final act.
C Dorris (1-5), P Horgan (0-8, 6 frees, 1 ‘65’), D Brosnan (0-2), D Cronin, R Downey and S Kennefick (0-1 each).
L Gosnell (1-6, 2 frees), S Walsh (0-6 frees), T Hogan, A Walsh Barry, J McCarthy, and J Mulcahy (0-1 each).
C Hickey; C Healy, D Dooling, A Lynch; R Downey, B Moylan (c), D Noonan; D Cronin, A O’Donovan; D Brosnan, P Horgan, L Horgan; C Dorris, S Kennefick, L Coughlan.
D Cunningham for L Horgan (54)
S Devlin (c); B Twomey, P O’Sullivan, J Horgan; D Rooney, R Power, A Walsh Barry; P Hogan, T Hogan; S Roche, L O’Sullivan, J McCarthy; J Mulcahy, L Gosnell, S Walsh.
C O’Connell for L O’Sullivan (inj. 30+3); S Ronan for Roche (43); N McCarthy for T Hogan (48); S de Búrca for Power (54).
Ciaran O’Regan (Ballyhea)