Five unanswered points in the final quarter pushed Carbery Rangers clear of Ilen Rovers as they got off the mark in Group B of the Bons Secours Cork Premier SFC at Leap on Saturday.
Having moved three points clear early in the second half. the Rosscarbery side saw that advantage whittled down to just one as Ilen responded strongly just before the water break. However, after the action restarted, the Baltimore/Church Cross would not score again and Ross, with captain John O’Rourke in impressive form, ensured that they took the points.
After an opening-round loss to Castlehaven, Ross manager Haulie O’Sullivan was pleased to see an improvement from his team.
“It was a great win in poor conditions,” he said, “there were question marks earlier in the day as to whether it was going to go ahead.
“They were hard scoring conditions more than anything else but we battled it out.
“We did a lot of good things against Castlehvaven but we didn’t get good enough or quick enough ball into our forwards. If we had, we would probably have done a bit better.
“It’s all the basic things – we did them better tonight and there was an improvement as a result.”
Ilen had also lost in their opening encounter, to Newcestown, meaning that the defeated side here were almost certainly facing elimination. Such pressure wasn’t debilitating in the first half but the tough conditions did impinge on the quality of the football.
Ross, without the injured John Hayes, established an early 0-4 to 0-2 lead as Brian Shanahan and Séamus Hayes made their presence felt along with O’Rourke while Rob Hegarty shone in defence, but Ilen slowly began to get going.
Captain Seán O’Donovan landed a good point from the right to cut the deficit and then, when they won the kickout, he linked with Stephen Leonard and Donal Collins to set up Kieran Lynch for the equaliser.
Leonard put them ahead just before the water-break and then, after action resumed, Peter O’Driscoll set him up for his third to make it 0-6 to 0-4. They couldn’t build on that though and Ross were level by half-time thanks to points from O’Rourke and Hayes.
With James Fitzpatrick and Mark Hodnett getting a grip at midfield, they started the second half with a pair of well-worked points, finished by the same two players, before Hayes – now in a deeper role – added a free to make it 0-9 to 0-6.
However, Leonard notched his fourth for Ilen before subs Dermot Hegarty and Dan Mac Eoin combined for the latter to reduce the margin to the minimum with his first touch.
Ross were temporarily down to 14 men by this stage after Thomas O’Rourke’s black card but Ilen couldn’t find parity and, after a move broke down, Ross counter-attacked to great effect through Alan Jennings, O’Rourke and Shanahan to allow Jack O’Regan to give them breathing space.
Thomas O’Rourke’s return coincided with Ilen losing Peadar O’Driscoll to a second yellow card and Hayes and John O’Rourke had points to make it 0-12 to 0-8 while sub Jerry O’Riordan was only denied a goal by a good Damien O’Sullivan save.
Shanahan landed the resultant 45 though and, while Ross had Hayes dismissed for a second caution, a black-carding for Ilen’s Seán Minihane meant that they still had extra manpower.
Brian Hodnett made the game safe with an injury-time point and they will face Newcestown in three weeks still in the hunt for qualification.
O’Sullivan was impressed with how his team finished, meaning they face into the final game in positive mood.
“Our fellas are in good condition, in fairness,” he said, “but it’s taking us a while to get going this year between injuries, bits of bad luck here and there and just not getting our rhythm right.
“It seemed to be coming a bit in the second half and hopefully we can improve again for Newcestown."
S Hayes (0-5, 3f), J O’Rourke (0-4), B Shanahan (0-2, 1 45), B Hodnett, J O’Regan, J Fitzpatrick (0-1 each).
: S Leonard (0-4), S O’Donovan (0-2, 1f), K Lynch, D Mac Eoin (0-1 each).
R Milner; R Hegarty, M O’Donovan, C Hennessy; P Hodnett, T O’Rourke, James O’Riordan; M Hodnett, J Fitzpatrick; A Jennings, J O’Rourke, B Shanahan; B Hodnett, S Hayes, J O’Regan.
Jerry O’Riordan for P Hodnett (41), C O’Donovan for O’Regan (57), P Hurley for O’Rourke (60).
D O’Sullivan; Paddy O’Driscoll, S Minihane, B Leonard; D O’Driscoll, C O’Driscoll, T O’Regan; J Sheehy, Peadar O’Driscoll; D Collins, K Lynch, Peter O’Driscoll; S Leonard, A O’Sullivan, S O’Donovan.
: D Hegarty for Sheehy, D Mac Eoin for Lynch (both 44), Cian O’Driscoll for D O’Driscoll (52), M Bushe for O’Sullivan (55), H O’Neill for Collins (56).
C Dineen (Douglas).