Imokilly held off a UCC second-half fightback to book their place against Seandún in the Colleges/Divisions final of the Cork Premier SHC next Sunday. The winners will enter the county championship at the quarter-final stage.
As anticipated, this superb fare at Páirc Uí Rinn on Tuesday evening was end-to-end, and it wasn’t until Mark McCarthy pointed in the first minute of injury time that the result was secure. McCarthy lined out instead of the injured Will Leahy, and he certainly left his stamp, scoring four points.
We must spare a thought for UCC who gave it everything, especially Tipperary county star Conor Bowe who fired seven brilliant points.
It was also a night of huge honour for the Castlelyons club supplying both captains - Niall O’Leary (UCC) and Colm Barry (Imokilly), both wearing the number three jersey.
The sides were slow to settle. At the water break, they were tied 0-4 apiece but Imokilly shot five wides while UCC had four (overall 13/12).
Free-taker Liam O’Shea opened the scoring for Imokilly but they had to wait until the seventh minute for O’Shea to add to their advantage. Meanwhile, UCC goalkeeper Daithí Heffernan pulled off a point-blank save from Shane O’Regan.
Bowe rifled over UCC’s first point in the ninth minute and it energised them, drawing level through Neil Montgomery. They were tied twice more - Anthony Spillane and McCarthy swapping points with Bowe and Paddy Cadell.
Imokilly edged ahead in the second quarter. The defining score of the half arrived courtesy of Spillane when he shortened his hurley grip to flick to the net 10 minutes from the break. Moments later he added a point to stretch the lead, 1-7 to 0-5.
In response, UCC outscored Imokilly four points to one - Shane Conway (2), Eoin Carey, and Mark Kehoe reducing the gap to two points.
There was no shortage of scores on the run-up to half-time but critically Imokilly remained in the ascendancy, 1-10 to 0-11; Colm Barry’s block on Mark Kehoe helping to steady the ship.
UCC resumed by taking the game to Imokilly. Eoghan Power put them into the lead for the first time when he doubled on the sliotar to the roof of the net, having been set up by Kehoe. It was now advantage UCC. And while Shane O’Regan, Brian Lawton, and Seamus Harnedy (wearing a heavily strapped thigh) replied, UCC took control at the second water break, 1-16 to 1-14.
In a pulsating fourth quarter, O’Regan and McCarthy made it all square with 10 minutes remaining. Four more times they were locked coming down the home stretch. Some exquisite points on both sides - McCarthy, Harnedy, Barry Lawton, and Ciarán Joyce for Imokilly while Bowe and Conway got vital flags for UCC.
It was 1-20 apiece when the public address signalled at least one minute of injury time as McCarthy finished with the winner for Imokilly. UCC had a late chance to force extra-time but there was no joy.
Credit, however, must go to two outstanding teams who had so many individuals that excelled.
A Spillane (1-2), L O’Shea (0-5 frees), S O’Regan and M McCarthy (0-4 each), Brian Lawton and S Harnedy (0-2 each), Barry Lawton (free) and C Joyce (0-1 each).
S Conway (0-3 frees) and C Bowe (0-7 each), E Power (1-1), M Kehoe (0-2), E Carey, P Cadell, and N Montgomery (0-1 each).
J Barry (Castlelyons); K Histon (Cobh), C Barry (Castlelyons, Capt), N Motherway (Dungourney); C O’Brien (St Ita’s), C Joyce (Castlemartyr), J Cronin (Lisgoold); S Hegarty (Dungourney), Brian Lawton (Castlemartyr); L O’Shea (Lisgoold), S Harnedy (St Ita’s), M McCarthy (Aghada); A Spillane (Castlelyons), J Stack (Castlemartyr), S O’Regan (Watergrasshill).
Barry Lawton (Castlemartyr) for J Stack (43), S Desmond (Watergrasshill) for L O’Shea (45), A Fenton (Castlelyons) for S O’Regan (58).
D Heffernan (Blackrock, Limerick); C McGoldrick (Éire Óg, Cork), N O’Leary (Castlelyons, Cork, Capt), D Moran (Castlemartyr, Cork); E Carey (Kilworth, Cork), P Cadell (JK Brackens, Tipperary), J Keating (Kildorrery, Cork); K Walsh (Ballincollig, Cork), E Power (Ballina, Tipperary); C Bowe (Moyne/Templetuohy, Tipperary), S Conway (Lixnaw, Kerry), N Montgomery (Abbeyside, Waterford); B Kelleher (Carrigaline, Cork), M Kehoe (Kilsheelan/Kilcash, Tipperary), O McCarthy (Inniscarra, Cork).
J Ryan (Doon, Limerick) for K Walsh (37), F O’Leary (Inniscarra, Cork) for B Kelleher (37), K O’Leary (Castlelyons) for O McCarthy (47), K O’Dwyer (Killenaule, Tipperary) for E Power (56 inj).
D Kirwan (Éire Óg).