Battling Blarney survive searching test from Valleys

IT TOOK a while, but Blarney eventually wore down Valley Rovers in their Premier IHC clash at Ballygarvan on Saturday evening.

Whether they can go all the way and return to the senior grade is for other days, but for now they will be happy to survive this, testing hour from the Innishannon side.

Blarney’s influential half-back line delivered once again. James Hughes, Paul O’Leary and Joe Jordan had splendid games, and it was fitting that Hughes roamed upfield to finish an excellent four-man move to strike the closing point deep in stoppage time.

There were substantial contributions too from Mark Cremin and Ross McNamara up front as Valley Rovers now face into a challenging few weeks — second round matches ahead of them in both hurling (Ballyhea) and football (Clonakilty).

Most of the action came from the second half — after a poor opening 30 minutes, the sides were tied 0-5 apiece. Defences were dominant, however Blarney’s inconsistency in front of the posts was a worry.

They struck eight wides to the Rovers’ four. The south-east team took over an early lead (0-4 to 0-2) with Eamonn Collins showing at full forward. It later transpired that a Collins’ penalty saved by the woodwork would prove to be crucial.

Thankfully the second half was far more energetic. There were five points on the board within five minutes — significantly four of these for Blarney. As well as Cremin at full-forward, Barra O’Connell and Colin Murphy chipped in too. As the wind freshened up in Blarney’s favour, they moved three points clear.

However, Valley Rovers realigned their selection with Michael O’Brien benefiting and firing two points.

When Collins notched his fifth point at the end of the third quarter, Rovers were only one point behind. Blarney, however, seemed to find another gear including their defence who gave little away and Cremin and McNamara began to click up front. Jordan was turning over an amount of ball and two converted frees from Cremin yielded a 0-12 to 0-9 advantage. Then an inspirational flag arrived from McNamara after he brilliantly latched onto a Cremin side line ball.

Four points was the gap now with as many minutes remaining. Blarney withstood fierce Valleys pressure. Despite long-range efforts from Collins (two) and Jeremy Hurley, the mid-Corkmen managed to keep their noses in front, but they were holding a dangerous 0-14 to 0-12 lead as the clock went into overtime.

Then came the Hughes point — followed by one of the biggest cheers of the night.

Scorers for Blarney: M Cremin 0-6 (0-4 frees), R McNamara 0-3, B O’Connell 0-2, B Hurley, C Murphy, J O’Regan, J Hughes 0-1 each.

Scorers for Valley Rovers: E Collins 0-7 (0-4 frees), M O’Brien 0-2, R Butler, D Crowley, J Hurley 0-1 each.

BLARNEY: R Byrne; J Barrett, D McSweeney, B Phelan; J Hughes, P O’Leary, J Jordan; B Hurley, M O’Leary; E McCarthy, R McNamara, J O’Regan; B O’Connell, M Cremin, C Murphy.

Subs: C Buckley for E McCarthy (52 mins).

VALLEY ROVERS: W Burke; N O’Donovan, D Lynch, F Coughlan; J Hurley, C O’Donovan, C Lynch; R Butler, M O’Brien; R Lehane, T Burke, J Crowley; B Lehane, E Collins, D Crowley.

Subs: J Burke for F Coughlan (ht), S O’Sullivan for J Crowley (45), T Fitzgerald for T Burke (57).

Referee: D O’Leary (Watergrasshill).

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