Hurling with supreme confidence, Midleton stormed into a 1-2 to nil lead after four minutes while playing into a very strong wind; they fell a point behind early in the second half with the wind to their backs, before putting in a great last 15 minutes to earn themselves a quarter-final place against Bride Rovers.
It was easy to understand Midleton’s jubilation at the final whistle. Twelve months ago they were humbled by Cloyne by a massive 15 points, but there was to be no repeat as the Magpies produced a gutsy performance reminiscent of the good old days when they were winning county titles.
Midleton played with passion, grit and determination which a clearly jaded Cloyne couldn’t match, and while the game bordered on the reckless at times, it was Cloyne who suffered most when they were forced to play 45 minutes with 14 players after they had Colm O’Sullivan sent off for a second yellow card offence.
Midleton had magnificent players in goalkeeper Brian Behan, Alan Cahill, Alywin Kearney, Willie O’Brien, the evergreen Micky O’Connell and Aidan Ryan.
After three successive defeats in the final the view was that Cloyne couldn’t possibly have anything left in the tank and so it proved. The same zip wasn’t there, their big guns simply couldn’t go, and only Killian Cronin, James Nyhan, Eoin O’Sullivan and Donal O’Sullivan came out of this encounter with their reputations intact.
The strong wind was always going to be a factor. Midleton played against it in the first half, and stormed into that early five point lead after Kieran Mulcahy gave Donal Óg Cusack no chance from five metres out.
There was great tension in the game, which added an extra layer of spice, and Midleton’s tactic of playing full forward Declan Ryan as an extra defender in behind their half back line worked well for them, particularly in the first half. While Cloyne recovered well after the early Magpies scoring blitz, it was clear that they would have to produce something special if they were to repeat last year’s success. Tempers frayed on several occasions and the referee was kept extremely busy, but Colm O’Sullivan’s sending off took some of the sting out of the game.
Despite being an excellent defender with the county under 21 team Aidan Ryan showed his prowess as a forward with two excellent points in a row coming up to half time. Diarmuid O’Sullivan’s effort for a goal from a 20-metre free was only inches over the crossbar, and Midleton were nicely situated leading 1-5 to 0-6 at half time with the wind to come in the second half.
However Cloyne, resilient if nothing else, made light of their numerical disadvantage with three points in quick succession from the O’Sullivan brothers Donal (two) and Diarmuid to lead for the first time after 40 minutes.
Youthful Midleton needed nerves of steel now and it was the experience of Peter Smith and Micky O’Connell which came to the fore. Both were magnificent in the face of the increasing Cloyne pressure, and with Willie O’Brien and Padraig O’Shea defiant in defence they hit back with a succession of points to lead 1-11 to 0-10.
Diarmuid O’Sullivan pointed a long-range free to leave a goal between the sides, then lined up to take a 20 metre free with a goal on his mind, but with nine defenders on the line he drove the sliotar wide and Midleton were victors on the puck out.
Midleton: A. Ryan, M. O’Connell (0-2 frees) 0-3 each; K. Mulcahy 1-0; W. O’Brien, S. Hennessy (free), L. Walsh (free), S. O’Farrell, K. Hurley 0-1 each.Cloyne: Diarmuid O’Sullivan 0-4 (frees); C. O’Sullivan, Donal O’Sullivan 0-2 each; L. O’Driscoll, J. Nylan, M. Cahill 0-1 each.
B. Behan; P. Barry, A. Kearney, A. Cahill; P. O’Shea, P. Smith, W. O’Brien; S. Hennessy, M. O’Connell; A. cotter, A. Ryan, K. Mulcahy; L. O’Farrell, D. Ryan, S. O’Farrell.
L. Walsh for Mulcahy; K. Hurley for Hennessy; J. Keane for Cotter; D. O’Brien for S. O’Farrell.
D. Og Cusack; D. Motherway, K. Cronin, B. Fleming; E. O’Sullivan, M. Cahill, J. Nyhan; L. O’Driscoll, Donal O’Sullivan; V. Cusack, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, J. Cotter; C. O’Sullivan, M. Naughton, C. Cusack.
P. Cahill for Fleming.
D. Kirwan (Eire Og).