From the throw-in, both sides showed great intensity and a huge appetite for work and it resulted in spells of dominance in a lively semi-final. But big players win big matches and in Donncha O’Connor and Aidan Walsh Duhallow held the trump cards — O’Connor kicking five points and Walsh two in typical leadership roles.
Let there be no mistake though, Duhallow needed a full supporting cast for this win as O’Donovan Rossa gave them a rough ride. Their point of failure? Faltering where it mattered most by not getting on the scoreboard.
Duhallow were rock solid in defence where Kealan Buckley slotted in nicely in the half-back line; big Bertie O’Callaghan did his share of hard work around midfield with Matt Dilworth and Jack Cott ably abetting O’Connor up front to keep the Skibbereen defence constantly on high alert.
It’s been a tough ride for Duhallow to reach this decider — defeat, draws, extra-time and replays, but so far none of their opponents have been able to match their resolve.
And coach Ned English wasn’t half pleased after a gritty performance.
“What a super bunch of players,” he said. “The lads showed what they are capable of tonight. We have been unlucky in the past in semi-finals, but the intensity we showed tonight was just unreal. We got the basics right, were mentally strong, contained them well and gave nothing away.
“In saying that, we also know we’ve won nothing yet. A good Skibb team tested us tonight, yes, but we were strong and determined and we’re looking forward to the final now.”
And they should be. Despite Skibb opening well, operating with Thomas Hegarty and Donal Óg Hodnett in a two-man front line and Conor McCarthy in his usual play-making role around midfield, Duhallow were soon energised after a Rob Long effort came back off an upright.
Dilworth was first to pounce in the sixth minute following a quick free by Niall Fleming helped on by Cott and Dilworth got a second a minute later.
Hegarty did steady the ship with a Skibb point, but after Hodnett was denied a goal chance by ’keeper Kevin Murphy, Duhallow raided again and two sublime points from O’Connor earned his side a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after the opening quarter.
But they got a reality check from a stubborn Skibb side in the second quarter as a couple of points from Hodnett, followed by a whopper from Kevin Davis from the left touchline and a ‘45 by goalkeeper Ryan Price pushed them ahead.
But O’Connor and Walsh stepped up to the plate again to lift Duhallow with late points to push them into 0-6 to 0-5 interval lead.
The divisional side brought Lorcan McLoughlin into the attack for the second-half and he proved a great asset, scoring two fine points as Skibb began to shoot themselves in the foot with some appalling efforts on goal. Eoin Hodnett, McCarthy and Hodnett all missed point chances and they were made to pay big time as points from Dilworth and McLoughlin stretched Duhallow’s lead to three.
Then another glorious Skibb chance in the 45th minute, McCarthy finding Hodnett in space. He, in turn, put David Shannon in on goal, but the substitute ballooned the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Leading 0-8 to 0-6, Duhallow were riding their luck. But they were able to up the ante again and despite some excellent play by Flor Crowley and Dan Hazel in the Skibb rearguard, Walsh gave another example of his power and quality when he ghosted through the defence to score a bullet of a point.
And, with O’Connor adding another beauty in the 54th minute, it was all over for Skibb.
They battled away but they can have few complaints, for when Duhallow needed to up it a gear, they did it with aplomb and, despite Ger Minihane getting a seventh Skibb point, Cott and subs Niall O’Sullivan and McLoughlin added three more at the other end.
Scorers for Duhallow: D O’Connor 0-5 (2fs), M Dilworth, A Walsh, L McLoughlin 0-2 each, J Cott, N O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Scorers for O’Donovan Rossa: D Óg Hodnett 0-2 (1f), T, Hegarty, K Davis, R Price (45), D Shannon, G Minihane 0-1 each.
DUHALLOW: K Murphy (Boherbue); J McLoughlin (Kanturk), P Gayer (Castlemagner), A J O’Connor (Kiskeam); K Buckley (Knocknagree), J Healy (Ballydesmond), S Murphy (Ballydesmond); B O’Callaghan (Ballydesmond), A Walsh (Kanturk); D O’Connor (Ballydesmond), D Gayer (Castlemagner), T Collins (Castlemagner); M Dilworth (Knocknagree), J Cott (Castlemagner) , N Fleming (Ballydesmond).
Subs: L McLoughlin (Kanturk) for Collins (ht), J Dennehy (Kiskeam) for P Gayer (48), N O’Sullivan (Dromtariffe) for Fleming (56), K Holland (Kanturk) for Dilworth (60).
O’DONOVAN ROSSA: R Price; F Crowley, A Tanner, E Nealon; D Hazel, P Nealon, G Minihane; J O’Sullivan, S Carmody; E Hodnett, D Og Hodnett, R Long; K Davis, C McCarthy, T Hegarty.
Subs: P Gilmore for O’Sullivan (40), D Shannon for Long (40), J O’Sullivan for Tanner 45), C Crowley for E Hodnett (51), P Crowley for Carmody (60).
Referee: J Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).