WHITE’S CROSS withstood a strong late Gabriel Rangers’ rally before advancing to the Evening Echo Cork JAFC semi-final in Bandon yesterday.
The city team have claimed the last three Seandún JFC titles and have big ambitions to succeed in the county arena. When they enjoyed a 1-10 to 0-6 lead with just 12 minutes remaining, their progression to the last four looked secured. But Gabriel Rangers, newcomers to this level after winning their first Carbery JFC crown recently, fought valiantly until the final whistle.
They were largely inspired by their exceptional corner-forward Mark Cronin, who contributed all but one point of their overall tally, while the work of the dynamic Seamus Kelleher was also key. Cronin converted a 48th minute free before curling over two points to leave them 1-10 to 0-9 adrift. White’s Cross relieved the pressure when Ken O’Keeffe, brother of former Kerry All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Declan, tapped over a free in the 54th minute.
Gabriel Rangers kept on fighting though and were rewarded when they found the net in the 60th minute, Cronin rifling home a fierce drive after a neat pass by Liam Hegarty. However, time ran out on Gabriel Rangers’ challenge.
On the overall balance of play White’s Cross deserved their success. They made an explosive start with their powerful midfield duo Murt Kelleher and Denis O’Regan providing them with a strong platform. O’Regan, O’Keeffe and Kelleher all grabbed points to send them 0-3 to 0-0 ahead by the fourth minute. Kelleher was becoming the game’s most commanding performer and he stuck a decisive blow for his team in the 11th minute when he slalomed through the Gabriel Rangers defence and crashed the ball to the net.
After that nervous opening, Gabriel Rangers’ play improved as the half progressed. Cronin emerged as the chief weapon at their disposal and he kicked a series of fine points to trim the deficit to 1-5 to 0-5 at the interval. However White’s Cross regained the impetus after the break and enjoyed a crucial phase of dominance on the scoreboard.
Kelleher and Edwin Buckley were on target from play and O’Keeffe slotted over a couple of frees to insert daylight between the teams as White’s Cross led 1-9 to 0-5. That cushion proved significant as White’s Cross were able to cope with the late barrage of pressure from Gabriel Rangers and set up a semi-final meeting with Mitchelstown or Tracton.
Scorers for White’s Cross: K O’Keeffe 0-6 (frees); M Kelleher 1-2; D O’Regan, D Kelly, E Buckley 0-1 each.
Gabriel Rangers: M Cronin 1-8 (0-3 frees); E Goggin 0-1 (0-1 free).
WHITE’S CROSS: B Sheahan; J O’Connell, J Cooney, B Murphy; D Kelly, E Murnane, P O’Brien; M Kelleher, D O’Regan; C Buckley, E Buckley, P O’Sullivan; D Burke, S Kiely, K O’Keeffe. Subs: S Gorman forO’Brien (42), S Keane for Burke (46), D Murnane for Kiely (48).
GABRIEL RANGERS: D O’Mahony; C Sheehan, T Sheehan, G O’Callaghan; L Hegarty, G O’Callaghan, J O’Callaghan; J Ward, P Nolan; S Kelleher, G Hurley, G O’Callaghan; M Cronin, S O’Mahony, E Goggin.
Subs: E Kelleher for Sheehan (46), M Cotter for Ward (57).
Referee: S Collins (Carrigaline).
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