Blackrock are back on track

Blackrock 2-11 St Finbarr’s 0-15: “We are delighted to bury the memory of Ballyhea,” said Blackrock coach, Eddie Murphy, following this Cork SHC second-round victory at Páirc Uí Rinn.

Blackrock fell to Ballyhea, last year’s Premier IHC champions, in round one, but yesterday they led from start to finish, with a storming first eight minutes in which they scored a goal and five points without reply. They also ended any relegation fears and kept their championship hopes alive.

When captain Shane O’Keeffe added a second goal, following a mix-up in the St Finbarr’s goalmouth, midway through the half, the Togher men had it all to do.

In fairness to them, the Barrs did up the ante in a wind-assisted second-half, and while both sides hit some terrible wides, it is the Blues who must head to round three, against Bishopstown.

“There was a lot of criticism after the Ballyhea match,”said Murphy. “That was a nightmare. We wanted to show the true Blackrock today; we showed it in patches. We never looked like losing the game, but we have to work on our shooting. Blackrock have not got past the fourth round in eight or nine years. We have an awful lot of work to do to get past the fourth round.”

This was a significant victory for Blackrock, against the city rivals. Ger Regan’s goal, after he broke through the Barrs’ defence, set them on their way, 1-3 to 0-0. With Niall Cashman lording it at centre-back, the Barrs had to wait 10 minutes for their first score, from Colm Keane. They hit another two points, but were rocked when Shane O’Keeffe scored a goal to extend the Blackrock lead to 2-5 to 0-3.

St Finbarr’s proved they had the stomach for the fight, though, striking the next six points to the Rockies two, which gave the scoreboard a much better complexion at half-time, 0-9 to 2-7. Eoin Finn, Glenn O’Connor, Billy Hennessy and Ian Lordan were all influential in the fight-back.

Stephen Murphy came off the Blackrock bench at half-time and, despite carrying a hand injury, he made an impact.

And when Kevin O’Keeffe — so dependable from the placed ball — edged them five points clear, they looked like they might push on. But, with Damien and Conor Cahalane coming more and more into the action, and Damien rifling over a brace of splendid points, the gap was down to two points at the end of the third quarter (0-13 to 2-9).

However, one felt St Finbarr’s needed a goal and with the Blackrock defence not letting their guard down and goalkeeper, Gavin Connolly, ably dealing with any ball that came his way, they couldn’t get any closer. Too many wides cost them, as well.

At the other end, while it wasn’t vintage, either, from the Blackrock attack — John Neville’s brilliant hook denying Richard Laide a goal-bound shot — they kept their noses in front. Olan Kelleher scored his third point and had to work very hard for it. Lordan made it a two-point match again, with 10 minutes remaining.

Kevin O’Keeffe sent over a 65m — won brilliantly as a result of Kelleher’s tenacity — but Stephen Sherlock scored a point with five minutes remaining to keep the difference at two. With so much to lose and so much to gain, nervous shooting was apparent on both sides. Dogged defending at each end saw the game peter out.

St Finbarr’s mentor, John Cremin, said regrouping was their next challenge.

“We have to regroup. The lads are very disappointed inside in that dressing-room. We are hurting now and we will be hurting tonight. It was a big improvement on our performance against Douglas. We will rally around during the week and get it going again.”

Scorers for Blackrock:

K O’Keeffe (0-5, 2 65s, 1 free), G Regan (1-1), S O’Keeffe (1-0), O Kelleher (0-3), N Cashman (0-2).

Scorers for St Finbarr’s:

I Lordan (0-4, 3 frees, 1 65m), D Cahalane, G O’Connor and E Finn (0-2 each), J Goggin, S Sherlock, C Keane, B Beckett and B Hennessy (0-1 each).

BLACKROCK:

G Connolly; J Cashman, E Cantwell, E McCarthy; A Murphy, N Cashman, G Norberg; R Dineen, R Laide; G Regan, S O’Keeffe, M Ryan; O Kelleher, C Cormack, K O’Keeffe.

Subs:

S Murphy for M Ryan (half-time), M O’Halloran for G Regan (49), D Cashman for C Cormack (50).

ST FINBARR’S:

D O’Gorman; C Walsh, J Burns, J Neville; P Wiley, D Cahalane, J Goggin; C Cahalane, G O’Connor; C Keane, B Beckett, E Finn; B Hennessy, S Sherlock, I Lordan.

Subs:

D Quinn for J Goggin (49), E Dennehy for C Keane (50), E Maher for B Beckett (56).

Referee:

C McAllister (Aghada).


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