Solid second-half defending helped Inniscarra to grind out victory over Valley Rovers in the opening round of the Premier IHC at Cloughduv yesterday.
Trailing 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time after playing poorly against the wind, once the Muskerry club seized the lead through Colm Casey’s 34th-minute goal they always kept Rovers at arm’s length.
Casey, who finished with 1-2, shone brightest in attack for Inniscarra, but it was in defence where the game was won, with captain John O’Callaghan, Stephen Olden and Kevin Burke all impressing.
As good as the work at the back was, Valleys will know they must shoulder a lot of the blame, as they had 14 wides and corner-back Jeremy Hurley top-scored as his placed balls provided half of their output.
Missing talismanic Eamonn Collins as well as Kevin Canty, the Innishannon side were always likely to struggle for scores but they still managed to raise the game’s first three white flags inside 11 minutes. Inniscarra had their own travails in attack, and while they withdrew corner-forward Frank Olden tomidfield, his influence was curbed by marker Conor Lynch.
Despite the superiority, Valleys were wasting chances but Chris O’Donovan, Fearghal Coughlan and Hurley were standing tall in defence, and while Inniscarra did get off the mark through Jonathan Olden and John Casey, Hurley’s 65 made it 0-4 to 0-2 by the 24th minute.
Casey ensured there was just the minimum between the teams at half-time, and while Valleys had a point from Joe Lynch 20 seconds into the second half, Casey was on target again to cancel that out before he conjured up the game’s crucial score.
After picking up a break around the 45, he left everybody in his wake and sent a brilliant shot to the top corner to make it 1-4 to 0-5. With the wind behind them, Inniscarra looked set to pull away, but any momentum they hoped to key into was punctured with the outbreak of a brawl beside the dugouts involving players and mentors.
Once peace was restored, Rovers’ Gary Farrell and Inniscarra goalkeeper David Barry were both sent off, Aidan O’Mahony going in goal, and though Frank Olden and Jonathan Olden twice put Inniscarra into goal-leads after that, Hurley responded each time.
Overall, Valleys were lacking a punch close to goal as the Inniscarra defence assumed superiority while at the other end Stephen Olden almost played in sub Seán O’Callaghan only for a good Chris O’Donovan interception.
As the game reached the 60-minute mark, sub Conor Buckley and Frank Olden from a free extended the Inniscarra lead to four. Other chances to seal it were squandered but Valleys could not work the stand-in goalkeeper, and when they got a 20m free in injury time their netminder Willie Burke came up to take it but his shot was tipped over.
That was Valleys’ last chance, and they now face Castlelyons in round two.
Scorers for Inniscarra: C Casey 1-2, F Olden (2f), J Olden 0-2 each, J Casey, C Buckley 0-1 each.
Scorers for Valley Rovers: J Hurley 0-4 (3f, 1 65), W Burke (1f), D Crowley (1f), R Fleming, J Lynch 0-1 each.
INNISCARRA: D Barry; J O’Callaghan, K Burke, B O’Keeffe; S Olden, P Kavanagh, L Ó Riain; T Murphy, A O’Mahony; J Casey, J Olden, C Casey; R O’Connor, D O’Connell, F Olden.
Subs: C Buckley for O’Connor (40), S O’Callaghan for J Casey (51).
VALLEY ROVERS: W Burke; C Lynch, T Cummins, J Hurley; J Cottrell, C O’Donovan, F Coughlan; SD O’Sullivan, D Crowley; R Fleming, E Manning, J Lynch; B Hawkes, G Farrell, J Crowley.
Subs: T McKeon for Cottrell (30, inj), J Burke for J Crowley (37), T Burke for Hawkes (46), C O’Sullivan for Fleming (57).
Referee: M O’Mahony (Kilbrittain).
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