REACHING your first county senior hurling final is a day to cherish and Cork IT did that in style in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
Winning by a staggering 14-point margin after producing a consummate display was one thing, but felling the favourites and title holders Newtownshandrum in the process embellished the students’ achievement further.
After their fourth-round conquest of Erin’s Own, CIT have now removed clubs who have lifted four of the last six Cork SHC crowns from the equation. And this semi-final win was richly deserved, achieved on the back of a cohesive and well-drilled display that featured dazzling scoring contributions from attackers Tommy Quaid, Simon O’Brien and David Drake.
“We’re delighted to be in the county championship, a great honour for us, and the fact we’ve got so far is a massive bonus,” said CIT GAA officer Keith Ricken. “It’s a Cork-based team and they reckon Tommy Quaid is as good as in the county when he’s living on the Limerick border. The players drive this. They do two things in the summer, either got to America or play in the Cork championship, and both are great experiences for them as young men.”
The scale of CIT’s victory was stunning. Newtownshandrum had entered the match on the back of a quarter-final win over champions Sarsfields that would have nourished hopes of progressing. Yet they were strangely flat throughout. Despite being backed by a gale in the first half, the north Cork men couldn’t capitalise.
The opening exchanges were largely sub-standard, but CIT made better headway and Newtownshandrum were severely hampered by their inability to post more than one point on the board in the opening 22 minutes. Their prospects looked grim when they trailed 2-4 to 0-5 at the break.
CIT’s first goal arrived courtesy of Simon O’Brien, who broke through to neatly finish to the net after a long ball by Colm Casey in the fourth minute. O’Brien then turned creator for Quaid to bat home their second goal. Indeed CIT’s lead could have been greater but for William Biggane superbly preventing David Drake from finding the net in the 19th minute.
CIT, anchored by a formidable rearguard where Eoin Dillon and Ross Cashman commanded the spine and captain Lorcan McLoughlin shone at half-back, never let up in the second half and their final winning margin was eye-watering.
“Of course the size of the victory was a surprise,” admitted Ricken. “But that was a strong wind out there today. It took Newtown a long time to get their shooting right. We were lucky we played against it in the first half as we realised that long-range shots were not going to go over. We spoke about that at half time and it helped us.”
The Newtownshandrum rally never materialised in the second half. They showed flashes of promise with Ryan Clifford, their best forward on the day, firing over two beautiful points before the interval and he knifed through the defence for a brilliant goal in the 43rd minute.
Entering the final quarter Newtownshandrum had narrowed the gap to five points, but despite the expectation they would further chip away at CIT’s advantage, their good passages of play were too sporadic. Jack Herlihy and Pat Mulcahy battled hard in defence but in the closing stages they were overwhelmed by CIT’s pace and movement.
Simon O’Brien essentially sealed the victory in the 49th minute when he raised his second green flag of the day, skilfully keeping the ball in play on the endline and cutting inside before planting the ball into the far corner of the net.
Drake and Quaid arrowed over points at will late on which meant CIT’s success was assured long before the finish.
In the aftermath there was the heartening sight of the victorious players lining up to commiserate with Newtownshandrum centre-back Pat Mulcahy and CIT’s Fitzgibbon Cup coach Pat Mulcahy.
“The players have great time for Pat Mulcahy, he’s an extraordinary guy,” said Ricken.
“He was that way as a student, with the work he did for the CIT hurling club and as manager this year.
“They’ve all great respect for him and I know they’ll be hoping he’ll be training us in the coming weeks for the third-level league”.
Scorers for Cork IT: T Quaid 1-4 (0-3f), S O’Brien 2-0; L McLoughlin 0-5 (2f, 2 65); D Drake 0-4; J Cronin, C Casey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Newtownshandrum: R Clifford 1-2; J Coughlan 0-2 (1f); Jerry O’Connor, C Naughton, M Bowles 0-1 each.
CORK IT: K Roche (Banteer); B Withers (Banteer), E Dillon (Milford), J O’Callaghan (Inniscarra); L McLoughlin (Kanturk), R Cashman (Kilbrittain), B O’Sullivan (Fermoy); N Kelly (Mayfield), M O’Sullivan (Tracton); J Cronin (Lisgoold), D Drake (Carrigaline), A Walsh (Kanturk); T Quaid (Effin, Lim), S O’Brien (Carrigaline), C Casey (Inniscarra).
Subs: D Lordan (Courcey Rovers) for O’Callaghan (47), J Sheehan (Argideen Rangers) for Lordan (53),
NEWTOWNSHANDRUM: W Biggane; G O’Mahony, B Mulcahy, D Gleeson; J Herlihy, P Mulcahy, P Noonan; B O’Connor, PJ Copse; JP King, Jerry O’Connor, C Naughton; M Bowles, R Clifford, J Coughlan.
Subs: R Fallon for B Mulcahy (ht), D Stack for King (42), John O’Connor for Copse (42), M Ryan for Noonan (58), E O’Connor for Naughton (58)
Referee: C McAllister (Aghada).
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