Watergrasshill 1-16 Cloyne 2-11: “We won with pure heart and determination,” was the verdict of Watergrasshill manager John O’Regan after his side battled back from eight points down to snatch victory at the death over a fancied Cloyne in the Cork Premier IHC on Saturday.
It has been a while since the ‘Hill had cause to celebrate a first-round victory and consequently they have been involved in a fair share of relegation battles in hurling and football.
With many dual players, it is huge relief all round as Glenville have also made it through to round four of the intermediate football championship.
The old cliché, a game of two halves, was never more relevant, Watergrasshill bouncing back from a sluggish first-half.
Shane O’Regan, doubtful beforehand with a hamstring injury, led the way, weighing in with an inspirational nine points, while the crucial goal that sparked the revival was fired by sub Sean O’Leary in spite of an extraordinary double save from Donal Óg Cusack.
Cloyne started well, they were competitive, and were full value for their 2-1 to 0-0 lead after six minutes.
Midfielder Chris Smith and wing-back Briain Minihane (long free) registered the goals.
Watergrasshill kept in touch through the accuracy of Shane O’Regan and by the half were 2-6 to 0-6 in arrears.
The Cloyne challenge — already short Ian Cahill (sick) — was further weakened when corner-back Eoin O’Sullivan had to retire through injury 22 minutes in.
Paudie O’Sullivan scored his fourth point after the resumption, but two Shane O’Regan frees reduced the gap to five points, and when O’Leary grabbed the goal, the gap was down to two.
Gaining a vital foothold around midfield, Watergrasshill drove at the Cloyne defence at every opportunity.
Superbly crafted points from Kevin O’Neill, Anthony Cronin, Paudie Cahill and sub Ben Halbert saw them draw level for the first time with 15 minutes remaining. They were still deadlocked in the final five minutes. However, capitalising on a couple of Cloyne misses, Paudie Cahill edged them into the lead in the 57th minute. They refused to let that momentum slip. In a grandstand finish, Mossie Barry made a crucial interception and the resultant clearance found Cahill again who pushed the ‘Hill two points clear.
“This win will make a fierce difference to the young fellas,” said O’Regan.
“The last few years we have been fighting relegation after relegation. I think winning the first round of the football helped us a lot as well.”
John Halbert was unavailable due to injury but the manager expects him to be fit for the next round when he will travel home from his work base abroad.
Meanwhile, Cloyne head into round two and a meeting with Inniscarra.
Scorers for Watergrasshill:
S O’Regan (0-9, eight frees), P Cahill (0-4), S O’Leary (1-0), B Halbert, K O’Neill and A Cronin (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cloyne:
P O’Sullivan (0-7, five frees), C Smith (1-1), B Minihane (1-0), C O’Sullivan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan (free) and C Mullins (0-1 each).
A Foley; M Barry, N O’Riordan, A Ricken; O O’Reilly, P O’Regan, B Fenton; A Cronin, S O’Callaghan; W O’Leary, K O’Neill, J McCarthy; P Cahill, O Barry, S O’Regan.
Subs: S O’Leary for O Barry (28), B Halbert for J McCarthy (40), P Cronin for W O’Leary (56).
D Óg Cusack; E O’Sullivan, Domhnall O’Sullivan, B Fleming; B Minihane, K Cronin, S Beausang; C Smith, J Sherlock; A Walsh, C Mullins, K Dennehy; C O’Sullivan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, P O’Sullivan.
E Motherway for E O’Sullivan (22 inj), D Power for J Sherlock (38), C Cusack for C Smith (55).
Joe Larkin (Douglas).
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