What a difference a year makes

Glen Rovers captain Graham Callanan raises the Sean Óg Murphy Cup. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

 

The shout has finally gone through the country: The Glen have won the county.

If you have not heard that old refrain in many years, you are not alone. It is 26 years since its last airing, but it echoed through the northside of Cork city yesterday. Last year Glen Rovers were 16 points behind Sarsfields at the final whistle, but yesterday there was no denying them.

There were seven points in it at the finish, but Cian McCarthy’s late goal for Sarsfields was a consolation. Sars’ punishing run-in to the final involved three outings on three consecutive weeks, and as happened with the Glen last year, clearly those games took their toll.

The Glen players’ energy in the second half couldn’t be contained, however, and David Cunningham and David Dooling hammered in the goals that provoked roars to shake the stanchions in Páirc Uí Rinn and provided a flourish to their surge to victory.

The difference between this year and last was marked. Twelve months ago the contest didn’t make it to half-time intact, but this season’s edition was tight to the break and beyond.

For the Glen the challenge was a simple one — to produce the performance that was missing last year and to see where it took them. They needed to look no further than their captain for an example: Graham Callanan gave a magnificent display from wing-back and led from the front from the first whistle to the last. His colleagues responded in kind.

Sarsfields faced a different dynamic. They had had the run-in, with all the associated aches and pains, but against that they could search a hard drive of county final experience unmatched in Cork, with the exact knowledge needed to scratch out victory at their finger-tips.

For all that, the signs were relatively ominous in the first half. Significantly Cian McCarthy, a dynamic ball-winner and scorer for Sarsfields in all their previous campaigns, wasn’t the power in the air or on the ground that he has been, while Daniel Kearney’s energy and mobility didn’t look to be at their customary level either.

In the afternoon’s curtain-raiser, between Newcestown and Valley Rovers, a goal came at the very end as a garnish with the match long decided; in the senior game a green flag would clearly be of more significance. No chances were created before the break, at which point the Glen had two points in hand. Patrick Horgan’s free-taking had been reliable, and if not for a little casualness in approach the Glen’s lead could have been more.

Sars got their scores with less fuss, but the omens got worse for them the longer the game wore on. They were struggling to break down the Glen half-back line, where Callanan was giving a display for the ages, pulling down ball after ball, while Stephen McDonnell mopped up what broke behind them.

The second half was all Glen. The fresher team, and clearly the hungrier side, they started to nudge further and further ahead, with Sars struggling to contain them.

When the Glen streamed forward in numbers on 48 minutes there was no guarantee of a goal, but a calmly worked sequence of handpasses left David Cunningham with a goal chance he converted expertly. Within five minutes David Dooling strode forward, deep into the Sars defence, before cracking home the goal that sealed the win, despite McCarthy’s late consolation.

The Glanmire club lost nothing in defeat: When Graham Callanan said in his victory speech that Sars had set the standard in Cork he was correct, and they maintained those standards yesterday.

Manager Pat Ryan shook hands with the Glen players coming in after the game and wished them well, as did other members of the Sars backroom and squad: it’s easy to be magnanimous when you win, but the east Cork club showed real grace yesterday in defeat.

For the Glen, the pitch invasion after the game which minced the match regulations told its own story, led as it was by ladies and gentlemen of advanced years, many of them walking the field in tears.

In the autumn sunshine, as the players streamed to the dressing-room, thoughts turned to bringing the cup back across the bridge named after their most famous son, and to where it will stay for the next 12 months.

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