More importantly the win ensures the champions are in the draw for the quarter-finals after Christmas as they finished runners up to St Brendan’s in Group C.
Despite the miserable conditions this was a marvellous match between two schools who needed the win to make the next phase. They were level five times before O’Leary struck for the winner which was tough on Fachtna’s who wasted a gilt edged chance to go in front late in the game.
The Skibbereen school looked to be going out of the competition when they fell three points behind but in a sweeping move upfield, Liam Swanton’s shot found the back of the Macroom net through a crowded goalmouth to tie the game for the fifth time.
However Swanton’s memories won’t be fond. Soon after he opted to take a quick free 13 metres out which went astray. Had he left the free for Kevin O’Driscoll who was unerring from placed balls all afternoon, he surely would have given his side the lead and possibly outright victory.
While this was essentially a team effort, Macroom have every reason to be grateful to James O’Leary who landed three majestic points from frees, in each case from 65 metres out.
Apart from O’Leary, Brian Healy, Donal Murphy, Rory Buckley, Con Dunne and Stephen Casey played heroically for Macroom. All credit to St Fachtna’s who battled bravely and it was no fault of Shane Crowley, Liam Sweetman, Ronald Whelton and Kevin O’Driscoll that they just came up short.
Two evenly matched sides made light of the difficult under foot conditions to produce a superb contest of free flowing football. Macroom made the early running and led by two points to nil after five minutes but Fachtna’s recovered well and the sides were tied at 0-4 apiece before Ronald Whelton’s point in injury time, gave the Skibb lads a slender half time lead which they just about deserved.
When word filtered through that St Brendan’s were down by three points to ISK late into the second half — that game started earlier — it meant the result of this game would be academic if Killorglin hung on to win.
Macroom were taking no chances however and in a tremendous 15 minutes spell they stormed into a 0-8 to 0-5 lead which might have been more but for a superb save by ‘keeper Ryan Pierce from Con Dunne.
The introduction of Danny Riordan strengthened Macroom’s challenge still further, but Fachtna’s made a couple of shrewd switches. Shane Crowley went to centre back, Mark Cahalane moved out to midfield and Liam Swanton went forward — and minutes later the latter tied the game with a goal.
By now the word from St Brendans/ISK game was that ‘the Sem’ had recovered to win the game which put enormous importance on the result of this game as the winners would join the Killarney college in the quarter-finals.
Consequently the closing minutes of this game were played out in a welter of excitement as play swung from end to end. Fachtna’s wasted that gilt edged chance to go in front and were made to play the ultimate price when James O’Leary landed the winning point from a 60-metre free to keep his side on course to retain their title.
Macroom: J. O’Leary 0-4 (0-3 frees); S. Casey 0-3; D. Riordan 0-2; P. Dineen, R. Buckley, C. O’Sullivan 0-1 each. St. Fachtna’s: K. O’Driscoll 0-4 (0-3 frees); L. Swanton 1-0; G. Ambrose, R. Whelton, G. O’Mahony 0-1 each.
D. Knight; G. O’Riordan, M. Golden, G. Angland; I. Casey, B. Healy, F. Murphy; J. O’Leary, R. Buckley; C. O’Sullivan, C. Dunne, S. Casey; P. Dineen, W. Ambrose, I. Wiseman.
D. Riordan for Ambrose; K. Desmond for Wiseman.
R. Price; D. O’Hea, S. Crowley, C. Collins; F. O’Donovan, M. Cahalane, C. Sweetman; L. Swanton, S. O’Brien; S. McCarthy, R. Whelton, D. O’Sullivan; G. Minihane, K. O’Driscoll, G. O’Mahony.
D. Lynch for O’Hea; R. Hodnett for McCarthy.
M. Collins (Clonakilty).