The three month wait since Midleton’s first round win may account for their uncharacteristic profligacy. And, though much of their outfield play was smart and neat, when it came to putting points on the scoreboard their radar was way out of focus, particularly in the first-half when accumulating 14 wides.
Midleton manager, Jerry Wallace, has called for change to the current championship format. “Explain tonight’s performance? Three months of inactivity from championship hurling,” admitted Wallace. “I think there’s a big collective decision needed at County Board level to look at the structure that’s in place. It has been a huge achievement for us to get over the line tonight.”
A review process, initiated by the Competition’s Control Committee of the Cork Board, will begin later this month with a series of consultative meetings with all stakeholders to examine the current championship format.
Added Wallace: “It’s been hard trying to keep the training fresh for the last three months.” As for plucky St. Finbarr’s, they normally don’t do glorious defeats. But for a team seeking a return to glory days, the Togher side can look back at this performance with a great degree of pride. Progress has been made.
Led superbly in attack by Bill Beckett – the game’s standout player - only for some poor decision-making, overly ambitious outfield shooting and the failure to convert a golden goal chance before half-time may have cost them a place in the quarter-finals. The ‘Barr’s were also dealt a cruel blow in the build-up when two of their most exciting young talents in Philip Kelleher and Billy Hennessy picked up hand injuries.
It meant ‘Barr’s manager, John Cremin, had to re-jig his attack but Beckett’s leadership, some splendid points from Eoin Finn and the hard work of Glenn O’Connor. John Neville and Cian Walsh in defence provided the leadership for Cremin’s side.
“The lads battled to the bitter end – that’s what you’d be proud up and want your team to do,” said Cremin. “We’re a young team and to think where we were after the Douglas and Blackrock games they showed maturity there tonight. They were up for the battle. We’ll be disappointed – the chances came our way and you just need to take them.”
The first-half was devoid of the intensity one might associate with a tussle between two giants of Cork hurling while Midleton’s poor shooting drew only gasps and groans from their followers.
It was hard to believe what was unfurling especially when a player of Conor Lehane’s calibre was missing the target from good scoring positions.
The sides were level four times after 17 minutes, though at this juncture Midleton’s raised their game when Lehane landed a free and delightfully skilful solo-point in the 19th and 21t minutes respectively.
But, allied to some further uncharacteristic shooting and the resilience of the Barr’s, Midleton dominance never materialised. Instead the ‘Barrs’ resurgence translated into three consecutive points from Finn, Beckett and Enda Dennehy that pushed them 0-7 to 0-6 in front. Small margins win big games and one materialised for the Barr’s in the 29th minute when Beckett burst through the opposition rear-guard and, rather than continue running nearer to goal, opted instead to fire from 20 metres, an effort that Tommy Wallace blocked. The last play of the half saw Luke O’Farrell, who had a quiet hour, land his only point of the night to leave it stand 0-7 apiece at the break.
St. Finbarr’s restarted brightly with a free from Beckett and a superb long range effort from Eoin Finn before one of Midleton’s better performers, Paul Haughney, scored from play. The tempo had also increased, and minutes later, Midelton’s Luke O’Farrell had goal chance rebuffed by David O’Gorman. Beckett continued to shine up front and added his sixth in the 36th minute before Lehane was moved to full- forward, the Cork senior followed by his inter-county teammate Damien Cahalane to the edge of the square.
There he became a target for his side and, when Tommy Wallace unleashed a huge clearance in the 39th minute, Lehane created the space with his body to allow James Nagle collect and fire brilliantly beyond O’Gorman.
However, Beckett again responded with a huge effort from play to level matters. They were level twice more by the 51st minute before Haughney and Lehane pushed Midleton two ahead in the 53rd minute. The Barr’s weren’t going to go quietly into the good night and, when substitute Robert O’Mahony collected a Scott Callinan sideline and billowed the back of Wallace’s net, the Togher side were in dreamland.
However, Midleton finished the stronger with points from Lehane (free), Cormac Walsh and a fine effort from Aidan Ryan.
C Lehane (0-5, 3 frees); J Nagle (1-1); P Haughney (0-3); C Walsh (0-2); P White, S O’Farrell, L O’Farrell and A Ryan (0-1 each).
B Beckett (0-7, 3 frees); R O’Mahony (1-0); E Finn (0-3); E Dennehy, C Keane and B Ramsey (0-1 each).
T Wallace; C Hurley, P O’Mahony, A Kearney; K Burke, A Ryan, P Dowling (capt); P Haughney, C Lehane; P White, S O’Farrell; J Nagle; L O’Farrell, B Hartnett, C Walsh.
D O’Gorman; J Neville, J Burns, D Quinn; P Wiley, E Keane, C Walsh; D Cahalane, G O’Connor; C Cahalane, B Beckett, E Finn; E Dennehy, E Maher, C Keane.
R O’Mahony for Maher and S Callinan for C Cahalane (both ht); B Ramsey for Dennehy (41); C McCarthy for Keane (48); C Cahalane for Wiley (59, inj.).
D. Copps (Ballyhea)