Quality strikes from two deadly finishers made all the difference in this Cork SHC fourth round clash at Ballynoe on Saturday as Midleton booked their place in the quarter-finals with a hard earned victory over battling Avondhu.
The first goal was expertly fired home by Conor Lehane in the 34th minute, just when Avondhu had streaked into a three point lead. And the second was every bit as tasty, this time Luke O’Farrell doing the business in the 53rd minute, again when Avondhu looked threatening, having equalised at 0-17 to 1-14, the contest simmering towards a mouth watering finish.
Both Cork inter-county men were a handful for the Avondhu defence all night, particularly Lehane, and Midleton boss Peter Smyth was delighted with their contributions and the team performance overall.
Said Smyth: “We were put to the pins of our collars tonight. But we expected it. It’s been a long break since our win over Bishopstown, but at least those 13 or so league games or so kept us ticking over. We had quite a young side out there, but players who have won minor and U21 counties so we had no fear of them not performing. But you can see where the real quality was, those two goals were class and we need that kind of class to win games.”
But Avondhu can still take a lot of plusses from this defeat for they hurled every bit as well as Midleton for most of the hour. Down the spine they were excellent — Barry Coleman was superb a full-back, Tadhg Healy was close to man of the match at centre-back, Danny Flynn hurled his heart out at midfield until asked to do some chasing on the dangerous Lehane in the second-half and Peter O’Brien was a nuisance at centre-forward.
But Midleton, too, were tasty at times. They lost wing back James Nagle after only two minutes with a finger injury, resulting in Paul Haughney, just back from the US, coming into the attack, Peter Dowling dropping back to wing back and Cormac Walsh moving to midfield.
Still it was Avondhu, with the strong wind at their backs in the opening half, that made the early running as a couple of O’Brien frees and one from Adrian Mannix shot them into a three point lead.
Midleton were slow to settle, though both O’Farrell and Lehane did have shots as goal beaten away, and it was Avondhu who led 0-5 to 0-2 after the opening quarter, Flynn getting the first point from open play in the 15th minute.
Midleton upped the ante in the second quarter though, three superb points from Lehane and two from Haughney putting the sides level by the 20th minute. And though Padraig O’Keeffe put Midleton ahead for the first time, two mighty efforts from Mannix and a free from O’Brien made sure Avondhu led at the break, 0-10 to 0-8.
Then, after Kieran Mulcahy and Mannix exchanged points, came the first hammer blow for Avondhu. Lehane took a pass from Dowling and with only one thing on his mind he raced through to fire an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Kieran Walsh. It not only tied up the scores, but gave Midleton a new found impetus, with Nagle, who returned to the action late in the first-half, outstanding in the half backline. And, with Cormac Walsh keeping the scoreboard ticking over with his free-taking, Midleton were in the ascendancy leading 1-13 to 0-14 entering the final quarter.
But Avondhu just wouldn’t go away. Shane Beston started to make a nuisance of himself with a couple of nice points and when substitute Noel McNamara tied up the scores in the 53rd minute we looked to be in for a rip-roaring finish.
Or so we thought. Straight from Tommy Wallace’s puck-out following McNamara’s point, O’Farrell was first to the breaking ball and he raced away before firing home a beauty past Walsh. It proved a killer strike.
With Smyth finally succumbing to his finger injury, to be replaced by Leslie Coughlan, Avondhu tried mightily for an equalising goal. But a resolute defence and the strong hand of Kilkenny man Dowling in particular continually kept the divisional side at bay. And, just to make it safe, goalkeeper Wallace floated over a long range free in injury time and Midleton were on their way to a quarter-final meeting with either Bishopstown or Douglas.
Scorers for Midleton: C. Lehane 1-3, L. O’Farrell 1-1, C. Walsh 0-4 (frees), P. O’Keeffe 0-3, P. Haughney 0-2, K. Mulcahy, T. Wallace (free) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Avondhu: P. O’Brien 0-6 (0-5 frees), A. Mannix 0-5 (0-2 frees), S. Beston 0-2, D. Flynn, J. O’Brien, A. Cagney, N. McNamara 0-1 each.
MIDLETON: T. Wallace; K. Burke, P. O’Mahony, D. Ryan; E. Walsh, F. O’Mahony, J. Nagle; P. Dowling, S. O’Farrell; P. O’Keeffe, P. O’Shea, C. Lehane; L. O’Farrell, K. Mulcahy, C. Walsh.
Subs: P. Haughney for Nagle (2min, inj), Nagle for E. Walsh (28m), P. White for C. Walsh (bs), L, Coughlan for Nagle (54), White for O’ Keeffe (59).
AVONDHU: K. Walsh (Kilworth); D. O’Carroll (Fermoy), B. Coleman (Ballyhea), M. Walsh (Kildorrery); C. O’Flynn (Charleville), T. Healy (Buttevant), J. Hayes (Mallow); D. Flynn (Charleville), H. O’Gorman (Milford); S. Beston (Ballygiblin), P. O’Brien (Kildorrery), A. Cagney (Chareville); A. Mannix (Kilworth), M. O’Sullivan (Ballyhea), J. O’Brien (Charleville).
Subs: N. McNamara (Kilworth) for J. O’Brien (38m), A. Sheehan (Mallow) for Cagney (50).
Referee: C. Lane (Banteer).
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