MAKING the journey from Clare to Cork, I was wondering what the conditions would be like following the ex-hurricane and storm we recently experienced.
Would the pitch be able to hold up for two games, and more importantly with the football final replay being on first, would the sod be alright for the hurling?
Should I have doubted? The pitch was perfect, stadium perfect, hospitality wonderful, but, unfortunately the game didn’t live up to expectations, and that was a pity as a few people had said to me walking in ‘Write nice things about us today Tony’.
Well the ‘nice things’ have been said above, i.e. pitch, venue, hospitality!
This game was very like other county finals I have been at this year, in Limerick and Tipperary. All disappointing in my opinion.
This game lacked real intensity and real passion, especially in the first half. Bad decision making, but above all bad shooting on both sides. Also very bad wides and some of these from experienced players.
A lot of people playing as individuals. I could understand maybe, Imokilly doing that as they are the divisional side, but what I could not understand from them, is bringing their goalkeeper out to hit frees so far from his goal, when they could have given this responsibility to some of their outfield experienced players, which they actually did in the finish.
It’s an old saying, goals win matches, and this was true yesterday. There is no such thing as a bad goal and Imokilly got three good ones.
Seamus Harnedy’s goal was a top class finish and I’d say he was delighted to get it, as he was in and out of the game - well marked by Niall Cashman. Like all good players, when he got the chance, he put it away brilliantly.
Brian Lawton also came into the game with his roving role - could have got some more scores if he steadied up in his shooting - and the youngster beside him, a Cork minor this year, Ger Millerick, had a good game. He showed great work rate all over the field and a lad with a very bright future I think. Mark O’Keeffe got a couple of great scores and generally delivered good ball.
I think the best player on view was John Cronin at half-back. He showed great leadership especially in the last vital 15 minutes of the game. John has played a few times for Cork seniors and he used that experience very well - also came in with a great score which is a real bonus for your team out of a defender. He was my Man of the Match.
It was the experienced players that won the game for Imokilly, at different times showing good leadership.
This is what Blackrock lacked really, especially up front. Apart from Michael O’Halloran, who had a very good game with his free taking and scoring ability. He was by far their best player, and at times seemed to be doing it all on his own. Was not far off the Man of the Match award either.
Alan O’Callaghan at times, and Shane O’Keeffe, and subs Tadhg Deasy and Danial Meaney, had their moments too. Still Blackrock lacked real penetration in their attack.
Stephen Murphy and David O’Farrell were working very hard in the middle of the field and helping out their defence more that their forwards, who needed all the help they could get against a hard tackling Imokilly defense, in which Colm Barry was very steady at full-back.
I think Imokilly winning this shows how strong East Cork hurling is, and Fergal Condon and his management team must take great credit for getting all these players from different clubs together and moulding them into a winning combination. A hugh amount of work goes into that task but its very rewarding when its a success.
I’m sure the villages and towns of East Cork will celebrate this for some time, and nowhere better than a little place called Gortroe, where Seamus Harnedy, the captain, comes from. I’m sure there will be a few songs sung and a few drinks taken in the next week or so, and I’m nearly sure one of the leaders of that sing-song will be Art Supple, a proud East Cork man.
I find it hard to understand that if UCC had won the Cork championship they would be allowed represent Cork in the club championship even though their players could be from all over Ireland. Yet Imokilly, whose players are all Corkmen, cannot do this... the mind boggles.
So it's now Blackrock who will represent Cork and they have a big task ahead of them. Apart from the downer of losing the county final, Fergal Ryan and Wayne Sherlock have to lift these players up again and go to the lion’s den, the Gaelic Grounds, and take on Na Piarsaigh, the Limerick champions.
But as with yesterday, this is a big part of their hurling education, and you only get better by playing the best teams.