JAMES McCarthy saw his Castlehaven team create history on Sunday night, but being the first team to win a Cork senior championship game on penalties wasn’t necessarily a distinction he wanted to have.
After 80 minutes of incredible intensity left the Haven level with St Finbarr’s, a shootout was required to determine who would advance to meet Nemo Rangers in the final.
Steven Sherlock was first up for the Barrs, with Anthony Seymour saving, then Haven captain Mark Collins put them ahead.
When Eoin Keane also had his effort saved by Seymour, the Haven had a chance to move two ahead but Patrick O’Neill in the Barrs goal kept out Shane Nolan’s effort. Cillian Myers Murray levelled for the Togher side but Damien Cahalane cracked home a beauty to keep the Haven in front.
Then, Olan Murphy tied matters at 2-2 again with as cool a spot-kick as you’d see, meaning that O’Neill’s save from Jack Cahalane left things poised ahead of the final set of kicks. Effectively, it was sudden-death but both takers, Brian Hayes of the Barrs and the Haven’s Rory Maguire, both netted.
That sent things into ‘proper’ sudden death, meaning that the teams could nominate any one of the previous five takers to step up. Myers Murray did so again for the Barrs but while he struck the ball well, it came back off the crossbar, allowing Collins the opportunity to secure the win for his team.
He took that opportunity to send his team through to the final against Nemo Rangers and it was little wonder that manager McCarthy reserved such high praise for the midfielder, who had battled hard against inter-county colleague Ian Maguire all through the game.
“Who else would you want taking a winner-takes-all kick?” he asked.
“He was outstanding tonight, himself and Maguire went toe-to-toe with each other and that’s what you want to see for Cork football, your best players going on each other and having a good humdinger.”
What wasn’t to McCarthy’s taste was the way that victory was achieved, with elimination on penalties cruel on a Barrs team that battled so hard for the entirety of the game.
“We’re happy with the result,” he said, “but I wouldn’t fancy putting lads through that again.
“Both sides gave their all and they were cramping at the end. On a bad night, both teams went to the wire.
“Each could have won at certain stages. We nearly had it at the end of 60 minutes and they came back and scored again. It could have gone either way.”
Early on, it seemed like it might go the way of the Barrs. While they had had to play their delayed quarter-final against Newcestown last Wednesday night, it looked to have sharpened them up in comparison to the Haven, whose last action had been the big group-stage win over Ilen Rovers on September 6.
That result meant that they had the top seeding, earning a semi-final spot but the longer lay-off ran the risk of rustiness. McCarthy felt that was a factor in his side going 1-3 to 0-2 down early on.
“Their intensity was way higher than ours and the water-break couldn’t come quick enough for us,” he said.
“The lads got a bit of a rollicking – ‘You’re in a semi-final now, wakey wakey.’ In the group stages, you won’t get that intensity.
“There were stages where we could have been overrun but we came back and the Barrs were the same. Nobody gave a yard on each other.”
It’s likely to be the same in the final, third Haven-Nemo decider in the space of eight years – amazingly, the clubs had never met in the senior final before that, despite having been in 28 finals between them prior to that.
In 2013, reigning champions the Haven repeated their first-round win over Nemo, but two years later the city side prevailed in a replay after a draw the first day out.
It could well be a draw again when the final is played but, if this is the case, then there is the possibility of more penalties. It’s far from an ideal way of sorting things, but if it comes to that then the Haven will at least have the prior experience.