ULTIMATELY, Michael Kelly’s 38th minute goal was the difference between these two sides in a highly competitive Co-op Superstores LIHC semi-final played in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday afternoon.
It means Castlemartyr now face-off with their neighbours from Russell Rovers in two weeks’ time in a final that promises to be a fascinating encounter.
The Imokilly side led by 0-10 to 0-7 when Barry Lawton had the cuteness to flick a long delivery into Kelly’s path. The young corner-forward, who was excellent throughout, then showed great composure in slotting the sliotar beyond Alan Hayes in the Kilbrittain goal to double his side’s lead.
Kilbrittain answered the goal well with two frees from Maurice Sexton and another long distance one from Ross Cashman to leave Kelly’s goal separating the sides as they broke for water, 1-10 to 0-10.
Try as they might, however, the west Cork side could never break the goal as their east Cork rivals were always able to get the scores they needed to keep them at bay.
Kelly traded points with Philip Wall before Barry Lawton did the same with Dec Harrington as the game became a battle of wills. Perhaps nobody showed greater will than Castlemartyr centre-back, Ciaran Joyce, who put in a colossal sixty minutes, never more so in the closing stages.
Lawton put the east Cork side four up again with four to go but Sexton’s fifth free left Kelly’s all-important goal between them again as the clock edged towards 60.
Ross Cashman went for goal from distance, but Eanna McGovern did brilliantly to save and when Castlemartyr cleared the resultant ’65, it was all over.
Such a dogged encounter seemed unlikely early on as Castlemartyr scorched into a six point lead. Niall Madden scored three from midfield while Kelly, Jack McGann and Eoghan Martin also found their range.
Paudie Brennan finally put the Carbery side on the board just before the water break and from there to the short whistle, they were the better side.
Sexton and Cashman found the target along with Mark Hickey, Morgan Madden and Conor Moloney while points from Lawtons Barry and Brian meant the Imokilly side led by 0-9 to 0-7 at the break.
Kelly extended that lead on the resumption before striking for that goal that was so crucial in securing their first county final appearance since winning the junior crown in 2014.
Scorers for Castlemartyr: M Kelly (1-3, 2 frees), Barry Lawton (0-4, 1 ’65), N Madden (0-3), Brian Lawton, E Martin and J McGann (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilbrittain: M Sexton (0-5, frees), R Cashman (0-2, 1 free), P Brennan, M Hickey, P Wall, M Madden, C Moloney and D Harrington (0-1 each).
CASTLEMARTYR: E McGovern; B O’Tuama, D Moran, C Martin; A Bowens, C Joyce, P Fleming; M Cosgrave, N Madden; Brian Lawton (Capt), Barry Lawton, J Stack; E Martin, J McGann, M Kelly.
Subs: S Hennessey for Stack (43 min), B Smiddy for Cosgrave (47 min), E Clifford for Martin (57 min), D Kelly for McGann (59 min).
KILBRITTAIN: A Hayes; N O’Donovan (Capt), J Hurley, D Desmond; R Cashman, T Harrington, T Sheehan; P Brennan, C Hickey; M Sexton, C Sheehan, M Hickey; P Wall, C Moloney, M Madden.
Subs: D Harrington for M Hickey (39 min), P O’Mahony for Madden (43 min), S Shorten for Brennan (47 min), C Hogan for C Hickey (50 min).
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Éire Óg).