Courcey Rovers 2-9 St Catherine's 1-6
IT was only when Linda Collins hit the net in the 56th minute that Courcey Rovers could feel like this game was theirs.
Until that green flag, it was a tightly fought clash with St Catherine's in the SE Systems Senior Championship quarter-final played in Castle Road on Saturday afternoon.
It took St Catherine's until the 39th minute to score from play but that shouldn’t take from the possession they had or the battle they presented.
They shared the attacking stats in a low scoring opening half but creating space was at a minimum due to a tremendous Rovers defence in which Ashling Moloney in particular was outstanding.
Courcey’s, with the more threatening forwards, were trying to give Linda Collins or Christine O’Neill space inside as they alternated positions.
But equally, St Catherine's defence was strong. Cork teammates Laura Hayes and Collins were having a great contest with Hayes instrumental in keeping Courcey’s opening half scores from play to 1-1.
Catherine's had the opening advantage of a deceptively strong wind blowing cross-field but evidently in Catherines’ favour based on the blowing jersey of Jacinta Crowley as she faced the elements and struck three frees and 45s.
Her 45 on four minutes was batted down into the square where Christine O’Neill was waiting to tap into the corner of the net.
O’Neill was causing problems with a strong work rate, good distribution and winning frees. Fiona Keating was making searing runs down the middle and it looked as if the west Cork side would have too much firepower.
Just after the water break St Catherine's had a goal opportunity cleared off the line and Courceys took a narrow four-point lead into the half time break.
They increased that lead by three to 1-6 after Fiona Keating, Jacinta Crowley and Collins had three more points on the board inside seven minutes, the latter’s score an inspiring one after brilliant defensive play again by Ashling Moloney.
It looked as if that was going to be how the second half would play out, Rovers were pulling away.
But the game swung on its head as St Catherine's responded with 1-2 bringing the gap to two points and creating a nervousness in Courceys' approach.
Evelyn Ronayne first made a brilliant block on Saoirse McCarthy to stop a certain goal, then she delivered a perfect ball into Finola Neville, who caught and hit the net despite goalkeeper Sinead O’Reilly getting a touch.
Jacinta Crowley steadied the nerves with a pointed free and Courcey’s had time to regroup as the second water break of the game arrived.
Again Crowley pointed (f) but St Catherine's were not going away.
It was a right battle, with numerous frees and yellow cards handed out. But it was exciting. Finally, Courceys could breathe easier with Linda’s belter of a goal, as she finally got away from the attentions of the excellent Laura Hayes.
Saoirse McCarthy pointed before Sara Barry and Neville again replied. But it was in injury time and Rovers led by six points in a game they overall deserved to win but which Catherine's made them work all the way for.
Orla Cotter of course was a loss to St Catherine's. Her intention was to return from New Jersey for her club's championship but due to travel restrictions that wasn’t possible.
Rovers advance to the semi-final where they will be hard to beat on this form.
Scorers for Courcey Rovers: J Crowley 0-5 (0-4 f, 0-1 45), L Collins 1-1, C O’Neill 1-0, F Keating 0-2, S McCarthy 0-1.
St Catherine's: F Neville 1-2 (0-2 f), L O’Donnell 0-2 (0-1 f, 0-1 45), A O’Regan, S Barry 0-1 each.
COURCEY ROVERS: S O’Reilly; C Hayes, K Keohane, G Hannon; O Twomey, A Moloney, E Moloney; J Crowley, Elaine O’Reilly; Eimear O’Reilly, F Keating, Lorraine Collins; Linda Collins, C O’Neill, S McCarthy.
Subs: G O’Reilly for Lorraine Collins (h-t), E Maguire for E O’Reilly (56)
ST CATHERINE'S: Y O’Neill; O Neville, C Motherway, A M Rohan; R O’ Callaghan, L Hayes, E Ronayne; M Rohan, M O’Keeffe; N O’Regan, F Neville, C Dreaper; L O’Donnell, A Hurley, C Dunning.
Subs: A O’Regan for C Dunning (h-t), S Barry for C Dreaper (54).
Referee: Andrew Larkin (Ballygarvan).