St Michael's 3-16 Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh 0-14
AT the first water break in Ovens on Saturday evening, this Bon Secours SFC tie was beautifully poised.
Level 0-6 apiece, with all bar one of the 12 points from play, Diarmuid Mac Thomáis had four sizzling scores for Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh with Eoghan Buckley clipped over three for the city side. The middle third was crowded but quick deliveries inside were paying off, with Concubhar Ó Loingsigh and Adam Hennessy also showing well.
Yet when the game resumed, St Michael's found a gear the West Muskerry outfit simply couldn't match. Eric Hegarty, Tom Lenihan, Hennessy and Buckley gave the Dazzlers a four-point advantage while they also had six wides to four, including a goal chance for athletic midfielder Andy O'Connell.
Into the second half, while Béal Áthan added some energy through sub Gavin Ó Laoire, with Éanna Ó Duinín, Donnagh and Ben Searten also impressing and Matt Ó Riordáin curling over a sweet score, they struggled to match last year's PIFC runners-up.
Tadhg Deasy started to punch holes with his direct running and sheer physicality and opened up the defence for Hennessy who set up an Eoghan Buckley goal: 1-11 to 0-9. O'Connell converted after patient approach work, while Liam Grainger was a constant option from the wing, kicking two points.
Michael's were U21 county champions last season, with eight of that group staring here, and many of their young footballers also lifted the P1 minor trophy. There was a swagger to their approach and though Cian Ó Duinín was sweeping, they utilised their fitness and some clever long passes to go around him.
Eoin O'Sullivan and Daniel Meaney anchored a solid rearguard and though they lost the rangy Billy Cain to the sin-bin, they were able to counter for two quality goals. A brilliant flick from Eric Hegarty led to Grainger and Dan Lenihan combining to net, before Hegarty and Hennessy assisted sub Keith Hegarty.
In a group with O'Donovan Rossa, who hammered St Nick's, Michael's are now in pole position to qualify, though they won't get carried away having suffered agonising losses in five adult county finals since 2012.
Scorers for St Michael's: E Buckley 1-4, A Hennessy 0-3, D Lenihan, K Hegarty 1-0 each, T Deasy 0-3 (0-1 f), L Grainger 0-2, A O'Connell, T Lenihan, E Hegarty, D Meaney 0-1 each.
Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh: D Mac Thomáis 0-5, B Searten 0-4 (0-3 f), C Ó Loingsigh 0-2 (0-1 45), D Searten 0-2, M Ó Riordáin 0-1.
ST MICHEAL'S: M Burke; R Coleman, J Cashman, O O'Sullivan; T Lenihan, D Meaney, J Golden; A O'Connell, B Cain; D Lenihan, T Deasy, L Grainger; E Buckley, A Hennessy, E Hegarty.
Subs: M O'Keeffe for Golden (38), B Cain (sin bin 47-57), K Hegarty for Buckley (51), E O'Donovan for O'Connell (56), L O'Sullivan for Lenihan (60).
BÉAL ÁTHAN GHAORTHAIDH: G Ó Muirthile; N Ó Laoire, J Ó Donnchú, N Ó Duinín; D Ó Ceallacháin, C Ó Nuanáin, L Ó Criodáin; C Ó Duinín, C Ó Tuama; M Ó Riordáin, É Ó Duinín, D Searten; D Mac Thomáis, B Searten, C Ó Loingsigh.
Subs: G Ó Laoire for N Ó Duinín (h-t), S Ó Tuama for Ó Loingsigh (42), T Ó Laoire for Ó Riordáin (49), S Ó Muineacháin for Ó Criodáin (51 inj).
Referee: Michael Collins (Clonakilty).