Charleville 1-27 Erin’s Own 1-25 (after extra time)
WHAT a way for Charleville to announce their return to senior hurling.
This was a stone-cold classic at Páirc Uí Rinn, a brilliant showcase of the best of the club game, though ultimately decided by the marquee inter-county player on show, Darragh Fitzgibbon.
The Cork senior slotted over two points from play in the closing stages of extra time to give last year’s PIHC victors the win, taking his tally to 0-14. Fitzgibbon didn’t dominate the match completely despite his impressive haul, yet when it mattered he delivered.
He had clipped over his third point from play at the end of normal time to nudge Charleville two up which was cancelled out by a free from Eoghan ‘Bear’ Murphy – who was brilliantly clinical as always – and then a monster from play from his brother Kieran ‘Hero’ Murphy. Now a goalkeeper, the ex-Cork hurler charged out and called for a sideline before splitting the posts from well inside his own 45 to force extra time.
It was that type of match.
Erin’s Own, perhaps a bit sharper after their preliminary round tie against Ballymartle a week earlier though still without the injured Robbie O’Flynn, looked in control midway through the second half, leading 1-17 to 0-13. Eoghan Murphy buried the goal, while Mark Collins, Stephen Horgan and Andrew Power nailed some sweet points.
Cian O’Connor and James O’Carroll were motoring well in midfield, where Fitzgibbon was redeployed having been at 14 in the first half, while Cormac Dooley and Jack Sheehan were keeping it tight at the back.
Yet Charleville refused to wilt.
“That’s why we’ve done all the running, not just this year, over the past couple of seasons,” explained coach Ben O’Connor afterwards. “I’ve often asked for one more run at training and they’ve always done it.”
A couple of Fitzgibbon frees and a Danny O’Flynn effort from play reduced the gap before a sizzling goal from Andrew Cagney, who soloed through instead of just tapping the sliotar over. Jack Meade, immense at full-back, was then fouled and Fitzgibbon nailed the free to level, 1-17 apiece.
The vocal Charleville support came to life in the stands and their players responded. Sub Tim Hawe, who created problems at full-forward, then grabbed the lead before Fitzgibbon made it two and then the Murphys saved Erin’s Own.
Extra time ebbed and flowed, though there was never more than two points between the sides. Jack Butler thundered out with ball after ball for Charleville, and Jack Doyle landed his third score, but Shane Murphy became more influential at six for Erin’s Own.
The youthful North Cork outfit had a bit more zip in the final 10 minutes, bagging four points through Kevin O’Connor, Mark Kavanagh and Fitzgibbon (two) to a Murphy free to secure the victory.
“It gives us a chance to stay up senior now but we still have to make the quarter-finals (as next year’s grade will contain just 12 clubs),” said O’Connor after. “We’ve worked hard to get up to this level and we should be able to enjoy this.
“It’s frustrating, the board could have relegated two teams this year and the same next year, but we won’t be bitter about it either. The lads were fantastic, it was a great performance.”
Scorers for Charleville: D Fitzgibbon 0-14 (0-8 f, 0-1 65), A Cagney 1-2, J Doyle 0-3, T Hawe, D Casey 0-2 each, D O’Flynn, M Kavanagh, K O’Connor, C Carroll 0-1 each.
Erin’s Own: E Murphy 1-13 (0-8 f, 0-1 65), S Horgan, M Collins 0-3 each, A Power 0-2, K Murphy, S Murphy, I O’Mahony, J O’Carroll 0-1 each.
CHARLEVILLE: C Collins; D Butler, J Meade, F Cagney; A Dennehy, J Buckley (c), C Carroll; K O’Connor, J O’Callaghan; D Casey, J Doyle, D O’Flynn; C Buckley, D Fitzgibbon, A Cagney.
Subs: T Hawe for C Buckley (42), M Kavanagh for Casey (51), Casey for D O’Flynn (65 inj).
ERIN’S OWN: K Murphy; P Fitzgerald, C Dooley (c), J Sheehan; C O’Mahony, S Murphy, S Cronin; C O’Connor, J O’Carroll; M Collins, M O’Carroll, S Horgan; A Power, J O’Flynn, E Murphy.
Subs: I O’Mahony for O’Connor (57), G O’Mahony for Horgan (60), R Twomey for J O’Carroll (68 inj), D Twomey for Fitzgerald (69).
Referee: Conor Lane (Banteer).