NOT for the first time this season Courcey Rovers had to show resilience and force a replay in the Cork Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship final.
Tadgh O’Sullivan came to the rescue with his late equalising point. There was a fear that they might have used up too much gas during the last few weeks, having to go twice against Castlelyons and Valley Rovers.
The flip side was, that those games would bring them on a ton, especially the younger players.
Charleville were made favourites before any sliotar was thrown in. But a league match between these sides back in August resulted in victory for Courcey Rovers.
We knew then that we could expect a closer game than suggested, that the hunger and desire from Courceys would definitely match that of Charleville. Decision making would prove critical.
In truth though, this game failed to ignite. The quality of fare on offer was poor as the teams racked up almost as many wides as scores. Both clubs will be hoping players play better the next day as the potential is definitely there.
County finals are great places to be, but the best-laid plans can become unstuck. History weighs heavy and can prevent teams from showing their best. We know there is a lot more to Charleville and Courcey Rovers because we have seen it all year.
What we also know, is a lot of energy goes into getting to county finals. When you get there, anything can happen — as we saw.
Courcey Rovers found it difficult to cope with the pressure coming from Charleville around the midfield area, their stick passing in particular.
They were just fortunate that only a small portion of Charleville’s raids were successful. Otherwise they would have been under pressure at half-time. The Charleville goal, for instance, was a brilliant piece of work.
Even if it did arise after a stray crossfield ball by Courceys which fell into the path of Darragh Fitzgibbon and his trademark run ended with a pass to Andrew Cagney.
The corner-forward’s shot was bravely stopped by goalkeeper Stephen Nyhan — who had an excellent hour — but he couldn’t get to the rebound in time and Fitzgibbon, who had kept running forward, whipped it into the net.
It was a boost too that Charleville captain Daniel O’Flynn was fit to play. He had to retire at the halfway stage in their semi-final win over Fr O’Neill’s. O’Flynn is a vital cog in their machine. The scorer of three points during a half hour in the penultimate round, it was great to see him available, and another week will aid his hand injury recovery.
From the word go, his charges appeared to have an edge. But, oh the wides.
They hit three alone before any score was registered, decent chances they were too. and it meant that Courceys’ midfielder Killian Moloney raised the first white flag in the third minute. Charleville were creating chances but not getting the required results.
Still, when Fitzgibbon notched the only goal of the hour, one thought this might be their day.
As well, they had the wind to come in the second-half. But, the elements proved tricky. It was a swirling wind and there were times when it seemed to be against them instead of with them. Charleville led 1-4 to 0-4 at the interval, but it should have been so much more.
Ten first-half wides costing them dearly.
Courceys — who gave a first-time starting slot to Martin Collins — had to battle.
They demonstrated the know-how to get back in contention. They are a team that fights to the death. As well as top-scorer O’Sullivan, Sean Twomey had a run of points. It was level pegging by the three-quarter juncture.
Positions didn’t seem to matter either. Collins, who started in attack, ended up in the backline, and some of the full-back line were further out the field. For instance, the equalising point came after full-back Brian Collins linked up with O’Sullivan. It was all to play for as the fourth quarter petered out. O’Sullivan and Kavanagh conversions left the score, 1-7 to 0-10.
It looked like we were heading for a replay especially as flags of any description were so hard to come by. Testament to the work-rate of Charleville, they hunted and harried. Fitzgibbon brought his total to 1-2 and Jack Doyle found the range, and with two minutes of the normal time remaining, they had increased the advantage to two points.
A dangerous lead though.
In the final minute, O’Sullivan drove over a free to leave a one-point match as the PA announced at least three minutes of added time. We were in minute 62 when O’Sullivan fittingly tied matters for the fifth and last time.
Charleville did have an opportunity to snatch a win, but there was no joy. To be fair, neither side deserved to lose. It might be argued neither side deserved to win either. A fair result, but a lot more will be expected next day.