The heat is on for Ovens club Éire Óg as they reap the rewards of their underage work

The heat is on for Ovens club Éire Óg as they reap the rewards of their underage work
Conor Kinsella, Ballincollig and Brian Corcoran, Éire Óg reaching out for the sliotar. Picture: Dan Linehan

THE key score at Coachford last Saturday afternoon was Daniel Goulding's goal for Éire Óg. 

It was in response to David Bowen's goal for Ballincollig and ensured they had a slight edge over their rivals at the break. Indeed there was the same two-point gap on the scoreboard at half-time and full-time, sending them into an intermediate hurling decider against Aghada. 

Goulding was the finisher, but Brian 'Sticky' Hurley was the provider, the veteran profiting from the 19-year-old's clever off-load. For Paul Coakley, Éire Óg manager, they've got the blend right this season, which is why they're back in a first final since 2013's loss to Kanturk.

"This was our sixth game. Looking back at it, it's worked well for us. Every game we've improved. When you're balancing in both codes in the middle of the summer it's difficult but the way it's fallen has suited us.

"There was nothing in it. We just dug it out. I looked at the scoreboard well into the game and it was only 1-4 apiece. It was dog eat dog for a good while.

"We were a bit concerned at half-time because we missed a few chances, but Ballincollig just fought and fought."

The key phase in the second half saw Éire Óg respond to Ballincollig's four points to given them a 1-11 to 1-10 advantage with three quick points.

"It was a great fightback. We were definitely unsettled at that point but look I fellas stood up even when Ballincollig had taken control. They've had a long, tough year and they weren't going to let go of it easy."

Ciaran O’Sullivan, Ballincollig, battles Eoin O’Shea, Éire Óg. Picture: Dan Linehan
Ciaran O’Sullivan, Ballincollig, battles Eoin O’Shea, Éire Óg. Picture: Dan Linehan

Football is as strong as hurling out in Ovens - they lost to St Micheal's in a PIFC quarter-final replay - while this year's Cork minor captain was Colm O'Callaghan, who was introduced on Saturday, hitting two critical points in the last quarter.

"It's a 50-50 split between the codes and it's in peaks and troughs depending on who is out next. Two months ago we hadn't enough time with the lads but we do now and their hurling is improving. We'd the rewards of it here."

Their marquee performer on this occasion was John Cooper. A Cork minor last year, despite being sick on the day and struggling to continue at one stage, he fired a point from midfield and had six assists.

"John is outstanding. He's always aware of what's going on around him. He's a head-up kind of player but I think we've some good players around him as well and that's what works."

Coakley believes Cooper's development is a reflection of the work going in underage.

"A big target underage in the club is to be hitting the Premier 2 grade consistently, higher if you can, but always competing. I've been involved underage and I think that's bringing players through for us.

"It's going to be huge for hurling in the club. A lot of the players were there in 2013 and I know they're keen to make up for that."

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