Cork GAA season in review: Rockies ended drought in classic style

In the second part of his Premier SHC review, Denis Hurley looks at how Blackrock landed the cup.
Cork GAA season in review: Rockies ended drought in classic style

Blackrock’s Kevin O'Keeffe and Eoin Smith celebrates at the final whistle after beating Glen Rovers at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

HAVING looked at the first part of the county Premier SHC already, here we focus on the knockout stages, which saw Blackrock claim a first county title in 18 years.

The three quarter-finals took place over the same weekend in mid-September and on the Saturday night Erin’s Own eliminated neighbours Sarsfields, who had impressed in topping a group featuring Douglas, Midleton and Ballyhea.

After the sides shared the first 14 points, three from Eoghan Murphy pushed Erin’s Own clear as half-time approached, with Liam Healy on target to leave Sars two behind at the break.

Daniel Hogan’s goal put Sarsfields ahead early in the second half but they were never able to pull clear and Erin’s Own, with Robbie O’Flynn on song, had managed to establish a 0-15 to 1-10 lead in the closing stages.

Erin's Own's Robbie O'Flynn is tackled by Sars' Paul Leopold. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Erin's Own's Robbie O'Flynn is tackled by Sars' Paul Leopold. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Points from Cian Darcy and Paul Leopold levelled for Sars but Murphy had the final say with his tenth point of the night. A 0-16 to 1-12 win sent the 2006 and 2007 champions through to a semi-final clash with Glen Rovers.

At Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the Sunday, Blackrock got the better of Douglas on a 1-22 to 0-20 scoreline. Michael O’Halloran was on song as the Rockies led by 0-14 to 0-11 at half-time, but Douglas, who had Alan Cadogan in fine form, were only a point behind after nine minutes of the second half.

However, Alan Connolly’s goal capped a Blackrock burst of an unanswered 1-3 and they held off their southside rivals to advance. That evening, UCC booked the final spot in the last four as they prevailed by 2-20 to 3-11 against Na Piarsaigh at Páirc Uí Rinn, with four of the goals coming in the opening 12 minutes.

Pádraig Power’s goal gave UCC a great start and they were soon 1-3 to 0-0 ahead but Na Piarsaigh had two goals in as many minutes from Pádraig Guest and Shane Forde to put themselves in front.

While UCC moved back in front thanks to points from Power and Shane Conway, a third Piarsaigh goal, Guest’s second, kept the city side in touch and at half-time it was 2-11 to 3-7.

Daire Connery levelled for Na Piarsaigh after the restart but Conway (two) and Mark Coleman pushed UCC clear and in the end they had six points to spare.

A fortnight later, the semis went the way of Blackrock and the Glen, setting up a final meeting for the first time since 1978. Taking on UCC on the Saturday, Blackrock needed extra time before coming out on the right side of a 3-26 to 0-34 scoreline.

Shane O’Keeffe’s goal helped the Rockies to a 1-6 to 0-5 lead in the first half, but Shane Conway’s points helped UCC to move 0-13 to 1-9 ahead by half-time. While O’Keeffe netted again early in the second half, UCC continued to send over points and led by 0-20 to 2-12 by the second-half water-break.

Despite a third Blackrock goal, from Alan Connolly, UCC looked to have pulled clear as the end approached only for the city side to fight back, Connolly sending the game to extra time, in which they managed to hold off the Students.

Connolly finished with 1-7 while Shane O’Keeffe had 2-1 with Tadhg Deasy and John O’Sullivan scoring five and four points respectively. For UCC, Conway had 14 points despite finishing on the losing side, with Pádraig Power scoring 0-6.

Later in the day, Glen Rovers saw off Erin’s Own by 0-22 to 3-9, with Cork star Patrick Horgan scoring 14 points. Maurice O’Carroll and Cian O’Callaghan had goals as Erin’s Own led by 2-6 to 0-7 at half-time and while the Glen fought back, Robbie O’Flynn struck for another Erin’s Own goal.

Cian O'Connor of Erin's Own in action against Simon Kennefick of Glen Rovers. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cian O'Connor of Erin's Own in action against Simon Kennefick of Glen Rovers. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Ultimately, the Glen had enough staying power to edge ahead, with Donal Cronin, David Noonan and Simon Kennefick joining Horgan on the scoresheet.

It meant an old-style Rockies and Glen showdown in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, October 4 and 80 minutes of hurling would be needed to separate the great rivals. While eight points separated the teams in the end, it was only in the closing stages that proper daylight emerged.

Despite the Rockies having the considerable wind behind them in the first half, it was the Glen — playing in a black change strip after a toss due to a clash of colours. — who had the game’s first three points but Blackrock settled and fired over six in a row, Alan Connolly with three while he hit the post with a goal effort.

While the Glen were back to within a point just after the water-break after points from Horgan and Dean Brosnan, Blackrock were on top, with Stephen Murphy and Niall Cashman impressive in the half-back line, and they led by 0-12 to 0-7 at half-time.

However, within five minutes of the restart, the sides were level thanks to two goals from the Glen’s Simon Kennefick. First, he doubled on Stephen McDonnell’s handpass after a good run by the defender; then, after Connolly’s sixth point for Blackrock, a McDonnell delivery was won by Kennefick and, though Gavin Connolly saved his shot, he poked home the rebound.

The Glen, seeking to go one better than their defeat to Imokilly in the 2019 final, were back in front thanks to a Horgan 65 but, while they might have been expected to push on, Blackrock were back in front thanks to a great individual goal from sub Tadhg Deasy. Points from Michael O’Halloran and Connolly followed that but the Glen were level by the water-break thanks to a Horgan free and a goal from Mark Dooley after Liam Coughlan’s shot hit the crossbar.

In the final quarter, it was blow for blow, with the Glen looking likelier winners. In the 63rd minute, Patrick Horgan scored his eighth point, a lovely effort set up by sub Luke Horgan, but Blackrock replied through Connolly to force extra time – the first drawn Cork final since 1996.

Blackrock had the wind again in the first period of extra time and made it count as points from Connolly and sub Alan O’Callaghan were followed by a goal from Shane O’Keeffe, who poked home a Connolly delivery.

Things got even better when O’Keeffe set up Cotter to make it 3-24 to 3-14, but two Horgan dead balls left eight in it at the turnaround.

Blackrock and UCC players use their hurleys to shield their eyes from the sun in the epic semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Blackrock and UCC players use their hurleys to shield their eyes from the sun in the epic semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

On the resumption, the Glen got right back into it as Patrick Horgan netted a penalty, awarded for a foul on himself, and two more frees from the Cork star left four in it.

However, Blackrock were not to be denied and sub Robbie Cotter made sure of victory when he forced a turnover and raced clear to score his second goal while Alan Connolly sent over two late frees to finish with a tally of 13 points. The final score was 4-26 to 4-18 and Blackrock’s drought was over.

Having been a member of the teams which won in 1999, 2001 and 2002, manager Ryan was naturally delighted to have helped to bridge the gap.

“It’s hard not to smile!” he laughed.

“I’ve seen the emotion of not winning it in 2017, so it’s a fantastic feeling. 

"It’s a very different feeling when you’re involved in a team than when you’re playing, it’s more satisfying when you’re involved and creating an environment for the lads to flourish, which they did.

 The Blackrock team celebrate their victory over Glen Rovers in the Co-Op Superstores Cork Premier SHC. Pictur:e Dan Linehan
The Blackrock team celebrate their victory over Glen Rovers in the Co-Op Superstores Cork Premier SHC. Pictur:e Dan Linehan

“It looked a bit like the UCC game and it was going away from us, I was saying, ‘Please give us something,’ towards the end and Alan Connolly stood up and sent over a free and put us into extra time.

“We got a bit of a run on them, we scored 2-4 and that gave us a cushion, even though in the second period Patrick Horgan got a penalty and there was a point or two. Robbie’s goal gave us that little bit of breathing space at the end.”

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