JUST how relevant this second group game in the new-look Bon Secours county senior A football championship will be, when the sides meet again in the final next year is a moot point.
It’s envisaged the decider, which carries a major prize of a place in the top tier in 2021, will be played in March, though not certain, which would leave a seven-month gap between the teams’ last encounter.
Back then, Mourneabbey formed a splendid setting on a balmy Saturday evening, when the going was good and players could find no weather or pitch issues to excuse their varying contributions. Who knows what shape the world will be in next March never mind the state of the weather though Páirc Uí Chaoimh, if that is the venue, will look as pristine as it did throughout 2020, especially at the latter end.
In mid-August, it was a must-win game for Mallow, who had lost their opening game to Kiskeam and a second defeat would have signalled the end of their championship aspirations.
“We were very disappointed with that performance,” admitted manager Keith Moynihan afterwards.
“We had plenty of possession and did well in some areas of the game only to give away so much ball in the process.
“Kiskeam were smart in that they hurt us all the time by getting a lot of scores after we either gave the ball away or kicked it away.
“They counter-attacked at pace and we didn’t work hard enough, simple as that.
“We had three weeks to prepare and we knew we had to respond and perform.
“And to be fair the lads did though we’re still not converting possession and chances into scores,” he added.
Mallow welcomed back Cork defender James Loughrey and key forward Cian O’Riordan, both of whom missed the Kiskeam game and they helped produce a much better display.
O’Riordan helped himself to 2-19, seven frees and one sideline from his four outings, including a couple of 1-5 returns against Bantry Blues and Bandon in the quarter-final.
It was a surprisingly comfortable win in the end as Mallow revealed a hunger and intensity that proved too much for the 2019 premier intermediate champions.
The critical period came late in the opening half which resulted in Mallow gaining a vice-like grip on proceedings and never letting go as Éire Óg’s number was up long before the finish.
Such was Mallow’s authority that apart from the double-score victory they also accumulated a dozen wides, four more than their opponents.
There was little to predict Mallow’s scoring blitz on the run-up to the break because the sides were level four times by the 24th minute.
And especially as Éire Óg created the only goal-scoring opportunity as early as the ninth minute, when Ronan O’Toole powered through only to be foiled by a super one-handed save by keeper Kevin Doyle, who did very well to hold the stinging shot, diving low to his left.
The teams struggled to find scores against heavily fortified defences, but all that changed, when Mallow pieced together a five-point swing with a string of impressive points.
Kevin Sheehan began the sequence with his second point of the opening half before the influential Darragh Moynihan helped Michael O’Rourke for a 0-6 to 0-4 lead after 27 minutes.
Mallow snuffed out any prospect of a fight-back by adding three more points early in the second-half, O’Riordan, Kieran O’Sullivan and Sheehan nailing important points.
At 0-12 to 0-6 by the second water break, Mallow were in full control.
Scorers for Mallow: C O’Riordan 0-4 (0-1 f), K Sheehan 0-3, M O’Rourke 0-3 (0-1 f), D Moynihan, K O’Sullivan, S McDonald and J Dillon 0-1 each.
Éire Óg: D Goulding 0-4 (0-3 f), C O’Callaghan, B Hurley and D O’Herlihy 0-1 each.
MALLOW: K Doyle; O Carroll, J Loughrey, A Cashman; T McEvoy, S Merritt, M Taylor; D Moynihan, E Stanton; K O’Sullivan, R Harkin, M O’Rourke; C O’Riordan, K Sheehan, S McDonald.
Subs: J Dillon for O’Rourke injured 57, P Hennessy for Sheehan 60.
ÉIRE ÓG: C Kelly; D O’Herlihy, J Mullins, C McGoldrick; D McCarthy, J Cooper, D Sheehan; R O’Toole, L Sheehan; E O’Shea, J Murphy, C O’Callaghan; D Goulding, captain, C Sheehan, B Hurley.
Subs: K Hallissey for Hurley half-time, J Kelleher for Dineen 50, J Cooper for O’Toole 52.
Referee: M Collins (Clonakilty).