Blackrock 3-22 St Finbarr’s 0-21
WHILE they were denied top spot in Group C, champions Blackrock’s strong second-half display eased them clear of St Finbarr’s at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday and into the Co-op SuperStores Cork PSHC quarter-finals.
For a brief period in the closing stages, when Charleville led against Erin’s Own in the other game, it looked as if these two city rivals would be advancing despite the disparity on the scoreboard. Ultimately, the Barrs lost out as Erin’s Own secured the draw that ended up giving them top spot, benefiting from the head-to-head advantage over Blackrock, whom they had beaten in the first round of games.
Goals were ultimately the decisive factor here. Blackrock had led by 0-13 to 0-10 at half-time but, after the Barrs’ scorer-in-chief Ben Cunningham sent over a free on the resumption, the holders were able to establish a five-point lead in fortuitous circumstances. When a Mark O’Keeffe point attempt fell short, Barrs keeper Shane Hurley was about to clear but Alan Connolly rushed in to block down and was rewarded as the ball rebounded off his hurley and back into the net.
Shane O’Keeffe’s second point of the day make it 1-14 to 0-11 and then, in the 38th minute, a well-worked move saw Michael O’Halloran and Mark O’Keeffe link to set up Cork panellist Connolly for his and Blackrock’s second goal. While the Barrs did look to engineer a response with a goal chance of their own, Brian Hayes was denied by the excellent Gavin Connolly and Hurley did well to save from O’Halloran at the other end.
By the time of the second-half water break, it was 2-17 to 0-13 and, though Cunningham landed his eighth point on the resumption, O’Halloran netted the Rockies’ third goal on 49, firing home the rebound after Hurley had saved well from Tadhg Deasy.
Further points followed from the ever-industrious John O’Sullivan and Connolly and the lead was 14 points, 3-19 to 0-14. With the news coming through from Ballyclough that Erin’s Own were struggling against Charleville, the Barrs’ hopes remained alive and scores from Cunningham, Hayes and Jack Cahalane ate into the deficit and improved their scoring difference – having drawn with Erin’s Own, it would have been used in the event of a tie.
Sadly for them, the announcement in injury time that the other game had finished in a draw brought a sense of deflation. Blackrock – finishing with 14 men as Tadhg Deasy was forced off injured with all five subs used – might have had a fourth goal but Mark O’Keeffe’s effort was brilliantly blocked by Glen O’Connor. Nevertheless, they had done enough.
Aside from Connolly, who finished with 2-9, John Cashman was imperious in defence for Blackrock, who had moved into a 0-10 to 0-5 lead soon after the first water break, following an even opening in which the first six points were equally shared.
The Barrs, when evaluating the group stage as a whole, will reflect on the Erin’s Own match three weeks ago, when they led by ten points but ended up drawing, as the pivotal one. They were limited in goalscoring chances by a strong Blackrock full-back line and offered up some cheap first-half wides but Conor Cahalane and Brian Hayes continued to take the fight to their rivals.
Blackrock now face Douglas in the quarter-finals.
A Connolly 2-9 (0-6, 0-2 65), M O’Keeffe 0-4, M O’Halloran 1-2, S O’Keeffe, J O’Sullivan 0-2 each, R Cotter, S Murphy, Ciarán Cormack 0-1 each.
B Cunningham 0-10 (0-8 f), B Hayes, C Cahalane 0-3 each, J Cahalane 0-2, C Walsh, B Hennessy, E Twomey 0-1 each.
G Connolly; J Ryan, G Norberg, C O’Brien; Cathal Cormack, J Cashman, N Cashman; S Murphy, D Meaney; S O’Keeffe, M O’Halloran, M O’Keeffe; J O’Sullivan, A Connolly, R Cotter.
D O’Farrell for Meaney (16-19, temporary), O’Farrell for Murphy (43), T Deasy for Cotter (46), K O’Keeffe for Meaney, Ciarán Cormack for S O’Keeffe, A O’Callaghan for O’Halloran (all 53).
S Hurley; O Murphy, J Burns, D Cahalane; G O’Connor, B Hennessy, E Keane; C Walsh, E Twomey; E Finn, C Cahalane, B Cunningham; S Cunningham, B Hayes, J Cahalane.
: C McCrickard for S Cunningham (39), P Buggy for Finn (48), C Barrett for Walsh (53).
C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).