Christy O'Connor: Fear of losing three in a row is driving spirited Glen Rovers

After defying the odds throughout the championship, can Patrick Horgan and co beat in-form Midleton this Sunday?
Christy O'Connor: Fear of losing three in a row is driving spirited Glen Rovers

The Seán Óg Murphy Cup draped in Glen Rovers and Midleton jerseys at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

WITH six minutes remaining in the Glen Rovers-Sarsfields semi-final two weeks ago, Jack O’Connor hit Sars’ fourth point in succession inside five minutes to put them ahead by one point.

Sars won the resultant puckout and got off another shot but Daniel Kearney’s attempt didn’t have the distance and it trickled wide. Still, Sars seemed to have all the momentum, and at just the right time in the game. The tide appeared to have turned against the Glen.

“Now the Glen’s resolve is being tested,” said Seánie McGrath in his co-commentary of the Irish Examiner’s live streaming of the game. “They were probably the better side but now they’ve found themselves a point down. This will be a good test of them now to see how they respond.”

The Glen’s response was emphatic. They had the next two attacks, with Patrick Horgan being fouled for a free, which he converted to level the game. Sars came raiding after that score but the Glen repelled the attack and countered with Horgan putting his side ahead with another free after Simon Kennefick was fouled.

Sars had an opportunity to level the match but poor decision-making and skill execution led to Stevie McDonnell turning over the ball and the Glen worked it up the field for Horgan to land another brilliant point.

As Sars came hunting for the goal they desperately needed to save themselves, Robert Downey fielded a dropping missile just outside the 20-metre line and boomed it up the field. It was the final act of defiance of a totally defiant Glen performance.

That has been a trait of this team for years now but the Glen have really showcased it this season. After being hammered in the opening round by Douglas, the Glen’s season was hanging on by a thread with ten minutes remaining in their final group game against Newtownshandrum, when they trailed by two points. Yet the Glen outscored their opponents by 0-6 to 0-3 to win by one.

They had to dig even deeper again in the quarter-final against Imokilly after Horgan was sent off in the 23rd minute, but they held their nerve, especially in the closing minutes, to win by one.

The Glen will take that confidence and defiance with them into Sunday’s final but they’ll need every ounce of it against a Midleton side which have also answered nearly every question asked of them.

The biggest one came after their ten-point defeat in their final group game against Sars. Both teams were already qualified but a semi-final spot was up for grabs and the manner of the defeat wasn’t exactly how Midleton would have wanted to face into a quarter-final against their neighbours Erin’s Own.

That game turned on the sending off of Erin’s Own Kieran Murphy just after halftime but Midleton wrestled the initiative in the third quarter.

They went into the semi-final as outsiders against Blackrock but three goals inside the opening eight minutes of the second half completely altered the tone and tempo of the game.

There were shades of Midleton’s 2018 semi-final win against Blackrock in that performance two weeks ago, especially in how they opened up the Blackrock defence again with their pace. And they will trust that pace again against the Glen.

Midleton will again feel they can do some damage up front but the Glen’s defence was excellent when the game was there to be decided late on against Sars. McDonnell has been typical McDonnell. 

Rob Downey has had a brilliant championship to date while his younger brother Eoin is growing into an excellent player with each passing game. The younger Downey continues to embody that iron-clad inner belief associated with the Glen, which he displayed again recently with CBC in their defeat of Midleton CBS in the Harty Cup.

Glen Rovers' Robert Downey clears from Midleton's Luke O'Farrell during the Cork SHC at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in 2018. They meet again tomorrow. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Glen Rovers' Robert Downey clears from Midleton's Luke O'Farrell during the Cork SHC at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in 2018. They meet again tomorrow. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is so good that it almost makes for summer hurling, which suits both teams. Midleton racked up 4-22 against Blackrock, which is incredible scoring over 60 minutes in early November.

The Glen have averaged 1-18 in their last three games but that average is impacted from their 1-15 against Imokilly, which was largely due to the absence of Horgan for over 40 minutes.

Horgan showed again against Blackrock how devastating he can be so will Midleton drop a man back in front of him, especially when Sars’ decision not to late on was so costly? 

Midleton would prefer to go man-on-man, but Horgan demands a different approach, so Tommy O’Connell may be sitting deeper than usual.

Whatever about tactics and strategies, hurt and desire will largely define the outcome. Midleton’s last final appearance in 2018 was a sobering experience at the hands of Imokilly, while the Glen are facing down the barrel of a third successive county final defeat.

CHALLENGE

In the history of the Cork championship, Aghada, Blackrock, Carrigtwohill, UCC, Ballincollig, Cloyne and the Glen all lost successive finals but the Rockies were the only team to bounce back and win a title in that third season, which they managed twice – in 1920 and 1924. Ballincollig and Cloyne lost three finals in-a-row in the 1940s and 2000s respectively, and never reached a final again.

The Glen have been in this position three times before, losing successive finals in 1955 and 1956, (although the Glen responded by winning three in-a-row between 1958-’60), 1977 and 1978, and in 1980 and 1981.

They never reached that third successive final in 1957, 1979 and 1982, but this team has.

And the manner in how the Glen have negotiated their way back to this decider could again prove decisive if this game goes to the wire.

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