John Horgan: Courcey Rovers showed their passion for hurling yet again

The small club with a big heart had to dig deep to see off Castlelyons in a gripping PIHC final
John Horgan: Courcey Rovers showed their passion for hurling yet again

Courcey Rovers' Liam Collins is tackled by Castlelyons' Leon Doocey during the Co-Op Superstores Premier IHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

LOSING a country final is always a bitter pill to swallow, losing it by a point is even more difficult to accept, all the more so when at a stage in the second-half you were leading by eight.

Well, that is what transpired in last Saturday night’s compelling Cork County Premier IHC final.

All the major hurling finals on Leeside have now been completed, Courcey Rovers and Castlelyons was the last one and it certainly did not disappoint on a bitterly cold night by the banks of the Lee.

When it was all done and dusted, Courcey Rovers found themselves elevated to the Senior A grade and for that, they deserve the utmost credit.

For long stages, it looked very likely that Castlelyons would be the team to graduate. Of course, we have seen in the past plenty of teams lose that type of significant advantage but they looked to be in control as we entered the final quarter; history has taught us never to write off a team from Courceys.

It’s bred into some clubs that when the challenge is at its greatest they have the belief and an unyielding spirit to come out on the right side and Courcey Rovers are one of them. They galvanise themselves in a manner that their opponents find very difficult to cope with to build momentum. They wear the opposition down with their attitude and honesty.

Courcey Rovers' Aidan O'Donovan celebrates after defeating Castlelyons. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Courcey Rovers' Aidan O'Donovan celebrates after defeating Castlelyons. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

All competitions are difficult to win on Leeside, more so now with the group format when you have to hit the ground running or else you will quickly find yourselves on the back foot.

That is particularly true of the Premier Intermediate Championship when up to at least half of the competing field believe that they can end up with the trophy. One thing, though, is certain with this championship, you never get anything easy, and anything you get you have to work your socks off for.

Courcey Rovers topped their group with a maximum return of six points, defeating Carrigaline, Youghal and Éire Óg, no easy tasks there.

They went straight through to the semi-final which can work for you or against you, as your opponent has the benefit of an extra game while you are without one for a longer period. But Courceys were not found wanting in that regard and they secured the Carrigdhoun bragging rights when they saw off Valley Rovers.

Then arrived last Saturday’s decider with Castlelyons which would make one of them a senior club next season.

The school of thought in advance of this game was that it would not be easily won. And that’s the way it was, Castlelyons constructed that fairly significant advantage of eight points before the Courcey Rovers cavalry came calling.

This was a good, old-fashioned game of Cork hurling when no quarter was asked or given. Two small but vibrant clubs vying for the right to elevate themselves to a higher plateau.

Richard Sweetnam ended the game with 11 points for the Rovers, the majority from the placed ball but nothing was easy and in a game of such magnitude there is that extra bit of pressure with every shot. Olan Crowley’s goal was of huge importance, it brought the Ballinspittle team right back into it when it seemed that Castlelyons might be on their way to the winning enclosure.

That score, coming at the juncture in the game that it did, was worth its weight in gold and it lifted the entire team to greater heights. It was a real cliffhanger in the game’s dying embers and the vast majority in the attendance would quite happily have settled for a second installment.

But Courcey Rovers held their nerve in the last few frenetic minutes to seal the deal.

WARMED UP

This was a great advertisement for Cork club hurling, the application and honesty of the players on both sides had to be admired. These are the types of games that warm you on what was a bitterly cold night at headquarters.

Once again the second water break had a big impact on the game, Courceys having that minute or two to bolster themselves for the final questions that they had the answers for.

It will be of little consolation to Castlelyons that they were able participants in a splendid contest. They were beaten finalists too last season after defeating last Saturday night’s opponents in the semi-final. And no doubt they will be there or thereabouts next season too. 

For now, there will be a warmer glow from the fires in the hurling homes of Ballinspittle.

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