WHEN the curtain prematurely came down on GAA action in October 2020, Iveleary had just claimed a third straight Muskerry JAFC title, beating Kilmurry by a point in the final. They would have to wait until high summer of 2021 to get back on the field in championship action, beating Midleton by 2-16 to 2-12 in the county quarter-final before seeing off Kilmacabea at the semi-final stage – where they had lost in 2018 and 2019 – on August 1.
Just six days later, they contested the final against Boherbue in Mallow and victory was secured on a 3-11 to 1-6 scoreline, with Chris Óg Jones accounting for an incredible 3-8.
Despite having little over than a month to prepare for the step up, they took to the intermediate ranks with ease, starting with an 0-18 to 0-12 win over St Finbarr’s in Cloughduv. They followed that with a 0-25 to 1-13 victory against Millstreet in Baile Bhúirne as Cathal Vaughan scored 11 points (seven from play) while Chris Óg Jones had ten (nine from play). It meant they were safely through to the knockout stage ahead of their last match, against Kinsale, and the 100 percent record was maintained as Vaughan netted two goals and Jones got the other in a 3-18 to 1-8 triumph in Brinny.
Facing Glanworth in the quarter-finals in Mourneabbey, the momentum was maintained with a 5-12 to 0-12 win. An early Brian Cronin goal had them 1-4 to 0-1 in front at the water break and Jones grabbed another to ensure a half-time advantage of 2-9 to 0-3. There was never any doubting the outcome in the second half and further goals from Chris Óg Jones, Ian Jones and Aaron O’Donovan left them well clear by the end.
Fellow Muskerry side Aghabullogue lay in wait in the semi-final in Kilmurry, but there was no stopping Iveleary now. Captain Cronin scored another goal as they established a 1-8 to 0-2 first-half lead and, though Niall Barry-Murphy gave Aghabullogue some hope with a goal early in the second half, Conor O’Leary set up Chris Óg Jones for yet another Iveleary green flag and there was no looking back from there. O’Leary got the third goal and a 3-14 to 1-5 victory put them in another final.
There was a two-week wait to discover their final opponents and it would prove to be another team that had already featured in a 2020 county final in 2021. Mitchelstown had lost to Rockchapel in the IAFC decider in August and, though they lost their first 2021 game to Aghabullogue, they bounced back with wins over Galnmire and Kildorrery. After that, they saw off Ballydesmond after extra time in the quarter-finals before overcoming Kilshannig in the semis.
While Cork star Cathail O’Mahony – injured against Kilshannig – was named to start at full-forward for Mitchelstown in the final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on December 5, his absence was announced just before throw-in and they took time to settle. They had four wides in the opening seven minutes, by which time Chris Óg Jones and Cathal Vaughan had both registered points for Iveleary – wearing white due to the colour-clash, with Mitchelstown in black – and a superb Lorcan Finn block was needed to divert a Brian Cronin shot.
Nevertheless, with Darren Kelly and Ciarán O’Riordan exerting dominance at midfield, Iveleary continued to stream forward. Centre-back Seán O’Leary and Barry O’Leary combined to set up Vaughan’s second and Ian Jones made it 0-5 to 0-0 on 13 minutes.
Mitchelstown got off the mark through Darragh Flynn just before the water break and the breather was of benefit to them as they enjoyed their best spell of the game in the second quarter. While Chris Óg Jones got his second, following good work from Daniel O’Riordan, to make it 0-6 to 0-2, Mitchelstown captain Pa Magee and Shane Beston were making their influence felt in the middle James Sheehan’s free was followed by three in a row from Michael Walsh – one from play, a free and a 45 – left just a point in it, 0-5 to 0-4, as half-time approached.
Having gone 11 minutes without a score, and amassing four wides to draw level with their opponents on that front, Iveleary’s drought ended in injury time as a nice move involving Seán O’Leary and Darren Kelly ended with Brian Cronin pointing and their lead would never be as slender from them.
A 0-7 to 0-5 half-time advantage was extended with three further points in the opening four minutes of the second period from Vaughan, Barry O’Leary and Chris Óg Jones while Conor O’Leary tried to play Jones in for a goal chance but Finn was on hand to make a vital Mitchelstown intervention. While Colin English, industrious throughout for Mitchelstown, did pull a point back and they brought O’Mahony and Seán Keane on, the rest of the third quarter belonged to Iveleary with six points on the trot – two each from Chris Óg Jones and Cathal Vaughan, with Ciarán Galvin and Barry O’Leary also on target.
It left them 0-16 to 0-7 in front at the water break and Mitchelstown’s cause suffered further as O’Mahony was forced to retire. The final score was 0-20 to 0-7, Iveleary facing into 2022 as a premier intermediate side after being junior just five months previously.