FROM the get-go of the Bon Secours Senior A Football Championship Mallow and St Michael’s were all the rage to reach the final.
The north Cork club were tagged favourites because of reaching the 2020 decider, which was delayed until last August due to Covid.
And while defeat was their lot against an impressive Éire Óg outfit, Mallow still had a head start on the other 11 contenders with the city club expected to provide the strongest challenge.
Under the continuing guidance of manager Keith Moynihan, a Kerry native teaching at CBC in the city, Mallow not only had to bounce back from the obvious disappointment of losing the final but were also missing experienced warriors who hung up their boots.
Former Cork defender James Loughrey would be a loss to any rearguard and at the other end Cian O’Riordan’s scoring exploits helped Mallow out of many a scrape over the years.
Add in another defender in Andrew Cashman, who was corner-back against Éire Óg, and Michael Quirke also stepping down, you could see Moynihan had key positions to fill before the opening game against Fermoy.
What was noticeable about that 0-14 to 1-9 victory, apart from an impressive scoring return, was the spread of scorers, six in all, and that proved a feature on their path to glory.
Mallow supplied eight scorers against Clyda, dipping to five against Bantry Blues, before it went into overdrive in the knock-out stages, nine in the semi-final win over Ballingeary and the same against Michael’s in the final.
Kevin Sheehan stepped in to fill O’Riordan’s big boots and emerged as the side’s leading scorer with 0-19 from the five games while Cork U20 Sean McDonnell’s goal-scoring exploits were another crucial element.
The dangerous inside forward helped himself to a goal-a-game on the run-in, starting against Bantry and finishing with a decisive third against Michael’s.
It came just before the second water-break and capped a spell of 1-4 for the new champions with their opponents hanging in with 0-2 of their own.
Indeed, Michael’s deserve huge credit for battling back to equality in injury-time, but were undone by some Mattie Taylor magic.
The dynamic Cork wing-back angled a perfectly flighted ball into Sean Hayes, who made a clean catch before turning and firing home the championship-winning goal.
Like Mallow, Michael’s had impressed in qualifying from a group containing Bishopstown and Duhallow pair Kiskeam and Knocknagree, especially in their defensive chores.
They were also involved in one of the games of the year against Dohenys in a semi-final, which required extra time.
The Dunmanway club rocked Knocknagree in the quarter-finals, storming to an unexpected eight-point triumph with the championship’s leading scorer, Mark Buckley, contributing 1-5 of his total of 1-24.
The former Cork under-age player carried that form into the semi-final, where he scored 0-10, half of which came from play, but Dohenys were undone by substitute Mark Drummond’s late goal.
Bishopstown preserved their status by dispatching Bantry to the third tier next season with Simon Collins playing a pivotal role by scoring 0-6, part of his tally of 1-15 for the campaign.
Final: Mallow 2-12 St Michael’s 0-15.
Semi-finals: Mallow 4-14 Ballingeary 2-10; St Michael’s 1-14 Dohenys 0-15 after extra-time.
Quarter-finals: Dohenys 1-12 Knocknagree 0-7; Ballingeary 0-15 Clyda Rovers 0-11.
Relegation play-off: Bishopstown 1-16 Bantry Blues 1-9.
R1: O’Donovan Rossa 1-13 Bandon 2-10; Ballingeary 2-14 Dohenys 1-8.
R2: Bandon 1-10 Ballingeary 1-9; Dohenys 0-17 O’Donovan Rossa 0-11.
R3: Ballingeary 1-11 O’Donovan Rossa 0-13; Dohenys 0-14 Bandon 0-8.
Table: 1 Ballingeary 4 pts, 2 Dohenys 4, 3 Bandon 3, 4 O’Donovan Rossa 1.
R1: St Michael’s 2-10 Bishopstown 0-5; Knocknagree 1-13 Kiskeam 1-5.
R2: St Michael’s 0-13 Kiskeam 1-8; Knocknagree 1-14 Bishopstown 0-10.
R3: St Michael’s 0-10 Knocknagree 0-8; Kiskeam 0-15 Bishopstown 1-8.
Table: 1 St Michael’s 6 pts, 2 Knocknagree 4, 3 Kiskeam 2, 4 Bishopstown 0.
R1: Mallow 0-14 Fermoy 1-9; Clyda Rovers 0-15 Bantry Blues 1-7.
R2: Fermoy 0-11 Bantry Blues 0-7; Mallow 1-10 Clyda Rovers 0-4.
R3: Clyda Rovers 2-12 Fermoy 2-11; Mallow 3-6 Bantry Blues 1-11.
Table: 1 Mallow 6 pts, 2 Clyda Rovers 4 pts, 3 Fermoy 2 pts, 4 Bantry Blues 0.
1. Mark Buckley (Dohenys) 1-24;
2. Ben Seartan (Ballingeary) 2-18;
3. Keith White (Dohenys) 1-20;
4. Arthur Coakley 1-19;
5. Fintan O’Connor (Knocknagree) 2-15;
6. Kevin Sheehan (Mallow) 0-19;
7. Simon Collins (Bishopstown) 1-15;
8. Eoin Walsh (Clyda Rovers) 1-14;
9. Barry Collins (Bandon) 0-16;
10. Sean McDonnell (Mallow) 3-4.