Midleton 1-28 Newtownshandrum 1-18
MIDLETON got their title defence back on track with a critical victory over Newtownshandrum in near-perfect conditions at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday evening.
Even though they had 10 points to spare at the finish, Midleton didn’t have matters all their own by any stretch of the imagination, but they showed all the experience and class of CO-OP Superstores county PSHC champions when it mattered.
The decisive period came in a game-changing six-minute spell during the third quarter when Midleton pounced for seven unanswered points to swoop for a 1-18 to 0-15 lead entering the final quarter.
The sides had been tied for a fifth time after 38 minutes, but then the Magpies found another level with the immaculate Conor Lehane nailing three on the spin followed by Cormac Beausang, Alex Quirke, Paul Haughney and Luke O’Farrell’s fourth of the tie.
Newtown, who had this stage had switched Tim O’Mahony to beef up their attack, rallied with a goal three minutes from the end of regulation, when Jamie Coughlan teed it up for substitute Michael Bowles to goal.
It reduced Midleton’s advantage to four points, but the holders responded in the manner of champions, closing out the game with a run of six unanswered points.
The pick of them was a second from hard working midfielder Sam Quirke, who plundered his second with a fine effort from distance.
Yet, in the first-half Midleton struggled with their opponents’ intensity as Jack Twomey caught fire on the left flank of the half-forward line.
Newtown’s 0-4 to 0-1 lead after eight minutes reflected their hunger and application with Twomey landing a couple of super efforts in quick succession.
Yet, there were early signs that Midleton could threaten goals with Newtown keeper James Bowles summoned to action to deny Pat White after Lehane set him up.
It was still 0-6 to 0-3 after the opening quarter and another Coughlan free stretched the advantage to four by the 19th minute, though Luke O’Farrell and Lehane responded for 0-8 to 0-6.
Then came a turning point. After Coughlan pointed his sixth free in the 25th minute, Midleton keeper Brion Saunderson went short with his re-start, opting for Sean O’Leary-Hayes on the left.
The Cork defender picked out Cormac Beausang with a fine pass before he off-loaded to the in-rushing Tommy O’Connell, who controlled the sliotar sweetly before flashing in a much-needed goal for the champions.
Somehow, they were level for the first time, 1-6 to 0-9 and Newtown were grateful again for keeper Bowles, who stopped Paul Haughney’s shot before his legs diverted Ross O’Regan’s effort for a 65, which Lehane converted in stoppage time.
It left the Magpies a point clear at the interval, 1-9 to 0-11, despite having played second fiddle for much of the period.
Bowles once again jumped to Newtown’s rescue by preventing Alex Quirke from adding a second goal within two minutes of the resumption, Lehane converting a free following an advantage.
Still, Newtown’s persistence became evident as they hit back with four points of their own to reclaim the lead again at 0-15 to 1-11 after 37 minutes.
Apart from Coughlan’s set of frees, O’Mahony opened his account from play to offer Newtown encouragement only for a Lehane free to restore parity again before the champions pulled away.
C Lehane 0-15 (0-11 f, 0-1 65), L O’Farrell 0-4, T O’Connell 1-0, C Beausang 0-3, P Haughney, S Quirke 0-2 each, A Quirke, P White 0-1 each.
J Coughlan 0-11 (0-9 f), J Twomey 0-4, M Bowles 1-0, T O’Mahony 0-2 (0-1 65), J Lane 0-1.
B Saunderson; E Moloney, L Dineen, S Smyth; C Smyth, T O’Connell, S O’Leary-Hayes; P Haughney, S Quirke; C Lehane, R O’Regan, A Quirke; L O’Farrell, C Beausang, P White.
S O’Farrell for C Smyth (half-time).
J Bowles; K O’Sullivan, P O’Sullivan, M Ryan; J Herlihy, T O’Mahony, C Twomey; C O’Brien, J Twomey; D Hawe, J Lane, D O’Connor; R Geary, J Coughlan, C Griffin.
S Griffin for Hawe and R Troy for C Griffin half-time, C Bowles for Herlihy, P Noonan for Lane and M Bowles for Geary, 51.
I McCarthy (Bandon).