LAST year’s beaten Bons Secours Hospital Cork SAFC finalists St Michael’s made it back to the decider with an impressive performance to see off O’Donovan Rossa at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday evening.
Michael’s also made it the final of the Premier IFC when it was the second tier in 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019, never losing a semi-final in that time, and they maintained their record as they led all through, but not without being asked questions by their Skibbereen opponents.
Trailing by six points as half-time neared, Skibb were back to within one, 0-12 to 1-8, when Dylan Hourihane pointed early in the second half – though a goal might have accrued. St Michael’s – unusually wearing their white change jerseys – never panicked, however, and their superb point-taking allowed them to reset.
Subs Luke O’Herlihy, Billy Cain and Eoin O’Donovan made strong impacts, with a from the latter making it 0-16 to 1-9 by the three-quarter mark. While Dónal Ó Hodnett replied with a good Skibb point, an unanswered burst of 2-3 from Michael’s over a six-minute period put the outcome beyond doubt.
After two O’Herlihy points and Eric Hegarty’s third of the game made it 0-19 to 1-10, Cain forced a turnover from a Skibb kickout, allowing Adam Hennessy to set up Robbie Cotter for the first goal, part of a personal haul of 1-6 for the dual star. With Skibb still dealing with that, O’Donovan added another.
Though David Shannon did fist home a Skibb goal in immediate reply, Michael’s were not going to let it slip. Their total of 2-21 included just two dead balls – a pair of Cotter frees – and they had just three wides in the match. Having been rampant in the group stages, they are in good shape and will hope to reverse their recent finals record.
When Michael’s moved 0-11 to 0-5 in the 33rd minute of the first half as midfielder Andrew Murphy landed a long-range point, it seemed a fair reflection of their overall dominance.
Cotter had three points in the opening minutes, with Eric Hegarty adding another to put them 0-4 to 0-1 in front.
With Murphy and Daniel Meaney forming a strong bond at midfield and Peter Cunningham and Tom Lenihan providing strong running from wing-back, they had a strong platform to work from and Cotter, Hegarty and Adam Hennessy in the full-forward line ended the first half with eight points from play between them.
Kevin Davis landed four frees for Skibb in the opening period as they stayed in touch, but by and large they lacked the same breadth of threat that Michael’s possessed. However, they would end the half just three points behind.
After Davis’s fourth point of the evening left Skibb 0-7 to 0-5 behind, Michael’s pushed up a gear as Meaney rounded off good work by Keith Hegarty and Alan O’Callaghan to land a good score and then Adam Hennessy was on target after a quickly-taken free.
Following a good counter-attack, Hennessy set up Eric Hegarty to make it 0-10 to 0-5 and, when Meaney won the mark from the subsequent kickout, Murphy was on hand to open up a six-point lead. However, there was still time for Skibb to halve the deficit before half-time.
Centre-back Paudie Crowley provided the impetus as he drove forward, linking with Davis and Niall Daly, and then sliding a low ball across goal, allowing Dylan Hourihane to fire home a ground shot.
Within eight seconds of the restart, midfielder Dónal Óg Hodnett had Skibb within two points and that was followed by a fifth from Davis, his first from play. Skibb had the momentum, but parity remained elusive and Michael’s weathered the storm before pushing on once more.
R Cotter 1-6 (0-2 f), A Hennessy 0-4, E O'Donovan 1-1, E Hegarty, L O'Herlihy 0-3 each, T Lenihan, P Cunningham, D Meaney, A Murphy 0-1 each.
K Davis 0-5 (0-4 f), D Hourihane 1-2, D Shannon 1-1, D Óg Hodnett 0-2, T Hegarty 0-1.
M Burke; D Corkery, S Keating, P Cunningham; T Lenihan, J Golden, A O’Callaghan; A Murphy, D Meaney; E Hickey, K Hegarty, D Lenihan; A Hennessy, R Cotter, E Hegarty.
L O’Herlihy for Hickey (7, injured), B Cain for Murphy (33, injured), E O’Donovan for D Lenihan (43), M O’Keeffe for O’Herlihy (59, injured).
R Price; D O’Donovan, D Daly, B Minihane; M Collins, P Crowley, K Hurley; R Byrne, D Óg Hodnett; N Daly, D Shannon, E Connolly; D Hourihane, K Davis, D Hourihane.
O Lucey for D O’Donovan (half-time), B Crowley for E Connolly (39), D Hazel for Collins (44), L Connolly for N Daly (51), E O’Connell for Hegarty (57).
J Ryan (Macroom).