Southern Star Report. By Noel Horgan Dec 6th 1997
Gallent Courceys piped in Final thriller
County Junior title dream cruelly dashed
Castlelyons 2-9 V 1-11 Courcey Rovers

Courcey Rovers' dream of a county junior hurling championship triumph was dashed in the most cruel manner imaginable when a late point from a penalty earned hotly-fancied Castlelyons the glory in a marvelous final at Pairc Ui Rinn last Sunday.

The result gave the East Cork side their first title, but one would venture to suggest that their supporters wouldn't have quibbled unduly had this epic struggle for supremacy finished stalemate. Certainly, all neutrals in the privileged attendance would have relished the prospect of another meeting between two teams who displayed boundless spirit, commitment and resilience during the course of a contest which throbbed with excitement from start to finish.

Conditions were far from perfect on the day, particularly in the second half when the pitch cut up badly making it extremely difficult for the players to keep their feet on the treacherous surface. All the more credit to the combatants, therefore, for producing such a richly entertaining encounter which, for all the intensity of the exchanges, hardly contained a single stroke delivered in anger.

It was a momentous occasion for Castlelyons, and it would be hard to begrudge them their success, especially since they were forced to start without injured Cork U21 and Imokilly star, Timmy McCarthy, who made a noteworthy contribution following his introduction at wing-forward towards the end of the first half

But spare a thought for gallant Courcey Rovers, who proved worthy standard-bearers for the SouthEast and made a mockery of pre-match predictions which suggested that they were little more than lambs for the slaughter going into this decider. And it is quite conceivable that Courceys would have achieved an historic victory against the odds had corner-forward John Murphy made the most of a gift goal-scoring chance shortly before the interval.

It was Castlelyons who applied the early pressure, drawing first blood through impressive corner-forward Sylvester McAuliffe, inside four minutes. But the Courceys defence, with 'kipper Seamus Hurley doing much to inspire confidence with his safe handling early on, wasn't to be breached again until Castlelyons' wing-forward, Eoin Fitzgerald, landed a fine point in the 10th minute.

In the meantime, Courceys had put three points on the board courtesy of Jamie Hayes, from a free, corner-forward, John Murphy, and Hayes again from a free. On the face of it, things appeared to be going well for Courceys at that stage, but they were clearly struggling at midfield, where Sean Cotter was particularly influential for Castlelyons, while Eoin Fitzgerald was making regular headway also on the left flank of the East Cork side's attack.

And after cutting the gap to the minimum, Fitzgerald supplied the delivery which led to a well taken goal from Castlelyons' Paul Cash man the 11th minute. That sparked off a purple patch for the winners which yielded points from Sylvester McAuliffe and Eoin Fitzgerald and a goal from corner-forward Padraig O'Brien who pounced to score after Seamus Hurley had initially kept out an overhead flick by full-forward, Mick Spillane, on a longrange free from Centre-back Trevor Hickey. It left Castlelyons 2-4 t 0-3 to the god after sixteen minutes, and there was good cause to suspect that they were on the road to a comfortable win.

But gutsy Courceys had other ideas, and they steadily gained the upper-hand in the second quarter, with their defence putting up the shutters to such an extent that Castlelyons failed to add to their tally before the break. Brian Downing who looked a bit vulnerable during the opening exchanges against Castlelyons' pacey centre-forward, Paul Cashman. Niall O'Donoghue, John O'Donoghue and Gary Moloney all performed heroically at the back for the rest of the half when Charlie White bought about a significant improvement in Courceys' fortunes at midfield

And while Courceys found it difficult to create openings in attack, all six forwards worked tirelessly to keep the Castlelyons' rearguard fully occupied. In any event, Courceys were back in the hunt after a Jamie Hayes' 65 led to a goalmouth scramble and corner-forward Brian Hayes, lashed the ball to the net to make it 2-4 to 1-4 in the 20th minute.

Courceys' wing-back Anto Hegarty and midfielder Denis Twomey had swapped positions at that stage but Sean Cotter and Eoin Fitzgerald continued to function effectively for Castlelyons. After Fitzgerald hit two wides from good positions, however, Courceys increased their momentum and, with better finishing, they could have hit the front before half-time. Brian Hayes and Jamie Hayes both shot wides, and the latter was off-target also from a long range free before John Murphy latched onto a low ball from Anto Hegarty and, having smartly slipped his marker, sent a shot from the edge of the square straight at Castlelyons' 'keeper, Aidan Barry, who did well to deflect the ball outside the posts in the 27th minute.

Janie Hayes expertly slotted over the resultant 65 and Castlelyons forced to play second fiddle coming up to half time, must have been worried when they turned over with just a 2-4 to 1-5 lead. But Castlelyons regained control on the resumption thanks primarily to the dominance achieved by their half-back line in which Barry Fitzgerald and Trevor Hickey really scaled the heights.

Courceys lost ground also at midfield and but for the sterling resistance of their defence, where Seamus Hayes curbed the threat from Eoin Fitzgerald after moving back from wing-forward for the second half, they would almost certainly have been overwhelmed before the end of the third quarter. As it was, Castlelyons despite wasting an early chance of a goal when Paul Cashman, played Sylvester McAuliffe, hit weakly at Seamus Hurley from close range) had gone 2-6 to 1-5 ahead before Jamie Hayes opened Courceys' second half account from a free in the 48th minute.

That was the signal for Courceys to raise their game again, with substitute Liam Twomey and Brian Hayes doing great work to break Castlelyons' grip at midfield and in the half-back line respectively. The skillful Jamie Hayes, who finished with a flourish also at right-half forward, hit over two superb points, which sandwiched another from John Murphy, to earn Courceys equality at 2-6 to 1-9 after 52 minutes.

Eoin Fitzgerald pointed a free to ease Castlelyons' anxiety two minutes later but then came the best point of the match struck under pressure by Con O'Regan from out near the left touchline. Liam Twomey and John Murphy combined to set up David Hayes for another Courceys' point in the 56th minute and Castlelyons appeared to be on the ropes. Midfielder Peter Murphy quickly brought Castlelyons back on terms, however to set the scene for a nailbiting finish. As play swung rapidly from end to end, the tension and excitement reached fever pitch, but it was Castlelyons who made the decisive breakthrough when Paul Cashman delivered the ball into the goalmouth where full-forward Mick Spillane, for once, won clean possession against Gary Moloney to earn a penalty which was slipped over the bar by Eoin Fitzgerald in the final minute.

Courceys pressed hard in search of an equaliser in injury time but the Castlelyons defence stood firm before Diarmuid Kirwan brought the action to a halt. Barry Fitzgerald, Trevor Hickey and team captain William O'Riordan in defence, Sean Cotter at midfield and Eoin Fitzgerald and Sylvester McAuliffe in attack were the leading lights overall for the winners who had other good performers in Barry O'Connell, Aidain Barry and, in the early stages of the second half, Timmy McCarthy.

Seamus Hurley, Gary Moloney, John O'Donoghue, Brian Downing and Niall O'Donoghue covered themselves in glory at the back for luckless Courceys, while Charlie White, Liam Twomey, Brian Hayes, Jamie Hayes and John Murphy making their presence felt further out at different stages of a truly memorable match.

Scores::Castlelyons, P.Cashman 1-1, E.Fitzgerald 0-4(0-2 frees), S.McAuliffe 0-3, P.O'Brien 1-0, P.Murphy 0-1.
Courcey Rovers, J.Hayes 0-7(0-5 frees), B.Hayes 1-0, J.Murphy 0-2, C.O'Regan and D.Hayes 0-1 each
Castlelyons: A.Barry, B.O'Connell, W.O'Riordan, J.P.Dorgan, B.Fitzgerald, T.Hickey, P.Cotter, S.Cotter, P.Murphy, D.Sheehan, P.Cashman, E.Fitzgerald, P.O'Brien, M.Spillane, S.McAuliffe and subs, T.McCarthy for Sheehan, S.Murphy for O'Brien.
Courcey Rovers: S.Hurley, B.Hayes, G. Moloney, J.O'Donoghue, A.Hegarty, B.Downing, N.O'Donoghue, C.White, D.Twomey, J.Hayes, S.Twomey, S.Hayes, J.Murphy, C.O'Regan, B.Hayes and subs, D.Hayes for D.Twomey, L.Twomey for Hegarty.
Referee:: D.Kirwn, Eire Og.


Paths to the County Final

South-East Junior A Hurling Championship

First Round:: Courcey Rovers _-_ V _________________

Semi-Final:: Courcey Rovers_-_  V    Ballinhassig

Final:: Courcey Rovers____  V ___ Valley Rovers

Cork County Junior A Hurling Championship

First Round:: Courcey Rovers ___  V  ___ 

Semi-Final:: Courcey Rovers_____  V   ___ 


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