Aghabullogue stand firm late on
THEY were rank outsiders going in, and they looked complete no-hopers with five minutes gone in the county intermediate football championship semi-final at Mallow last Sunday.
Inspired by corner forward John Corkery, however, Aghabullogue upset the odds in no uncertain manner as they powered to a richly merited victory which earned them a place in the final for the first time.
Corkery, a member of the Cork Under 21 squad for 2014, was in devastating form, notching nine points, including five spectacular scores from play, and causing the alarm-bells to sound for the Glanworth rearguard any time the ball came his way.
He was unquestionably the chief architect of Aghabullogue's triumph, but it was by no means a one-man show from the Mid-Cork side, with practically every player putting a shoulder to the wheel as they dominated matters for long stretches of a free-flowing and highly entertaining contest.
Pa Finnegan was another stand-out performer for the winners, roaming deep from the '40 to pick up an abundance of possession which he invariably distributed well. That Corkery was supplied with a quality service in the inside line was primarily down to Finnegan, who was ably assisted by his flankers Seán O'Sullivan and Mark Long.
Brian Buckley and Michael Dennehy both worked tirelessly to ensure that Aghabullogue enjoyed an edge at midfield, while precious little passed their half back line where Mark O'Brien was especially impressive.
Installed as favourites to lift the title following a convincing quarter final win over Kanturk, Glanworth couldn't have hoped for a better start, with midfielder David Pyne and wing back Denis Gallagher sharing a brace of points before corner forward Michael Sheehan fired in a goal in the fourth minute.
Fed by Michael Pierce, Sheehan scorched in from the right wing to finish to the net with aplomb, and, after centre-forward Gerard Long, placed by Pierce, quickly tacked on a point, it seemed as if the writing was on the wall for Aghabullogue even at that early juncture.
That prompted Aghabullogue to switch their wing backs, and Ryan Dennehy immediately put the shackles on Pierce, while Mark O'Brien really came into his own on moving to the right flank. With Donal Twomey making his presence felt too in the pivotal berth, Aghabullogue established firm control in the half back line, with the result that Glanworth's full forward line was forced to exist on scraps for the rest of the first half.
Glanworth's tally before the break was completed by a Pierre O'Driscoll free in the 11th minute, but Aghabullogue had put three points on the board by then, and it was obvious the Coachford men were equipped to make a fight of it.
John Corkery posted Aghabullogue's first two scores, both resulting from passes by Pa Finnegan, who bagged the third himself following good work by full-back Dhani Merrick and Brian Buckley. Another measured delivery from Finnegan allowed Corkery to make it 1-4 to 0-4 in the 12th. minute, and Corkery converted three frees to bring Aghabullogue back on terms before half time.
Needless to say, Glanworth were grateful for the interval respite, hoping that it would give them an opportunity to regain their composure in the wake of Aghabullogue's unexpected resurgence.
The notion that Glanworth's slump largely stemmed from complacency setting in as a result of their whirlwind start was soon to be dispelled, however, as Aghabullogue continued to run the show on the turnover.
After taking a pass from Sean O'Sullivan, Pa Finnegan pointed to nudge Aghabullogue in front for the first time in the 33rd. minute, and they appeared to have made a major breakthrough two minutes later.
Full-forward John Kelleher, who showed up well in the second half, had a goal disallowed, however, after knocking the ball from the grasp of Glanworth 'keeper Thomas Fitzgibbon and over the line.
It was a marginal call to penalise Kelleher for his challenge, but it mattered little, as Aghabullogue remained in the driving seat, forging three points clear, 0-10 to 1-4, courtesy of a point from the unstoppable Corkery, who had been set up by Kelleher in the 44th minute.
After David Pyne ended a 47 minute barren spell for Glanworth, Corkery completed a slick raid involving Pa Finnegan, Mark O'Brien, Brian Buckley and Ryan Dennehy before Mark Long landed a stunning score from the left wing to leave Aghabullogue four to the good with three minutes of relegation time remaining.
Glanworth made a last ditch effort to salvage the match, reducing the deficit through centre-back Sean Finn, who finished very strongly, but the Aghabullogue defence, in which Alan Hogan, Dhani Merrick and Greg Long rarely put a foot astray in the full back line, soaked up the pressure during almost five minutes of additional time
Aghabullogue: J Corkery 0-9, 0-4 frees, P Finnegan 0-2, M Long 0-1
Glanworth: M Sheehan 1-0, D Pyne 0-2, D Gallagher, G O'Neill, P O'Driscoll, free, and S Finn 0-1 each
Aghabullogue: J Buckley, A Hogan, D Merrick, G Long, R Dennehy, D Twomey, M O'Brien, B Buckley, M Dennehy, S O'Sullivan, P Finnegan, M Long, E O'Sullivan, J Kelleher, J Corkery. Subs: A Barry-Murphy for Dennehy (injured), R O'Keeffe for E O'Sullivan, M Dennehy for Barry-Murphy
Glanworth: T Fitzgibbon, T Condon, W Blackburn, P Blackburn, D Cotter, S Finn, D Gallagher, D Pyne, R O'Driscoll, M Pierce, G O'Neill, C Quirke, P O'Driscoll, B Gallagher, M Sheehan. Subs, D Healy for B Gallagher, S O'Riordan for Pierce
Referee: J Dorgan (Nemo Rangers)