Cooper and Murphy lead the way as Éire Óg hammer Grenagh
Éire Óg 2-20 Grenagh 3-6
Although the scoreline tends to suggest otherwise, hotly-fancied Éire Óg didn't have things all their own way in the PIFC Round 1 clash with Grenagh at Blarney last Sunday.
With 21 minutes gone, they were four points behind, 2-3 to 0-5, and they could have been in serious trouble had not the crossbar prevented Tadgh Walsh from bagging a third goal for Grenagh at that juncture.
Having had their lead cut to the minimum before the break, Grenagh drew first blood on the resumption through Barry O'Neill, but their gallant bid to upset the odds was unceremoniously shattered as Éire Óg finally clicked into top gear to leave their Muskerry neighbours trailing in their wake.
Forced to endure 25 fruitless minutes before Sean Bourke added to their tally, Grenagh conceded 1-9 in the interim, and, in truth, the outcome was never in doubt after a point from John Cooper nudged Éire Óg ahead for the first time in the 38th minute.
Semi-finalists for the past two years, Éire Óg's second half performance showed why, as has been the case since they lifted the intermediate crown in most convincing fashion in 2014, they are again rated as leading contenders for the premier title.
Grenagh emerged from intermediate ranks in 2013, but they failed to register a victory last year, making it easy to appreciate why they were given little or no chance of getting back to winning ways at Éire Óg's expense.
They showed from the outset, however, they were determined to make a decent fight of it, with an early goal from impressive corner-forward Paul Barry-Murphy getting them off to the best possible start.
Éire Óg responded with three points on the trot, including a couple of fine efforts by Daniel Goulding and Kevin Hallissey from play, but Colin O'Sullivan and Kevin O'Neill shared the next two scores for Grenagh, whose prospects took on a rosy hue after John Russell goaled following good work by Paul Barry-Murphy and Tadgh Walsh in the 19th minute.
Three minutes later Russell turned provider for Walsh, and it was certainly a huge let-off for Éire Óg that the latter's cracking drive rebounded off the crossbar.
Clearly struggling to cope with the threat carried by Barry-Murphy, Russell and Walsh up front for Grenagh, Éire Óg had reason to be thankful for the input from Daire McCarthy and former Castlehaven star Dermot Hurley at midfield, which helped to ease the pressure on their defence as the first half drew to a close.
With Cian O'Mahony, Liam Sheehan, from a free, and Daniel Goulding on target, Éire Óg reduced the deficit to a point, 2-3 to 0-8, before Tadgh Walsh shot wide with an opportunity to complete the first half scoring for Grenagh from a free.
John Russell, twice, and Paul Barry-Murphy also failed to convert easy chances from frees for Grenagh over the course of the second half, but there could be no disputing Éire Óg came up with most of the answers after the interval.
Their defence tightened up considerably, with John Mullins, Dan O'Connor and Dermot O'Herlihy particularly effective in this sector, while Kevin Hallissey exerted a significant influence as a roaming corner-forward, and Daniel Goulding, kept on a reasonably tight rein by Grenagh full-back Tom Kenny before the break, Liam Sheehan and John Cooper were very much to the fore in a cohesive attack that carved out the openings virtually at will.
Taking a return pass from hard-working centre forward Denny Murphy, Sheehan, who was arguably Éire Óg's leading light overall, brought them back on terms, 2-4 to 0-10, in the 38th minute, and another point soon followed from John Cooper, whose goal-attempt was brilliantly touched over the bar by Grenagh 'keeper Conor Buckley.
They had stretched the gap to ten points after Cooper, fed by Denny Murphy, rattled the net and Goulding, who showed his class to post three exquisite scores from play in the second half, converted a free in the 51st minute.
Reduced to fourteen players after defender Cillian Kenny picked up a second yellow-card two minutes later, Grenagh, to their credit, kept plugging away, and their efforts were rewarded with a goal from Tadgh Walsh in the final minute of regulation time.
As if to punish the losers for their audacity, however, Éire Óg quickly hit back with a goal from Denny Murphy before excellent wing back Dan O'Connor and Liam Sheehan tacked on points to complete the rout.
Éire Óg: L Sheehan 0-8 (4f), D Goulding 0-7 (2f), J Cooper 1-1, D Murphy 1-0, D O'Connor 0-2, K Hallissey and C O'Mahony 0-1 each
Grenagh: P Barry-Murphy, J Russell and T Walsh 1-0 each, C O'Sullivan, K O'Neill, L Walsh, B O'Neill, S Bourke and T Kenny 0-1 each
Éire Óg: C Kelly; M Corkery, J Mullins, A Doherty; D O'Herlihy, F O'Rourke, D O'Connor; D Hurley, D McCarthy; C O'Mahony, D Murphy, J Cooper; K Hallissey, D Goulding, LSheehan Subs: S Fogarty for O'Mahony (bc), 60
Grenagh: C Buckley; A Kiely, T Kenny, P McCarthy, A Duggan, G Russell, C Kenny; C O'Sullivan, S Bourke; K O'Neill, T Walsh, L Walsh; P Barry-Murphy, J Russell, B O'Neill
Referee: J O'Leary (Mallow)