A DEFENSIVE error, 16 minutes from time, finally saw a tense deadlock broken and gifted Mallow the John Hayes Cup last Friday evening at Ringmahon Park.
This was a game of more misses than hits and, on another night, the combined scores could have approached double figures. What emerged was a fast-paced, hard-fought encounter where the strikers were smothered from the off, with Fermoy playing five across the back at times.
In what was effectively a North Cork derby it Mallow who took the game to their near neighbours early on and could have been ahead with five minutes when Derek Flynn, at the far post, directed a fast corner into the top corner only to see it headed off the line.
At the other end a key tussle emerged as Mallow's Ken O'Donovan battled to keep out Fermoy marksman Adrian Clancy. Clancy couldn't believe his eyes midway through the half when, having finally shaken off O'Donovan, he shot wide after being put through by Rob Grady.
For Mallow, Shane Sheehan and Jay Clow both came close with headers from crosses but Fermoy 'keeper Liam Coleman left no gaps open.
Perhaps Fermoy's best chance of the half came in the 44th minute as they exerted sustained pressure on the Mallow goal.
A half cleared corner fell to Damian Barry, just outside the box, and his volley came back out off the crossbar, the defence flatfooted. Knocked in again, both Clancy and Grady beat the offside trap and it was 'keeper, and captain, Mick Murphy who saved Mallow by charging down Clancy's shooting angle.
With the breeze becoming an increasing factor, Coleman had to be well placed to keep out a Jimmy Carroll effort before the sides turned over still deadlocked.
Fermoy had two early chances in the second half as their defence continued to snuff out Mallow's repeated attacks. These attacks gained fluidity as the half wore on, however, while Fermoy looked most dangerous on the break.
Ten minutes in Mallow's Derek Flynn volleyed wide at the far post, from a fast cross and a minute later Ken Donovan headed straight at Coleman from six metres.
By now Mallow were stringing together good passing movements and begining to dictate the game — but still weren't able to get that final pass through to a well-placed striker. However, Coleman had to react quickly to take the ball off the boot of Derek Flynn after he was played through by Clow.
As the half wore on Jay Clow became an ever greater headache for Fermoy, down their left flank; taking on, and going around, defenders at speed. In the 29th minute he tore past two before a third tackle close to the edge of the box saw the ball ricochet up in the air. It was the scramble for this ball that saw a defender tap it back to the waiting Coleman — too slowly. In nipped the ever hungry Derek Flynn ( in like Flynn!) who cooly nutmegged the keeper for what proved to be the winner.
A disgusted Fermoy of course fought back like tigers but they were having no luck at all. Clancy missed at the back post after Adrian Driscoll flashed in a low cross. On 40 minutes Alan Baragary failed to pull the trigger when put through at the near post and, in injury time, Grady's headed flickon, of a free, left Mallow happy to scramble the ball out for a corner.
Meanwhile, a neatly worked passing move by Flynn, Jimmy Carroll and Clow came close to fashioning out what would have been an attractive second for Mallow.
But they didn't need it and while, so often, Fermoy have shaded these derbies at the end this time Mallow took the plaudits and the hardearned silverware, having already topped the league. MALLOW UNITED: Mick Murphy, Brian Doody, John Madden, Anthony Jones, Ken Donovan, Denis Flynn, Jimmy Carroll, Shane Sheehan, James Driscoll, Derek Flynn, Jay Clow. Subs: Joe Carroll for Flynn (76), Michael Murphy for Madden (90) FERMOY: Liam Coleman, Aidan McCarthy, Alan Baragary, Damian Barry, Jason Cosgrove, Adrian Driscoll, Mick Brinnock, Mark Luddy, Adrian Clancy, Rob Grady, Danny Mullins. Subs: Adam Burns for Luddy (80), Lee Tobin for Mullins (81) Referee: A O'Connell; assistants: J O'Reilly and M Barry