ROCKCHAPEL are back on the summit of Cork junior football for the first time in 25 years after outlasting great rivals Kilmurry in a highly entertaining County JAFC Final replay at Pairc Uí Rinn last Sunday.
The bite and killer instinct that had been strangely absent from Rockchapel in the drawn encounter returned to fire the Duhallow champions to outright victory. Faster to the ball, sharper in the tackle and creativity in possession allowed the teamwork of Rockchapel make a firm statement of intent.
What emerged was some something typical of Rockchapel, sorting out their early problems and restricting Kilmurry to just four points after conceding the opening three scores. Showing battling qualities, Rockchapel deservedly emerged the better side at the business end of the game to add to their previous title won in 1987.
Early in the second half, Rockchapel tweaked their attack where substitute William Murphy brought new energy to his side. That allowed Rockchapel sharpen their attacking blade. Just on field for five minutes, Murphy's visit for physio three times during the previous week paid ample dividends for itself on providing the platform for Seamus Hickey to blast past a wall of Kilnurry defenders for the game's only goal in 42nd minute.
And though Kilmurry chipped away at the deficit, Murphy contribued immensely to the Rockchapel pursuit with two peaches of points. In fairness, Kilmurry were game and committed yet they simply came up a superior force that blended the far greater team work over the hour.
As the game aged, the Rockchapel defence had its security on triple A, mopping up the ball efficiently and rarely giving the Kilmurry attack a sniff of clear possession. Elsewhere Rockchapel were busy and engaging at midfield to supply good ball into attack that carved well taken scores.
For much of the drawn game, the occasion had got to both sides in a low scoring stalemate encounter where Kilmurry conceeded 1-1 in the opening minutes. Clearly, Kilmurry were keen not for a repeat, proceeding to enjoy their most productive period of the game in the opening 10 minutes. Though perforning against the breeze, the Mid Cork side grabbed the early initiative, a tug on William Buckley yielded a free for the same player to kick the opening point.
Energetic and enterprising early on, Kilmurry took encouragement from the play of the Barrett brothers and Liam Long in defence with James White, Pat O'Sullivan, David O'Halloran and Buckley catching the eye elsewhere. A Buckley free fell short yet O'Sullivan snapped up to bisect the post.
And from good work by James Kelleher allowed Buckley chip in with a further free that allowed Kilmurry enjoy a deserved 0-3 to 0-0 advantage inside 10 minutes.
Rockchapel appeared to be at odds with their game on performing second fiddle during the opening quarter. It was a testing time for the Duhallow champions, but once Liam Collins opened their account in the 15th minute, pointing a free following a foul on brother Kevin, it settled from the North West barony.
That score signalled a significant improvement in Rockchapel's game, a great move involving John Doody and Seamus Hickey allowed Daniel Curtin point before Hickey forfeited a possible goaling opportunity.
Indeed, Rockchapel proceeded to control matters, Eamon O'Callaghan, Brendan Cahill and Kevin Collins established a firm control in defence while Den Joe O'Callaghgan and John Doody operated with purpose at midfield.
And in attack, Hickey and Curtin remained busy and engaging, Hickey picking up possession from Doody to tie the contest. The heavy overnight rain saw to it that conditions were slippery to allow both defences to dominate for a spell. Rockchapel broke the deadlock on Curtin and Hickey performing the hard graft for Ian Guiney to split the uprights for a 0-4 to 0-3 interval advantage.
Kilmury had failed to raise a flag for the closing 20 minutes to the opening half yet just as they did in the opening phase, they resumed in a positive mode that could have snatched a handle on the tight proceedings. Firstly, Pat O'Sullivan found the opening for White to kick a surperb point.
And Rockchapel incurred a let off on Kilmurry forfeiting their best chance of a goal, O'Halloran, O'Sullivan and Buckley involved only for James Kelleher to see his flicked effort cannon off the corner of the crossbar and upright. The ball flashed across the goalmouth only to be gobbled up by a relieved Rockchapel defence.
Buckley did point a free for a lead score but just as they did in the opening half, Kilmurry flattered to deceive thereafter. Rockchapel's prospects appeared to be dealt a body blow on an injury picked up by the effective Curtin. But what an inspired substitute on the introduction of William Murphy.
Though failing to utilise the first ball that came his way, Murphy helped unhinge the Kilmurry defence in the 42nd min. , the creator for Hickey whose strength and guile saw off a bevy of defenders and finish with aplomb past 'keeper Jason McDonald.
Such a score served to ignite Rockchapel, Hickey combined with Guiney to follow up and flick over a