WHILE they certainly got the rub of the green when it mattered in the closing stages, Macroom just about deserved to take the honours in a thrilling county intermediate football championship final at Pairc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday. Had they lost they would now be reflecting ruefully on a gross wastage of possession over the hour which saw them accumulate 14 wides, seven in each half, and it's testimony to their selfbelief and resilience that they stuck to the task when the game appeared to be slipping away from them at different stages in the second half.
The result enabled Macroom to taste county championship glory for the first time since their intermediate triumph in 1990, and the unbridled scenes of jubilation at the final whistle underlined just how much it meant to the tradition-filled MidCork club.
It was a cruel defeat for Kildorrery, runners-up to Valley Rovers in the final two years ago and beaten by Canovee in the 2007 junior decider, as they looked set to make it third time lucky after they hit the ground running in the second half to forge three points clear inside 32 minutes.
Although Macroom rallied to draw level, the picture looked bright again for Kildorrery after inspirational midfielder Andrew O'Brien converted a couple of placed balls from distance to make it 09 to 0-7 with eight minutes remaining. Gary Morris quickly pulled a point back for Macroom to set the scene for a gripping conclusion, but the way things unfolded after that couldn't have been more dramatic and, from a Kildorrery point of view, agonising.
Firstly, Macroom were awarded a questionable penalty which Kildorrery 'keeper Brendan Hannon saved well from David Goold. But Goold was quick to react after Hannon parried his shot, gathering the rebound to rifle the ball to the net from point-blank range.
Shrugging off that potentially crippling setback, Kildorrery responded with a point from Mike Monaghan before Tom Monaghan was deemed to be fouled by Macroom custodian James O'Connell. Again it was a marginal call to penalise O'Connell, who had advanced off his line to smother Tom Monaghan's shot with what appeared to be a legitimate challenge.
It mattered little, however, as Andrew O'Brien shot narrowly wide from the resultant penalty, and Macroom were allowed off the hook. There was still enough time for Kildorrery to retrieve the situation, but Macroom were firmly on course for victory after wing-back Ciaran Murphy pushed them two points ahead.
Kildorrery mounted a last-gasp raid at the death, but their fate was sealed after Macroom's Fintan Goold rose high to gather a probing delivery from centre back Michael Walsh just seconds before the last whistle. Macroom lined out with Sean Kiely and Fintan Goold at midfield, but the latter was moved to centre back in a switch with Philip Corrigan shortly after the throwin.
Kiely drew first blood for Macroom in the second minute, but Andrew O'Brien was the most influential midfielder on view during the opening quarter when Kildorrery found it difficult to create openings up front. After O'Brien converted a '45 to bring them level in the 10th. minute, they didn't add to their tally until O'Brien was on target from another '45 eight minutes later.
In the interim, Macroom had put two more points on the board, courtesy of centre forward Gary Morris and Sean Kiely, whose effort for a goal was deflected over the bar by Brendan Hannon in the 16th. minute. Points by Tom Monaghan and Andrew O'Brien, from a free, enabled Kildorrery to hit the front for the first time in the 21st minute, and they weren't to be hauled back to equality before half-time.
That was primarily because Macroom wasted a string of chances, shooting five wides on the trot, shared by Philip Corrigan, Sean Kiely, David Goold, Gary Morris and Goold again. Full-forward Goold, who was well policed by Kildorrery's Tom Paul Murphy, brought an end to a barren spell of almost 20 minutes for Macroom with a pointed free in stoppage time.
That came in quick reply to an Eamonn O'Connor score for Kildorrery, resulting from good work by Tom Monaghan, who showed up well with limited possession at corner forward before the break. Apart from the hard-working John Howard on the right wing, none of the other Kildorrery forwards made a significant impact in the first half against a Macroom defence backboned by Eoin O'Mahony and Fintan Goold before Gould again swapped positions with Philip Corrigan after 21 minutes.
It was a similar story at the other end where Tom Paul Murphy was very solid at full back for Kildorrery, and Jerry McCarthy, Michael Walsh and Richie McEniry resisted stoutly in the half back line. Leading by 0-5 to 0-4 at the break, Kildorrery opened brightly on the turnover, with corner-forward Dave Kelly doing the spadework for points from John Howard, who fired over a sublime score, and Andrew O'Brien which served to increase the pressure on Macroom.
Although Fintan Goold, now operating at midfield alongside Philip Corrigan, replied for Macroom after collecting a cross from David Goold in the 36th minute, they had reason to be thankful for a clearance off the line by Rory Buckley four minutes later. It denied Kildorrery's Dave White a goal following a slick build-up involving Jerry McCarthy, John Howard, Eamonn O'Connor and Mike Monaghan, and it prevented almost certain disaster for Macroom.
Buckley's contribution didn't end there as he played a starring role at corner-back in the second half, putting the shackles firmly on Kildorrery's most menacing forward Tom Monaghan. He was ably supported by ultradependable full back Eoin O'Mahony, while Sean Kiely emerged as a leading light at centre-back as Macroom, with Michael Cahill and Ciaran Murphy also keeping their end up well on the flanks, came up with most of the answers in defence.
Fintan Goold and Philip Corrigan gave them an edge too at midfield, but their forwards continued to misfire, and it seemed as if it wasn't destined to be Macroom's day after David Goold fluffed a chance to bring them level from an easy free in the 45th minute.