Ryan and Cronin goals fire Cloughduv to title
County JHC Final - Cloughduv 2-12 Russell Rovers 0-14
Last Saturday evening was a great occasion for the much respected long established Cloughduv hurling club at Páirc Uí Rinn.
They finally regained the junior hurling crown that they last held in 1970. Prior to that victory Cloughduv had enjoyed significant success capturing their first junior county title in 1940 and following with an intermediate success the following year.
Subsequent to the 1970 success they captured intermediate titles in 1973, 1983 and 1986 and they participated at senior level on occasions. They stepped down from intermediate to participate at junior level in 2002 and they were hoping that their stay at lower level hurling would be short.
It took them longer than anticipated to gain promotion however and they had to endure county final defeats in 2009, 2010 and 2015 so they were certainly praying for a change of fortune on Saturday evening last.
Looking at the records of the final contestants Cloughduv certainly had tradition on their side considering that their opponents Russell Rovers were contesting their first county final ever at this level.
Any team that captures an East Cork hurling title have to be respected, however, so Cloughduv could take nothing for granted. The mid-Cork side were into their stride from the off and they had the ball in the net following their first attack.
Joe Ryan was the scorer who made no mistake once he collected the sliotar inside the east Cork's sides full-back line. Cloughduv looked to have control when they led 1-1 to 0-1 following four minutes of action but their failure to be on target with a few point scoring efforts was disappointing for them and Russell Rovers than produced a period of dominance.
Daniel Moynihan raised a white flag in the fifth minute and six additional minors followed without reply as Kevin Moynihan, Josh Beausang (a free), Brian Hartnett, Kevin Moynihan (again), Beausang (another free), and Luke Duggan Murray were all on target.
Cloughduv must have felt that they were facing another final defeat as they trailed 0-8 to 1-1 five minutes before the break. To their credit however they raised their game for the remainder of the opening moiety and they secured vital scores.
The Verling brothers were particularly prominent as Cloughduv turned their position around before the interval. Mark Verling made his presence felt at centre field with his deliveries putting Russell Rovers under pressure and Brian was in a scoring mood from placed balls and play.
The letter lifted Cloughduv's morale when he pointed a free and their confidence was clearly moving upwards when a James Moynihan point from play further reduced the arrears.
The winners secured the all-important major in the 27th minute when a run goalwards by Brian Verling opened up the opposing defence and he transferred the sliotar to the unmarked Andrew Cronin at the opportune time.
The latter duly found the Russell Rovers net. Brian Verling Followed with a point from play before Beausung from a free got one back for the east Cork champions, but Cloughduv managed to consolidate their position during the time added on period.
Brian Verling was on target from two frees and one 65 so the Muskerry champions faced the second moiety leading 2-7 to 0-9. It was a comfortable enough position for them as they generally appeared to have their opponents measure.
Beausung got a point back in the opening minute of the second half, but two Verling points kept the winners comfortable and their defence continued to deal capably with the Russell Rovers attacking efforts.
The latter's decision to operate with five in attack left Ger Ahern free so he picked up a share of loose ball and turned defence into attack regularly. Russell Rovers did manage to reduce the arrears to three points when Luke Murray sent the sliotar between the uprights to give them slight hope, but Cloughduv again replied effectively.
Brian Ahern scored a long-range point from play and Brian Verling pointed another free. Russell Rovers now needed a major to have any hope of avoiding defeat but the winners defence were not conceding ground and two remarkable overhead catches by their reliable centre half-back Dave O Leary ensured that the sliotar was promptly driven out of the danger zone.
The final item of note was another Beausang point for Russell Rovers and the subsequent sound of the final whistle was sweet music to the ears of all Cloughduv people.
Cloughduv: Jonathan Buckley, Aodh Twomey, Brian Ahern, Patrick Buckley, Ger Ahern, Dave O'Leary, Eoghan Clifford, Mark Verling, Aidan Murphy, Mark Walsh, Andrew Cronin, Donal Corkery, Brian Verling, Joe Ryan, James Moynihan Subs: Kevin Barry Murphy for Corkery, 44, Denis O'Sullivan for Cronin, 46, Seán Curzon for Moynihan, 57, Liam Long for O'Leary, 60
Russell Rovers: Ian Smiddy, Eoghan O'Sullivan, Chris Ruddy, Kevin O'Brien, Paul Lane, John Paul Ivers, James Kennifick, Kieran Walsh, Liam Duggan Murray, Eoin McGrath, Jack McGrath, Daniel Moynihan, Kevin Moynihan, Brian Hartnett, Josh McGrath Subs: Daniel O'Brien for Kevin O'Brien, half-time, Fintan Murray for Jack McGrath, half-time, Brian Whelehan for Eoin McGrath, 38
Referee: Ian McCarthy (Bandon)