Thursday 13 December 2018

Harnedy hails his Imokilly heroes as goal power derails Rockies bid

Cork SHC final: Imokilly 3-13 Blackrock 0-18

Seamie Harnedy lifts the cup as Imokilly players celebrate after beating Blackrock in the Cork SHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Sportsfile
Seamie Harnedy lifts the cup as Imokilly players celebrate after beating Blackrock in the Cork SHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Sportsfile

Denis Hurley

Imokilly will go down in history as the first side to win the Cork senior hurling title in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh as their goal power saw them past Blackrock yesterday.

Leading by two points, 1-7 to 0-8, at half-time, the East Cork divisional side - featuring players from eight different clubs - got a boost on the resumption as captain Séamus Harnedy restored their five-point advantage.

Imokelly's Colm Barry tries to give Blackrock's Ciaran Cormack the slip. Photo: Sportsfile
Imokelly's Colm Barry tries to give Blackrock's Ciaran Cormack the slip. Photo: Sportsfile

While Blackrock did eat into that lead, they couldn't find the net and never managed to force parity, with Brian Mulcahy's late goal clinching a first title since 1998 for Imokilly. For Harnedy, it was a special moment.

"It feels unbelievable," he said. "During the week, a lot of people were saying that we were red-hot favourites but we knew that playing Blackrock would be extremely tough and that's the way it panned out. Up until the 63rd minute, there was only a puck of a ball in it, when 'Mul' got the goal it was an incredible feeling.

Primed "Our lads have been amazing all year, they've dug in. We've been down twice in injury-time, in the quarter-final against Erin's Own and the semi-final against Sarsfields. Credit where credit's due, they stood up when we needed them."

Having drawn in the quarter- and semi-finals, this was their fifth week in a row in action and that had primed them. "The last four weeks, not one of them have been beyond the other team's reach and we knew it was going to be the same today," Harnedy said.

Blackrock's Ciaran Cormack maintains possession for his side ahead of Imokilly's Kieran Histon. Photo: Sportsfile
Blackrock's Ciaran Cormack maintains possession for his side ahead of Imokilly's Kieran Histon. Photo: Sportsfile

"It helps, the more you're in that scenario and it stood to us today. In saying that, it still took until the last strike of the ball, it wasn't over until then."

The validity of divisions playing in the Cork championship has been questioned, but Harnedy pointed to the bond built up.

"We've been on the road three years," he said, "but if you went into that dressing room it'd be hard to believe that it's only that long. Some of my best friends are in there, I'm proud to call them team-mates. It's brilliant, I'm going to savour it and to captain them is all the sweeter.

"We've great men in there and thank God they got us over the line."

A close opening saw the sides level on four occasions early on, but, after William Leahy's point put Imokilly 0-6 to 0-5 in front, they followed that up with the first of their goals, Cian Fleming finishing well from a tight angle after Ian Cahill did well to get his pass away.

They were five in front when wing-back John Cronin - among their best players, along with midfielder Ger Millerick - extended the lead to five, but Blackrock finished the half well, Michael O'Halloran getting two pointed frees and Alan O'Callaghan also on target.

The effect of those three scores was wiped out on the resumption though as Harnedy reacted quickest to pull the loose ball to the net when Leahy had his effort well saved by Gavin Connolly.

The importance of that goal was shown in that Blackrock continued to come back at Imokilly during the second half but couldn't come closer than one point, despite four in a row from sub Daniel Meaney, O'Callaghan, Ciarán Cormack and O'Halloran, who was very unlucky with a goal chance.

On 57, Harnedy's point put Imokilly 2-13 to 0-17 in front, but Blackrock still had hope as sub Tadhg Deasy pointed and then they won a 20-metre free. Unfortunately for them, O'Callaghan's goal attempt flew over the bar and with the next play Imokilly had a third goal, sub Brian Mulcahy benefiting from a turnover when goalkeeper Connolly tried to clear.

Blackrock manager Fergal Ryan agreed that the taking of goal chances had been the key difference, while acknowledging that lifting the team for the Munster club championship won't be an easy task.

"We probably had a couple of chances of goals and didn't take them," he said. "It's disappointing, beforehand you're probably thinking that if you're to win then you'll need a goal or two.

"The big job for us now as a management team is to pick them up for a game in two weeks against Na Piarsaigh from Limerick. That in itself is hard, we found that when we won in 1999, when you're away from a final for so long, it's difficult to build up again.

"Maybe when the dust settles, we'll be able to get back in the swing of things."

Scorers - Imokilly: W Leahy 0-4f, S Harnedy 1-1, C Fleming, B Mulcahy 1-0 each, P O'Sullivan, M O'Keeffe, B Lawton (1 sl) 0-2 each, G Millerick, J Cronin 0-1 each. Blackrock: M O'Halloran 0-8 (6f), A O'Callaghan 0-3 (2f), C Cormack 0-2, D O'Farrell, G Regan, T Deasy, D Meaney 0-1 each.

Imokilly- D Dalton (Fr O'Neills); B Ó Tuama (Castlemartyr), C Barry (Castlelyons), K Histon (Cobh); C O'Brien (St Ita's), N O'Leary (Castlelyons), J Cronin (Lisgoold); M O'Keeffe (Fr O'Neills), G Millerick (Fr O'Neills); B Lawton (Castlemartyr), S Harnedy (St Ita's), W Leahy (Aghada); P O'Sullivan (Cloyne), I Cahill (Cloyne), C Fleming (Aghada). Subs: D Mangan (St Catherine's) for Cahill (51), B Mulcahy (St Catherine's) for Fleming (58).

Blackrock - G Connolly; G Norberg, D Stokes, J Cashman; N Cashman, E Smith, A Murphy; S Murphy, D O'Farrell; S O'Keeffe, A O'Callaghan, G Regan; M O'Halloran, C Cormack, J O'Sullivan. Subs: D Cashman for O'Sullivan (h-t), D Meaney for Smith (35, inj), T Deasy for Cormack (47).

Ref - C Lyons (Nemo Rangers)

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