Imperious Imokilly retain Cork crown with real style
Imokilly 4-19 Midleton1-18
Divisional side Imokilly made it back-to-back Cork SHC titles with an excellent all-round performance at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
Having ended a 19-year wait for victory in 2017, the East Cork representative team matched the achievement of 1997 and '98 in retaining the Seán Óg Murphy Cup, with captain Séamus Harnedy scoring 1-6 while Paudie O'Sullivan struck for 2-1.
Leading by 2-11 to 1-9 at half-time, Imokilly saw their lead reduced to two points as Midleton began the second period well, but O'Sullivan's second goal gave them breathing space again before Shane Hegarty got the clinching fourth goal.
For Imokilly manager Fergal Condon, the victory was proof of the club-like nature instilled in the team.
"I took over in 2015 and we've 120 or 130 matches played together," he said.
"We're playing as many games as any club, we'll do something on a Monday night and guys will be wondering if we've a game coming up.
"That's what makes us a bit stronger, we're well-structured and well-organised. We look for the game and see what we can get out of it, as a team and as a unit."
In front of an attendance of 10,214 - with the Cork County Board's decision to increase tickets from €20 to €25 drawing criticism - Imokilly were set on their way as O'Sullivan capitalised on a defensive mix-up to latch on to Mark O'Keeffe's delivery in the third minute before firing home and never trailed at any stage in the game.
The lead was 1-3 to 0-1 after a pair of points from the excellent Bill Cooper at midfield. Though Midleton belatedly got going as scores from Conor Lehane, Luke O'Farrell and Cormac Walsh brought them to within two,
But Imokilly were able to conjure something when needed, as they would continue to do throughout the game. Harnedy got their second goal on 20 minutes from Brian Lawton's pass to put them 2-6 to 0-8 in front and led by six when Midleton gave themselves some hope as Patrick White, assisted by Seán O'Leary Hayes, got a fine goal.
However, a pair of Harnedy points moved Imokilly clear again to lead by five at half-time. Midleton began the second half well with four of the first five points and it was 2-12 to 1-13 when Luke O'Farrell got his second point on 40, but William Leahy's delightful touch put O'Sullivan in for his second goal and, after Harnedy slung over his fifth point, Brian Lawton set up Hegarty for the fourth goal.
"Midleton were sharp early in the second half," Condon said, "they were penetrating us, but Séamie got a ball underneath the stand and slapped it over the bar and set us up again.
"Bill Copper, Colm Spillane, Shane Hegarty - they're the new players this year, we made six changes from last year's final. It was quite a lot but we could stand over every one of them."
Midleton do at least have the consolation of representing Cork in the Munster Club SHC as divisional sides aren't allowed to enter, but their coach/selector Seán O'Brien had to admit the better side won.
"Our lads gave it their best shot," he said, "I'd love to say we could have won the game, but I can't. The better team on the day won.
"When you work as hard as we did to get five-point deficit backs to two, you then need a break, you need someone to make a mistake and for us to get a goal. What happened instead was they'd go down and get a goal. They had that bit of an edge."
Scorers - Imokilly: S Harnedy 1-6, P O'Sullivan 2-1, W Leahy (2fs, 1 '65) 0-5, B Cooper 0-4, S Hegarty 1-1, Barry Lawton, D Dalton 0-1 each. Midleton: C Lehane 0-7 (6fs), C Walsh 0-4, P White 1-1, L O'Farrell 0-3, P Haughney, C Beausang, S O'Meara 0-1 each.
Imokilly: D O'Callaghan; M Russell, C Barry, C Spillane; C O'Brien, N O'Leary, J Cronin; B Cooper, M O'Keeffe; Brian Lawton, S Harnedy, S Hegarty; W Leahy, P O'Sullivan, Barry Lawton. Subs: G Millerick for O'Keeffe (48), D Dalton for Barry Lawton (52), D Mangan for Harnedy (60).
Midleton: T Wallace; E Moloney, F O'Mahoney, S Smyth; L Dineen, S O'Leary Hayes, J Nagle; P Haughney, S O'Farrell; L O'Farrell, C Walsh, C Beausang; S O'Meara, C Lehane, P White. Subs: P Nagle for O'Meara (half-time), T O'Connell for White (43), R O'Regan for O'Mahoney (45).
Ref - D Kirwan (Éire Óg).