Lehane's tour de force drives Midleton to end 22-year wait
Midleton 2-15 Sarsfields 2-13
Cork SHC final
A masterclass from county star Conor Lehane helped Midleton to a first Cork title in 22 years as they defeated reigning champions Sarsfields at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Lehane scored 2-10, all but five of his side's tally, with 2-8 coming from play as he continued the supreme level of performance he had displayed since the Magpies resumed championship activity following the All-Ireland final.
Leading by 2-8 to 1-9 at half-time, with Lehane getting 2-7, Midleton underwent a test of their credentials as a Cian McCarthy goal inspired Sars to draw level. However, they were more than up to the challenge.
Aside from Lehane's tour de force, Midleton also had excellent displays from wing-back James Nagle and Peter Dowling at midfield. While there was a hint of anxiety in some poor wides as the second half wore on, they were also thankful to Luke O'Farrell, Brian Hartnett and Padraig O'Shea for important scores.
For manager Peter Smith, a part of the team who won in 1991, bridging the gap was sweet.
"It seemed like ages and ages," he said. "I just had a picture there with the cup with Paddy Fitzgerald, who was in charge of us when we won it last. Little did I realise at that stage that when we won it again I'd be in charge.
"These lads are full of character. If you take the hurling out of it, they're proper guys, proper men. That counts for something as well."
Eanna Martin's point inside 12 seconds struck the first blow for Sars, and while Lehane gave notice of his intentions with a pair of scores, fewer than five minutes had elapsed when Michael Cussen struck for a Sars goal, profiting from Martin's delivery.
Though Gavin O'Loughlin strengthened the lead, Lehane had Midleton level almost immediately as he took advantage of indecision in defence to fire to the net.
It remained nip and tuck for the remainder of the opening quarter but then Sars began to assert themselves. With Daniel Kearney working very hard at midfield to provide ball inside, they were forcing frees which McCarthy was able to convert and by the 20th minute they were 1-7 to 1-4 in front.
That was the cue for Lehane to once more illuminate proceedings in anticipating Paul Haughney's ball from the right to dink past Alan Kennedy in the Sars goal.
Kearney responded with a good effort for Sars, but the rest of the half belonged to Lehane as he produced three excellent scores. The first and third of these came after good catches, with a '65' sandwiched in between, and as the sides retired to the dressing-room the Magpies were two in front.
Though McCarthy and Cussen helped to wipe out that lead in the opening stages of the second period, Midleton powered on again, and with Lehane (two) and O'Farrell on target they opened up their biggest lead of the game.
Back Sarsfields came again, however. When centre-back Eoin Quigley launched a ball into Cussen, he provided the lay-off for McCarthy and though his shot initially looked to have gone across goal and wide, the umpires signalled a green flag as it had travelled through a hole in the net.
When McCarthy added a point after Eoin O'Sullivan had been fouled, Sars were 2-11 to 2-10 in front and appeared set to win back-to-back titles for the first time and make it four victories in six years.
Midleton had other ideas, though. Lehane produced an outrageous effort from the left after O'Shea's good win in the air and then O'Shea himself rounded off a move involving Seamus O'Farrell and Aidan Ryan to turn the tables.
Sars would not go away and McCarthy's frees ensured that they were level at 2-13 each with 10 minutes left, but it was Midleton's day. Lehane's free from the 65-metre line edged them in front and then O'Farrell made sure of things from Paul Haughney's pass.
Despite losing Nagle to a second yellow card late on, they held out in the face of Sars pressure.
Scorers – Midleton: C Lehane 2-10 (0-2fs, 0-1 '65'), L O'Farrell 0-3, B Hartnett, P O'Shea 0-1 each. Sarsfields: C McCarthy 1-7 (0-6fs, 0-1 '65'), M Cussen 1-1, D Kearney, E Martin (0-1f) 0-2, G O'Loughlin.
MIDLETON – T Wallace; A Kearney, P O'Mahony, K Burke; S O'Farrell, F O'Mahony, J Nagle; P Haughney, P Dowling; P O'Shea, A Ryan, C Lehane; L O'Farrell, D Ryan, B Hartnett. Sub: C Walsh for D Ryan (34).
SARSFIELDS – A Kennedy; R Ryan, J Barry, C O'Sullivan; G O'Kelly-Lynch, E Quigley, E Martin; D Kearney, E O'Sullivan; G O'Loughlin, C McCarthy, D Roche; K Murphy, R O'Driscoll, M Cussen. Subs: T Óg Murphy for Roche (15-16, blood), C Leahy for O'Kelly-Lynch (21), T Óg Murphy for Roche (27-29, blood), T Óg Murphy for O'Driscoll (h-t), R Murphy for Roche (53-56, blood).
Ref – C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).