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McCarthy's late twist has 'Martle on cloud nine

Sundays in September will always have the monopoly on great days out for most Cork GAA fans. But for the parish of Ballymartle, and the pride of it, this one in February will forever resonate.

A climax of the highest drama capped off the most successful year in the club's history. Darren McCarthy will be the name that will go down in folklore in the townland where the club takes its name from, and in Riverstick where they play their games.

His goal -- a dipping 50-yard free in the dying moments -- stole the title from right underneath Dicksboro's noses.

In truth, the Kilkenny side could have won it, should have won it they'll imagine, but such was the ebb and flow to this one that it was always in the balance until Alan Kelly blew the final whistle.

"Never give up," said Ballymartle's manager Anthony McCarthy afterwards. "That's a characteristic we've had ever since we played the county championship down in Cork in Ballinspittle -- with four minutes to go there (against Inniscarra) we were down by two points and we turned it around to win it by two. And that character in this team showed again today."

The single-point victory just about sums up the tightest of battles that ensued. Ballymartle will look back on their opening blitz as a key component in the winning of it.

They burst from the blocks and from the early stages it looked as though it could be a cakewalk for the Cork side. Daniel Edmonds was in the thick of the exchanges, whipping over twice to see his side take the initiative and lead by five unanswered points within five minutes.

Dicksboro, who were attempting to be the only side to win this title twice, were up for a fight and they pedalled back. Conor O'Loughlin and Martin Gaffney stemmed the early tide with two points to reduce the margin to four.

Having achieved senior status for the very first time, a year of unparalleled success looked to have instilled a confidence in the Rebel side that Dicksboro were finding hard to get to grips with, and in the 10th minute great work from Barry Dwyer resulted in his brother Jamie whipping over 'Martle's eighth point to lead by six.

Ballymartle 'keeper Declan McCarthy then conceded a penalty after tripping up Paul O'Flynn, but McCarthy stood tall to save Shane Maher's free puck.

The defensive heroics couldn't mask the fact that Ballymartle were coming under increasing pressure and at half-time Dicksboro had cut the arrears to a single point with Stapleton, Gaffney and O'Flynn all capitalising on possession gained with points.


'Martle shifted around the forward line, with Ruairi Dwyer moving into full-forward. Immediately after the break he found the net after he inadvertently dummied Sam Morrissey when he mis-hit the crucial strike.

Dicksboro fought back with points from Maher and Gaffney and they finally overtook their opponents when Stapleton smashed to the net after Derek O'Gorman had found him with a precise handpass.

Just when Dicksboro were about to turn the screw, Barry Dwyer saw his '65 land in the back of Morrissey's net, but Gaffney, who was at the centre of everything for Dicksboro, looked to have clinched it with a late point.

McCarthy's goal at the death seemed almost too dramatic, but perhaps it was a fitting end to a fascinating game.

SCORERS -- Ballymartle: B Dwyer 1-7 (3f, 2 '65's), D McCarthy 1-2, R Dwyer 1-0, D Edmonds, J Dwyer 0-2 each, D Kelly, D Dwyer 0-1 each. Dicksboro: M Gaffney 0-12 (8f), A Stapleton 1-2, P O'Flynn 0-4, S Maher, C O'Loughlin 0-1each.

Ballymartle -- D McCarthy; D Coleman, M Tobin, B Dwyer; J Kelly, P Dwyer, N Sheehan; S Corry, G Webb; B Dwyer, R Dwyer, D Edmonds; D McCarthy, D Dwyer, J Dwyer. Subs: B Coleman for Sheehan (48), C Coleman for Dwyer (32).

Dicksboro -- S Morrissey; D Glynn, K Cuddihy, P Hogan; M Fagan, D Kenny, E Malone; D O'Gorman, C O'Loughlin; P O'Flynn, M Gaffney, O Walsh; C Starr, S Maher, A Stapleton. Subs: K Nolan for O'Gorman (54).

Ref -- A Kelly (Galway).

Irish Independent