2007 SHC S-Final V Newtownshandrum
PLAYING their usual stylish brand of hurling Newtownshandrum, without ever getting out of second gear, proved far too good for a game Bride Rovers in the first of the Evening Echo County SHC semi-finals at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
There was never a hint of an upset in this disappointing tie after Newtown drew level in the second minute when Ben O'Connor cut a line ball over the bar, and on the evidence of this performance it's going to take a very good team to deny the North Cork side a fourth title in seven years.
While Ben and Jerry O'Connor (up to the time of his retirement with a hamstring injury) were hugely influential for the winners, it was younger brother John who stole the biggest plaudits on this occasion.
Operating at corner forward, John helped himself to a goal and three points, all from play, and apart from his scoring exploits, his positional sense and team work marked him out as a player of exceptional ability.
Defensively, Newtown were superb. Well marshalled by outstanding centre back Pat Mulcahy, they gave nothing away to a very weak Bride Rovers attack, and their two goals which came very late in the game only served to put a more respectable look on the scoreboard.
Brendan Mulcahy, Dermot Gleeson and team captain Philip Noonan were other defenders to keep their end up. Newtown won the midfield exchanges hands down despite losing Jerry O'Connor after 20 minutes, and that was principally due to the brilliance of Alan T. O'Brien, who played out of his skin, scoring four marvellous points from play.
Ben O'Connor lead the Newtown attack in style but Cathal Naughton and Ryan Clifford - he failed to score on this occasion - paid the price for their indifferent form by being substituted early in the second half.
No sentiment was shown by the Newtown mentors in making those calls, but they demand high standards from their players and if you don't measure up, off you come and give others a chance to show what they can do.
One of those who did well when he came on was county minor Jack Herlihy. He replaced the injured Jerry O'Connor and certainly staked him claim for a place on the final team.
The Rovers were hugely disappointing. After doing so well in their previous outing against Midleton, they went into this game with high hopes, but it proved a bridge too far for them, as they never coped with the pace and precision passing of their opponents.
The one thing any team cannot do when playing Newtown is to give them space as they will exploit it to the full. And that is exactly what Bride Rovers did, failing to man mark, and paid the ultimate price.
Aided by the wind, the Rathcormac side were off the mark in seconds - 14 in fact - when Barry Johnson pointed from midfield. Ben O'Connor tied the game two minutes later with that delight sideline cut and the game had the ingredients of being a lively semi-final.
Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way, as Newtown, displaying all the class and skill which made them champions three times in the last six years, began to play some sparkling hurling.
With Alan T. O'Brien playing out of his skin at midfield, they stormed into an 0-8 to 0-2 lead after 20 minutes, O'Brien scoring half of that tally. The ease with which Newtown were able to carve open the Rovers defence was alarming and the East Cork side were grateful for some excellent goalkeeping by Denis Fitzgerald.
Despite losing Jerry O'Connor through injury, Newtown finished the half strongly, and led 0-10 to 0-4 at the whistle as they turned to play with the strong wind. The Rovers brought Brian Murphy and Jerome O'Driscoll to midfield for the second half, but it had little effect as Alan T. O'Brien continued to dominate and after 50 minutes they had stretched their lead to eight points, 0-15 to 0-7, their last point a superb effort by Ben O'Connor from underneath the covered stand.
A period of sustained pressure yielded a splendid goal by Brian Murphy although he was fortunate the referee didn't notice he had caught the sliothar three times during his run. It was only a token score, however, as Newtown hit back three minutes later with a goal of their own.
John Paul King did all the spade work before driving the sliotar across the face of the Rovers' goal and John O'Connor was on hand to steer it home. Barry Johnson found the back of the Newtown net from a 30-metre free with a minute of normal time to play but Newtown cancelled it out with three unanswered points to reach another final, which is scheduled for October 14.
Scorers - Newtown: B. O'Connor 0-6 (0-4 frees); John O'Connor 1-3; A T O'Brien 0-4; C. Naughton 0-2; Jerry O'Connor, J. Bowles, J. Herlihy, S. O'Riordan 0-1 each.
Bride Rovers: B. Johnson 1-2 (1-0 free, 0-1 65); J. O'Driscoll 0-4 (0-3 frees); B. Murphy 1-0; T. Broderick 0-1.
NEWTOWN: P. Morrissey; J. O'Mahony, B. Mulcahy, D. Gleeson; PJ Copse, P. Mulcahy; P. Noonan; AT O'Brien, Jerry O'Connor; J. Bowles, B. O'Connor, C. Naughton; John O'Connor, M. Bowles, R. Clifford.
Subs: J. Herlihy for Jerry O'Connor; M. Thompson for Clifford; JP King for M. Bowles; S. O'Riordan for Naughton.
BRIDE ROVERS: D. Fitzgerald; T. Moloney, B. Walsh, J. Murphy; Brian Murphy, Barry Murphy, P. Walsh; P. Murphy, B. Johnson; D. Ryan, S. Ryan, R. Cahill; M. Collins, J. O'Driscoll, T. Broderick.
Subs: B. Hazelwood for Cahill; S. Murphy for J. Murphy; P. Cotter for D. Ryan.
Referee: C. Lyons (Nemo Rangers).
This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, September 24, 2007