Pairc Ui Chaoimh was also the venue for the Cork Senior hurling championship semi-final last Sunday afternoon with Midleton facing last year’s defeated finalist Blackrock in the second game on the card. Blackrock have come in under the radar and were hugely impressive in their win over Ballymartle, while Midleton had to battle tooth and nail to win against Newtownshandrum.
This time round Midleton were far more impressive yet were thankful that keeper Tommy Wallace was in inspired form late on as almost single handidly did he deprive Blackrock a place in the final. Kevin O’Keeffe will wonder how he did not score as not once, not twice but on three occasions he was denied by the brilliance of Wallace.
It did not look like such heroics would be needed as Midleton with Conor Lehane who was double marked, still proving a handful. On this occasion Lehane had plenty of help with Cormac Beausang and Patrick White getting early points while Paul Haughney also lofted over from midfield. Blackrock had two early points from Michael O’Halloran, while Tadgh Deasy was also on target and after ten minutes the sides were level with Stephen Murphy putting Blackrock in front before Lehane with his opening point equalised once more.
Lehane then eased Midleton in front from play, before the full forward reacted instantly when a Luke O’Farrell shot came back off the upright with Lehane firing past David O’Shea to open up a four-point lead. Paul Haughney then fired over for Midleton who led by 1-6 to 0-4 after the opening quarter. Blackrock who began well were finding it hard to get past a Midleton defence where Sean O’Leary-Hayes was in outstanding form. Blackrock did get a point from Kevin O’Keeffe but Lehane replied from a free for the “Magpies”. It continued score for score as Lehane, Beausang and Haughney had points for Midleton while Ger O’Regan, David O’Farrell and Michael O’Halloran replied for the “Rockies” who trailed by 1-10 to 0-8 at the interval. Midleton might have been further in front but they shot a few bad wides in that opening half.
Given the strength of the breeze it was not a big lead, but Blackrock had two wides before Midleton captain Luke O’Farrell got inside the Blackrock defence from a Pat White pass and he blasted to the net. Points from sub Tommy O’Connell with his first touch and Cormac Beausang had Midleton ten points clear with twenty minutes remaining. John O’sullivan did pull a point back for Blackrock and then came the start of the drama as Tommy Wallace did well to save a pile-driver from Kevin O’Keeffe.
Wallace was again in the thick of the action minutes later as he did well in a goalmouth melee but was adjudged to have lid on the ball. From the resultant penalty Michael O’Halloran scored to reduce the margin to six points 2-13 to 1-10 going into the final quarter. There was plenty of drama still to come with Luke O’Farrell easing the nerves with a point for Midleton, before Kevin O’Keeffe was denied twice in succession by Tommy Wallace as Blackrock ramped up the pressure. Midleton were now hanging on as Blackrock put together their best move with Michael O’Halloran firing past Wallace with a goal now separating the sides going into the final ten minutes.
Conor Lehane who had a quiet second half pointed a 65, but David O’Farrell shot over for Blackrock who trailed by 2-11 to 2-15 with just over five minutes remaining. There was still plenty of time but Midleton managed to mount an attack that yielded a 65 that Lehane converted to leave five points between the sides once more. Time was now the enemy for Blackrock who went for broke with Tadgh Deasy finding the net and now it was a two-point match. Deasy again went through but under pressure he hit the side netting. Pressure continued to mount with Tommy Wallace producing another top class save to deny Kevin O’Keeffe from an acute angle and with the defence clearing, the final whistle blew, much to the relief of a Midleton side that will now face their home division Imokilly in the final in two weeks’ time.
Midleton were certainly the better side over the hour, but they almost let it slip and were in not for the alert Wallace they could be out. Finbarr O’Mahony, Sean O’Leary -Hayes, Paul Haughney, Cormac Beausang, Conor Lehane and Luke O’Farrell were best for Midleton, while John and Niall Cashman, David O’Farrell, Kevin O’Keeffe and Michael O’Halloran were best for Blackrock.
Midleton: C Lehane 1-6, L O’Farrell 1-1, C Beausang 0-3, P Haughney 0-3, P White, S O’Meara and T O’Connell 0-1 each.
Blackrock: M O’Halloran 2-4, T Deasy 1-1, D O’Farrell 0-2, K O’Keeffe, G O’Regan, J O’Sullivan and S Murphy 0-1 each.
Midleton: Tommy Wallace, Seanaidh Smyth, Finbarr O’Mahony, Luke Dineen, Sean O’Meara, Sean O’Leary-Hayes, James Nagle, Paul Haughney, Seamus O’Farrell, Cormac Walsh, Conor Lehane, Eoin Moloney, Cormac Beausang, Luke O’Farrell Captain and Patrick White. Subs used Tommy O’Connell for P White, Padraig Nagle for S O’Meara and Garran Manley for C Lehane injd.
Blackrock: David O’Shea, Gary Norberg, John Cashman, Conor O’Brien, Daniel Meaney, Niall Cashman, Andrew Murphy, David O’Farrell, Alan O’Callaghan, Ger Regan, Tadgh Deasy, Michael O’Halloran and John O’Sullivan. Subs used Shane O’Keeffe for A Murphy, Cathal Cormack for G Regan, Eoin Smith for D O’Farrell and Mark O’Keeffe for T Deasy B/S.
Referee: Joe Larkin (Ballinora)
As a result of wins for Midleton and Imokilly the “Sean Og Murphy Cup” will again reside in the Imokilly Barony this year, while win or lose Midleton will now represent Cork against the Waterford champions in the Munster club championship. Certainly plenty more hurling to look forward to in the coming weeks.