Fi­nal ac­tion

Brian Dil­lons and St Cather­ine’s face off again tonight in the Ju­nior A Hurl­ing Fi­nal.

Irish Examiner - County - - Front page - Therese O’Callaghan

IT is all to play for tonight, as Brian Dil­lon’s and St Cather­ine’s re­turn to Páirc Uí Rinn for the sec­ond in­stal­ment of the Cork JAHC fi­nal.

While there is lit­tle time for the tired bod­ies to re­cover, they will be glad to get another op­por­tu­nity to claim the crown. This con­test was not a clas­sic, mainly be­cause it was lop­sided in each half. But the nail-bit­ing drama in the fourth quar­ter made for an ex­cit­ing and ner­vous fin­ish.

Both teams had their chances. Brian Dil­lon’s were awarded a free out, near the side­line, and from way inside their own half, but it could never have had the dis­tance and it dropped short. That was in the fifth minute of stop­page time. How­ever, de­feat would have been hard on St Cather­ine’s, as they did all the run­ning in the first-half and looked to be head­ing for the podium.

Equally, Brian Dil­lon’s didn’t de­serve to lose. Trail­ing by seven points at the in­ter­val, they must be com­mended for their sec­ond-half fight­back. That they had the be­lief to dig out a re­sult (al­beit a draw) is to their credit. What we saw, after the break, showed how much they wanted it. A lot of his­tory was weigh­ing on their shoul­ders, as they tried to bridge that gap since their one-and-only vic­tory, in 1938.

What we got yes­ter­day was the clichéd game of two halves.

St Cather­ine’s pace and in­ten­sity was ev­i­dent from the off, with a goal from cap­tain, Daniel Man­gan, inside three min­utes. The full-for­ward ran on to the slio­tar and his as­sertive fin­ish made an early state­ment. Man­gan and Brian Mulc­ahy — county medal­lists with Imokilly a fort­night ago — were out­stand­ing in th­ese opening pas­sages of play.

Man­gan was on hand to whip home a sec­ond goal, alert to a re­bound. The east Cork men were fly­ing. As well as bag­ging 2-6 in that half, they held Brian Dil­lon’s to five points — four of th­ese from skip­per, John Hor­gan, from placed balls. That meant there was just the one score from play in the first 30 min­utes plus, and this came from mid­fielder, Tomás Lawrence.

Ku­dos to the de­fence. Ev­ery time a Brian Dil­lon’s player got in pos­ses­sion, they just closed them down. Lead­ing by seven points at the change of ends, while it was com­fort­able, it must have been a headache for man­age­ment to try and keep them grounded. Nonethe­less, we ex­pected them to push on. Any­body who had wit­nessed their amaz­ing penul­ti­mate round meet­ing with Rus­sell Rovers will know what they are ca­pa­ble of. They showed a dar­ing to bag goals that day, as well. At the end of the hour, they tal­lied a hefty 317. How­ever, Brian Dil­lon’s had some harsh words to hear at half-time. What­ever their back- room staff said worked the or­a­cle. The ground­work that has been done all year wasn’t go­ing to go to waste. They pressed from the off. They needed a goal to get back into the game and, when Dar­ragh Rodgers obliged, we knew they weren’t go­ing to sur­ren­der. He fielded a su­perb Hor­gan side­line cut and used his strength to find the net. It was game on. The same player was on form again, when his goal-bound shot was saved, at the ex­pense of a 65m — which top-scorer and cap­tain, Hor­gan, con­verted. When Colin Lynch and Hor­gan added white flags, we had a one­point match, after a mere nine min­utes of fran­tic, sec­ond-half ac­tion. Rodgers again tested St Cather­ine’s goal­keeper, Ed Ah­erne, but Ah­erne saved and cleared to safety. When Hor­gan scored a point from play on 45 min­utes, in­cred­i­bly, Dil­lon’s had drawn level (1-9 to 2-6). All the while, there was no score from the op­po­si­tion.

Be­tween the 48th and the 54th min­utes, the east Cork out­fit opened up a three-point gap. Sud­denly, it looked op­ti­mistic, once more, for St Cather­ine’s, as they built up a bit of mo­men­tum.

Brian Dil­lon’s now faced a big test of their char­ac­ter. They re­sponded. Not alone did they claw the deficit back, but they went a point up, cour­tesy of a ter­rific flag from Colin Lynch. Cue Shane O’Brien and his ice-cool, 65th minute free to level.

Dif­fi­cult to pre­dict a win­ner again.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

Brian Dil­lon’s Dar­ragh Rodgers goes high from St Cather­ine’s Stephen Mor­ris.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

Brian Dil­lon’s Tomás Lawrence gets to the ball from St Cather­ine’s Conor He­garty and Richard O’Con­nell.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

Brian Dil­lon’s To­mas Lawrence is high tack­led by St Cather­ine’s Shane O’Brien.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

St Cather­ine’s Stephen Mor­ris gave it his all.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

St Cather­ine’s Shane Cot­ter, rac­ing away from Brian Dil­lon’s Mark White.

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