Brian Dillons and St Catherine’s face off again tonight in the Junior A Hurling Final.
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.
Brian Dillon’s Darragh Rodgers goes high from St Catherine’s Stephen Morris.
Brian Dillon’s Tomás Lawrence gets to the ball from St Catherine’s Conor Hegarty and Richard O’Connell.
Brian Dillon’s Tomas Lawrence is high tackled by St Catherine’s Shane O’Brien.
St Catherine’s Stephen Morris gave it his all.
St Catherine’s Shane Cotter, racing away from Brian Dillon’s Mark White.