Impressive Mallow are truly back in the big time
Mallow 1-16 Cloyne 1-12
NARROWLY defeated by the eventual champions at the semi final stage of the PIHC in 2015 and 2016, Mallow made it third time lucky when coming out on top against Cloyne at Pairc Uí Rinn last Saturday evening.
Not that their victory was in any way fortuitous, even if it was hardearned, achieved with more sweat than swagger on a night when the testing underfoot conditions left little room for frills.
It featured a compelling performance from corner forward Aaron Sheehan, a significant contribution from Cormac Murphy at centre-forward, and a commanding defensive display after the interval which ultimately proved decisive.
Predictably, Cloyne battled all the way, with the result that Mallow, despite shaping up like winners from the three-quarter mark onwards, couldn’t afford to breathe easily until ‘keeper Alan Long brought off a superb save to deny the East-Cork side a goal in the 54th minute.
Five points adrift at the time, Cloyne cut the gap seconds later through a converted ‘65 by Paudie O’Sullivan, whose attempt to grab a consolation goal from a free was foiled deep in stoppage time. They looked the more convincing side early on, forging 0-3 to 0-1 ahead inside five minutes.
After Sean Hayes was off-target from a free for Mallow, Diarmuid O’Sullivan pushed Cloyne three points ahead, and things certainly weren’t going according to plan for the pre-match favourites at that juncture.
Cormac Murphy, making life extremely difficult for Cloyne’s veteran centre back Killian Cronin, and midfielder Denis Hayes displayed encouraging form for Mallow from the outset, and, after Murphy posted his second point, Hayes did the spadework for a well-taken goal by Aaron Sheehan in the 11th minute.
That was the signal for Mallow to move up the gears, with Murphy and Sheehan to the fore up front, as they eased into a four-point lead midway through the first half.
It meant the signs were ominous for Cloyne entering the second quarter, but the decision to move wing back Ian Cahill to the pivotal position on Cormac Murphy helped to stabilise their defence before half time.
Mallow were 1-7 to 0-6 to the good after Aaron Sheehan pointed in the 21st minute, but they were rocked back on their heels two minutes later when Colm O’Sullivan bagged a goal for Cloyne.
The chance came about after wing forward Dillon Cahill made a defence-splitting run before bringing the best out of Alan Long, who was powerless to prevent O’Sullivan from finishing the rebound to the net.
O’Sullivan quickly tacked on a point to level matters, and Cloyne went in at half-time leading by 1-9 to 0-8, courtesy of a late score from influential midfielder Paudie O’Sullivan.
The latter was on target again within a minute of the resumption, but, as things transpired, Cloyne added to just two points to their tally for the rest of the match, both of which were registered by O’Sullivan from placed balls.
Killian O’Connor, Fionn O’Neill and Jack O’Hanlon rarely put a foot astray in the Mallow rearguard before the break, but their defence performed most creditably as a unit in the second half, with Alec Luttrell making a huge impression following his introduction at wing-back.
Pa Herlihy, playing a deep role at wing forward, also did his bit to curtail Cloyne’s progress, and he completed a powerful run from the back with the best point of the match in the 47th minute.
That made it 1-13 to 1-11, and further points followed from Aaron Sheehan (2) and Kevin Sheehan, as Mallow posted six unanswered scores in all between the 44th and 51st minutes.
They were clearly the better team in the second half when substitute Kevin Sheehan paid his way at midfield, Gerry Hayes made his presence felt at full forward on occasions, and ace free-taker Sean Hayes chipped in with three important points.
In a last throw of the dice, Cloyne switched Ian Cahill to attack, and it took Alan Long’s superb save to prevent him from rekindling their fading hopes in the closing stages when their second half tale of woe was completed by the dismissal of Killian Cronin, who was issued with a straight red-card.
It was a job well done by Mallow, and it leaves the club just one game away from gaining senior status for the first time since they contested a county intermediate final replay, which was lost to Killeagh, in 2001.
MALLOW: A Sheehan 1-5, S Hayes 0-5 (4f, 1’65), C Murphy 0-4, P Herlihy and K Sheehan 0-1 each
CLOYNE: P O’Sullivan 0-7 (3f, 2’65), C O’Sullivan 1-2, K Dennehy, B Walsh and D O’Sullivan 0-1 each
MALLOW: A Long; J O’Hanlon, K O’Connor, R Mills; D Moynihan, F O’Neill, D Sheehan; P Lyons, D Hayes; P Herlihy, C Murphy, D Relihan; S Hayes, G Hayes, A Sheehan Subs: K Sheehan for Lyons (injured), 29, A Luttrell for D Sheehan, ht, D Buckley for Relihan, 54
CLOYNE: D Og Cusack; J Sherlock, E Motherway, B Fleming; I Cahill, K Cronin, C Smith; P O’Sullivan, A Walsh; D Cahill, D O’Sullivan, K Dennehy; C O’Sullivan, S Beausang, B Walsh Subs: E O’Sullivan for Sherlock, 23, C Mullins for Beausang, 34, B Minihane for D Cahill, 42, M Lynch for B Walsh, 53, D Jermyn for A Walsh, 59
REFEREE: S Stokes (Tullylease)