A point from a 20-metre free a minute into injury-time by John Horgan earned Brian Dillons a second bite of the cherry in this gripping Cork JHC final at Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday.
With five minutes of normal time to go the city champions held a three-point lead and were looking good for their first title at this level since 1938. But in the twinkling of eye Kildorrery drew level when Peter O’Brien levelled the game with a goal, and the cup looked to be staying in the Avondhu division for at least another season when corner-back Cormac Ó Baoill landed the lead point — the first and only time Kildorrery led.
To be fair, neither side deserved to lose what was arguably one of the best championship games of the season. It was chock full of drama, tension, excitement, some magnificent individual performances and wonderful scores which kept the 4,503 spectators well entertained and eagerly looking forward to the replay on Sunday, November 4 at the same venue.
There were many highlights but Peter O’Brien’s goal in the 61st minute, which tied the game for the first time, was easily the best.
Winning possession on the 45-metre line, out near the touchline, he had only one thing on his mind as he bore down on the Dillons goal.
Thirteen metres out, he let fly a bullet of a shot, which found the back of the net. It was a score worthy of winning the game, but it wasn’t to be and it’s all to play for again in a fortnight’s time.
The city champions had their hero in John Horgan. His contribution of 1-10 was immenses.
Dillons couldn’t have asked for a better start. Ten seconds in, Tomas Lawrence pointed, seconds later John Horgan drilled the ball to the net after the Kildorrery full-back Shane Fitzgerald was dispossessed, and when Horgan added a second point, the North Cork side looked in serious trouble.
Fortunately for Kildorrery, they settled well and in their first attack, they grabbed a goal. A powerful shot by Eamon O’Connor was brilliantly saved by keeper Tomas Triggs but the ball broke out to the unmarked Finbarr Stapleton whose first-time strike nestled in the back of the Dillons’ net.
The city champions brushed off that setback and with John Horgan in sparkling form up front, they rattled over five points in a row, two by Horgan, to lead 1-6 to 1-1 after 10 minutes play.
However, Kildorrery marksman Peter O’Brien was also showing uncanny accuracy both from play and placed balls to haul his side back into contention as he landed three points to keep his side very much in the game.
As play swung from end to end, there were some thrilling goalmouth tussles, with Dillons netminder Tomas Triggs the busier of the two, but he kept his net intact for the remainder of the half as his side went in at the break leading 1-11 to 1-6.
The second half developed into a magnificent spectacle. Hooking, blocking, catching, some superb individual displays, all contributed to a marvellous contest.
At the three-quarter stage Dillons still held a five-point lead and were looking likely winners as Maurice Carey — he was surprisingly taken off late in the game — John Horgan, and John Noonan hurled out of their skins.
Kildorrery were in need of inspiration and it came from the magnificent Peter O’Brien. He cut the deficit to a goal with a brace of points and, after the sides had earlier swapped points, tied the game with that wonder goal.
The tension and excitement was palpable as both sides sought the winning score. It looked as if Kildorrery had got it when Ó Baoill came up to land a point as the game went into injury-time, but Dillons refused to give up the chase and it was fitting that their talisman Horgan should have the final say with the equalising point.
Scorers for Kildorrery: P. O’Brien 1-9 (0-6 frees); F. Stapleton 1-1; D. Kelly 0-3; E. O’Connor, C. Ó Baoill 0-1 each.
Brian Dillons: J. Horgan 1-10 (0-6 frees); T. Lawrence, J. Noonan 0-2 each; C. McCarthy, C. Brosnan, P. O’Brien, K. Coughlan 0-1 each.
KILDORRERY: J. McEniry; N. Kelly, S. Fitzgerald, C. Ó Baoill; T. Monaghan, M. Lillis, J. Howard; J. McCarthy, M. Walsh; E. O’Connor, P. O’Brien, S. Kelly; D. Kelly, R. McEniry, F. Stapleton.
Sub: W. Fuohy for S. Kelly (40).
BRIAN DILLONS: T. Triggs; M. Noonan, D. Murphy, M. Carey; D. McCormack; M. White, D. Brosnan; T. Lawrence, C. McCarthy; K. McCormack, C. Brosnan, B. Barrett; J. Noonan, J. Horgan, P. O’Brien.
Subs: D. O’Donoghue for Barrett (40); K. Coughlan for K. McCormack (50); D. Rogers for M. Carey (55).
Referee: N. Wall (Carrigaline).