Galtee Rovers booked their place in the last eight of the County Senior Football Championship with a determined display that saw them come from seven points down to defeat Cahir at Golden on Sunday last.
Cahir, despite being able to field only eight of last year’s county final side for a myriad of reasons, will reflect very disappointingly on their early exit this time round. In spite of their selection shortcomings they looked for most of this game to have enough in reserve to progress. However, a poor second half in which they could only score one point from a free proved their eventual undoing.
But full credit to the West Tipp side, managed by former Moyle Rovers custodian Seamus Delahunty, who fought their way back from all of seven points down after just 18 minutes to eventually triumph. The Bansha side only hit the front for the first time with five minutes to go but once they got their noses in front they were not for stopping. Having said that, they will know that they will need to improve - and they will improve - if they are to mount a serious challenge to bring the O’Dwyer Cup back home for the first time since 2008.
On a perfect day for football, Dean Lonergan had Cahir on the scoreboard after just 11 seconds. The early exchanges were very even and Tony Egan with a good point from a tight angle had it level soon afterwards. It was still all square at 0-2 apiece following frees for Padraig Whelan (C) and Shane Egan (GR) after 15 minutes when the game exploded into life.
After a powerful run through the heart of the Rovers defence by Ian Flannery, Ryan Murphy set up Shane Murphy for a fisted goal. And almost from the kick-out Cahir had another goal. A fluid five-man passing movement through the centre culminated in Dean Lonergan sliding the ball under Eamon O’Connell.
Incredibly a minute later they could have had a third goal but this time Padraig Whelan’s effort blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
This whirlwind three minute spell saw Cahir leading 2-3 to 0-2 and with the wind at their backs and Galtee Rovers on the rack, they were definitely in command of their own destiny.
Following a free from Galtee’s Shane Egan, Cahir’s inter-county senior Dean Lonergan, who put in a fine first half hour, kept the lead at seven points and everthing seemed to be going positively for Matty O’Doherty’s charges. But they were to suffer two significant blows before the break that threw the game right back in the pot.
Firstly Shane Egan cut in from the right to set up a chance for Mark O’Brien and the tall midfielder beat Brian Enright to the punch for a Bansha goal. Then, after Aidan Casey was perhaps harshly adjudged to have overplayed the ball, he lashed out at an opponent and was given a straight red by the referee.
At the break Cahir led by 2-5 to 1-4, but with a man down and a strong wind to face, they had suddenly made life very difficult for themselves.
Galtee Rovers’ Dara Egan opened the second half scoring with a fine point before a ‘schmozzle’ ended with four players being booked amongst them Pa Morrissey (for the second time) which meant his dismissal after just five minutes of the second period.
Ten minutes after the re-start Galtee Rovers had made no headway and still trailed by four after Padraig Whelan’s free for Cahir - their only score of the entire second half. But Rovers were certainly in the ascendancy now and were forcing the under-pressure Cahir rearguard into fouls. Three frees from Tony Egan and Shane Egan (2) left just a single point between the sides with 13 minutes to go and the pendulum swinging Bansha’s way.
Veteran keeper Brian Enright pulled off a super save from Shane Egan to keep Cahir ahead by the minimum before a great point from play from the influential Conor O’Sullivan at midfield restored parity for Galtee with nine minutes remaining.
Perhaps the game’s best point fittingly gave Galtee Rovers the lead for the first time with five minutes to play, Dara Egan taking responsibility from 35 metres out with a delightful effort.
Cahir had a late chance to draw level but substitute Brian McKenna’s pointed effort fell short; the same player had also forced a good save from Eamon O’Connell minutes earlier.
With time almost up broke once more and Sean Daly put Shane Egan through for the game’s final point. Galtee Rovers had nailed down a hard-earned place for themselves in the county quarter-finals.
For Cahir the loss of the likes of Robbie Costigan, Benny Hickey, Liam Casey and Paddy O’Flaherty amongst others was just too much a burden to carry on the day. But credit to Mikey O’Connor, Sean O’Connor, Eoin Donaghy, Padraig Whelan and Dean Lonergan for carrying the challenge to their neighbours.
For the winners it was a spirited team effort throughout. Vincent Murphy and Andrew Morrissey were solid in defence. Conor O’Sullivan and Mark O’Brien at midfield shaded it, while Christopher Higgins and the Egans all had their moments in the forwards.
Galtee Rovers: Eamon O’Connell, Christopher Higgins, Vincent Murphy, Andrew Morrissey, Shane Power, Pa Morrissey, Adrian Grace, Mark O’Brien (1-0), Conor O’Sullivan (0-1), Eric Grogan, Colin Morrissey (Capt), Shane Power, Dara Egan (0-2), Shane Egan (0-5, 0-4F), Tony Egan (0-3, 0-2F).
Subs: Damian Bourke for Grogan (43 mins); Darren McGrath for M. O’Brien (45 mins); Patrick Ryan for D. Egan (black card, 53 mins); Sean Daly for T. O’Brien (59 mins).
Cahir: Brian Enright, Ryan Murphy, Ger Halley, Mikey O’Connor, Sean O’Connor, Aidan Casey, Eoin Donaghy, Conor Cashman, Diarmuid Tarrant, James McGrath (Capt), Niall McKenna, Ian Flannery, Padraig Whelan (0-4, 0-3F), Dean Lonergan (1-2), Shane Murphy (1-0).
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Ardfinnan).