Eoghan Cormican, Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Goals at the most critical of junctures delivered Imokilly back-to-back Cork senior hurling titles.
Where three goals took them past Blackrock 12 months ago, the East Cork division went one better on this occasion, bagging four majors to see off Midleton with 13-points to spare.
Imokilly’s third and fourth green flags, which arrived within two minutes of one another, were so decisive in killing off a determined Midleton effort.
With Midleton having clipped four of the opening five points in the second period, the Magpies had succeeded in paring the margin back to two, 2-12 to 1-13. They could have even hit the front during this brief spell of supremacy, with Luke O’Farrell half-hitting his shot when put in the clear. It was a miscue which was easily stopped by Imokilly goalkeeper Dara O’Callaghan.
On 40 minutes, the divisional outfit dealt a severe blow to the Midleton comeback, a low Bill Cooper delivery filtering right the way through to Paudie O’Sullivan and the Cloyne sharpshooter rattled the net for the second time in this final, a game watched by 10,214.
Seamus Harnedy followed with a point and on 41 minutes, it was game over, William Leahy and Brian Lawton set-up Shane Hegarty and he goaled to leave the scoreboard reading 4-13 to 1-13.
Cormac Walsh and Paul Haughney did counter with a pair of points, but it was goals Midleton needed and none looked forthcoming. The last quarter was most drab, this final petering out to its inevitable conclusion.
It was 2-11 to 1-9 at the break. Paudie O’Sullivan delivered Imokilly’s opening goal, very similar to his second, as the sliotar spilled through a handful of bodies to the unmarked full-forward. The favourites quickly burst into a four-point lead.
Three-in-a-row from Luke O’Farrell, Conor Lehane (free) and Cormac Walsh midway through the half had the gap back to two, but as they did throughout the game, Imokilly answered a Midleton burst with a goal, Seamus Harnedy firing in their second on 20 minutes.
So, back-to-back titles for Imokilly, bringing their title count to four. Their first two county championship wins were also back-to-back victories, 20 and 21 years ago.
Scorers for Imokilly: S Harnedy (1-6); P O’Sullivan (2-1); W Leahy (0-5, 0-2 frees, 0-1’ 65); B Cooper (0-4); S Hegarty (1-1); D Dalton, Barry Lawton (0-1 each).
Scorers for Midleton: C Lehane (0-7, 0-6 frees); C Walsh (0-4); P White (1-1); L O’Farrell (0-3); C Beausang, P Haughney S O’Meara (0-1 each).
Imokilly: D O’Callaghan (Watergrasshill); M Russell (Aghada), C Barry (Castlelyons), C Spillane (Castlelyons); C O’Brien (St Ita’s), N O’Leary (Castlelyons), J Cronin (Lisgoold); B Cooper (Youghal), M O’Keeffe (Fr O’Neill’s); Brian Lawton (Castlemartyr), S Harnedy (St Ita’s), S Hegarty (Dungourney); W Leahy (Aghada), P O’Sullivan (Cloyne), Barry Lawton (Castlemartyr).
Subs: G Millerick (Fr O’Neill’s) for O’Keeffe (48); D Dalton (Fr O’Neill’s) for Barry Lawton (52); D Mangan for Harnedy (66, inj).
Midleton: T Wallace; E Moloney, F O’Mahoney, S Smyth; L Dineen, S O’Leary Hayes, J Nagle; P Haughney, S O’Farrell; L O’Farrell, C Walsh, C Beausang; S O’Meara, C Lehane, P White.
Subs: P Nagle for O’Meara (HT); T O’Connell for P White (43); R O’Regan for O’Mahoney (45)
Referee: D Kirwan (Éire Óg).