In the curtain raiser for this last weekend of July, Cork met the Connemara Gaels on the back pitch at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. Cork were understaffed to start this Junior B match, and their 11 men did very well to keep it close for the opening 15 minutes. But as the match progressed, the Westerners used their numerical advantage to full effect around the middle of the park. Raudhri Fennell was the Gaels’ main operator, and he pounced on plenty of breaking balls before driving at the Cork defense.
Fennell had as plethora of attacking options to choose from. If the extra man running off his shoulder wasn’t immediately available, he could look up and find the Gaels’ target man in the full forward line, PJ Kelly. After the teams traded scores early on, Kelly punched home a goal on the quarter-hour mark. Cork responded in quick succession as Darren O’Donovan soloed past two defenders and kicked a fine curling point off his right boot.
The Rebel men were defending mightily inside their own 45 meter line, but struggled to gain territory up the field because of the Gaels’ success scooping up the breaks on kick outs. Their job was made even harder when a Connemara long ball went into PJ Kelly, who was out in front of his marker. Kelly knocked a beautiful fist pass over his shoulder into the path of the oncoming Gary Collins, who sprinted all the way from corner back to finish the move with a blast into the back of the net. The Gaels led 2-09 to 0-03 at the break.
In the second half, the Cork defenders blocked down a number of Connemara shots. But the men in green managed to keep the scoreboard ticking in their favor with a series of points, including another score from Collins. The game was perhaps best summed up by a Galway hurler, straight off the main field, strolling through the middle of the pitch, helmet and ash in hand as the play swirled around him. Eventually, the mysterious interloper made his way to the opposite sideline, switched codes, put on a Cork jersey, and reinforced the troops. That’s the magic of the GAA. Where else would you see an athlete play two different sports, and play them well, within the span of ten minutes and twenty yards? Cork defended valiantly until the final whistle, but the Gaels ran out deserved winners, 2-16 to 0-05.
Cork: J. Harrington, D. Cummings, D. Quinn, D. Harrington, B. Roy, C. Rambesy, D. O’Donovan, D. Kerns, J. Long, A. Reynolds, E. O’Toole, J. Long, J. Ryan, J. Normie, B. McCarthy
Gaels: J. O’Donnell, C. Lafferty, G. Collins, S. Murray, K. Lowe, B. McGrath, R. Fennell, D. Reaney, C. Keane, K. Owens, M. Carroll, B. Connolly, P. Kelly, A. McGuire, B. Joyce, A. Lyndsky
By Mark Dunphy