Sub Hennessy seals Doolan’s passage to the last four!

Doolan’s Cow 3 – 2 EMC (AET)

THE first Cork Business League Champions Super Cup quarter-final tie between Doolan’s Cow and EMC at Pfizer Pk. provided an enthralling contest between two teams whose title-winning pedigree was evident in abundance, writes Finbarr Buckley.

As both teams walked onto the well-manicured surface, led out by referee Derry Barrett and his assistants Kevin Coughlan and Bertie Stark and fourth official Denis Donovan, two sharp showers had earlier made the surface greasy on top and with the ball inclining to gather momentum if only slightly overhit, crisp and accurate passing was a requisite of either team’s progress in the competition.

It was little wonder that EMC enjoyed the better of the early exchanges as their opponents struggled to get their passing game going as they are so capable of doing on their own all-weather home pitch at Mayfield Community School. Twice inside the opening ten minutes, James Murphy was tested from distance. First, he did well to tap over a James Feehan lob after five minutes before getting down to his right to palm away Stuart Howard’s shot on the turn on the edge of the area as Craig Keegan closed in. Incredibly, for the next nineteen minutes or so, the two teams sparred like stylish boxers looking for an opening as Darren Geraghty and James O’Shea in the middle for Doolan’s, at last, began to get to grips with the influential Brian Darcy. The pair to cut out the supply to Howard and Feehan allowed Doolan’s back-four to press higher and at last bring their revered strike force of Tony O’Reilly, James Cotter and Jamie Murphy into the contest.

On the half-hour, the deadline was finally broken when Jamie Murphy turned inside Brian Darcy to chip the ball over the back-peddling Michael Meighan and Kieran Murphy for Tony O’Reilly to take the ball in his stride and beat the advancing Ian Casey to finish low into the bottom corner.

The old adage that a team is most vulnerable after scoring could not have been more evident, for straight from the kick-off EMC got back on level terms with as good a goal as was ever seen at the Ringaskiddy venue. Kieran Hegarty sprayed a pass to the right-wing for captain Eric O’Donovan who strained every sinew to keep the ball in play under the watchful eye of referee assistant Bertie Stark. With referee Derry Barrett in close attention, O’Donovan crossed for Howard to crash a volley from thirty-five yards in off the underside of the crossbar with Murphy at full stretch, unable to keep the shot out such was the power of the strike.

For the remainder of the half, the pace only intensified with both teams going on the offensive and with shots reigning in from both sides, respective goalkeepers James Murphy for Doolan’s and Ian Casey for EMC turning in inspired performances to keep the score at one-one at half-time. Rival managers, Doolan’s’ Denis O’Sullivan and EMC’s Paul Burdock made substitutes up front with Aaron Hennessy replacing James Cotter for Doolan’s and Michael Culhane coming in for Howard who gave it everything in the opening 45.

The second half continued where the first finished with both teams breaking at pace on the flanks. Inside two minutes of the resumption, Feehan flashed a header just over while at the other end Hennessy’s delicate lob had to be turned away for a corner by Casey. Tom Herdman combined with O’Donovan only to be caught on the edge of the area by a late challenge from Keegan. Derry Barrett admonished the centre-back for his action and from the resultant free-kick, Martin Hayes went close to a second for EMC when his low strike clipped the foot of the post.

The tie was firmly in the balance as the clock approached the 76th minute. Jamie Murphy, patrolling Doolan’s’ left-wing with imagination and flair, released a pass to Hennessy on the left-hand side of the pitch some fifteen yards outside the heavily populated EMC penalty area. The substitute set off on a diagonal run and with five defenders ahead of him, the speedy striker changed direction to side-step two tackles before unbalancing the oncoming Casey with the pretence at a shot and then firing right-footed into the net from eight yards for 2-1.

In a frantic finish, EMC threw everything at their opponents only to be denied by the width of the crossbar from a James Kelleher free-kick and a terrific Murphy save from the lion-hearted Darcy. With a minute remaining, Darcy hit a low diagonal cross from the left, which, if you got on the end of it you were as liable to score an own goal as clear it,  and sub Michael Culhane equalized with a diving header from the edge of the six-yard box.

A resurgent EMC raised the tempo again in extra-time to keep their opponents on the back-foot. First, Murphy turned a header by O’Donovan over the bar and Martin Hayes did well to elude Craig Keegan and Stephen McCarthy before shooting narrowly wide. With less than ten minutes left of a gripping encounter and against the run of play, Alan Monaher made a darting run from defence to play in Liam Horgan who in turn picked out Jamie Murphy stealing in unmarked on the edge of the area. The former Rockmount striker shaped to shoot and with Kieran Murphy committed, cleverly dragged the ball back to create the opening to beat Casey at full stretch.

Referee Derry Barrett wasted no time in resuming the action and with EMC pushing for what would be the third equalizer, a desperate last-ditch clearance by Monaher, almost on the line, kept Doolan’s lead intact to bring the curtain down on an enthralling opening quarter-final which in truth could have gone either way.

Doolan’s Cow (4-3-3):

James Murphy: Alan Monaher, Ian McCarthy ; Craig Keegan, Stephen McCarthy; Darren Geraghty (capt.) (Sean O’Sullivan), James O’Shea (Keith McCarthy), Liam Horgan; Tony O’Reilly, James Cotter (Aaron Hennessy), Jamie Murphy.

EMC (4-4-2):

Ian Casey: Martin Hayes, Brian Buckley (Michael Donegan); Michael Meighan, Kieran Murphy;   Brian Darcy, Tom Herdman, Kieran Hegarty (Peter O’Donovan), Eric O’Donovan (capt.); Stuart Howard (Michael Culhane), James Feehan (James Kelleher).

Referee: Derry Barrett.

Assistant Referees: Kevin Coughlan, Bertie Stark.

Fourth Official: Denis Donovan.