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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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From financial strife to a Munster hurling final - the renaissance of Cork's Glen Rovers

The Cork kingpins are through to a first AIB Munster senior club hurling final in 40 years.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

AFTER CRACKING THE Cork senior hurling championship code in 2015, Glen Rovers have now gone one step further.

From 1989 until last year, the Glen hadn’t won a county title but that 26-year wait came to an end with victory over Sarsfields. 

And now Rovers have ended another famine, as yesterday’s gritty win against Patrickswell has propelled them into a first AIB Munster senior club final in 40 years.

Rovers ruled the province in 1964, 1972 and 1976 and now have the chance to add a fourth crown when they face off against surprise packets Ballyea from Clare on November 20, a fixture that’s expected to be pencilled in for Semple Stadium in Thurles.

There were some big moments that got them there at the Gaelic Grounds, as county star Patrick Horgan and goalkeeper Cathal Hickey played key roles.

Hickey’s saves from Thomas O’Brien and Seanie O’Brien in the second half were crucial and Horgan showed incredible leadership to win and convert a free in the 58th minute that put his side ahead for the first time in the game.

Horgan’s radar was off in the first half as he registered three wides. He missed another effort in the second half but the ace forward still finished with eight points, including six frees.

How he managed to win that late free, with three or four Patrickswell players competing for possession, is anybody’s guess but Rovers manager Richie Kelleher has his own views on it.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“He’s an inter-county player and he’s very strong.

“He knows where the posts are and he’s going for the jugular.

He doesn’t care what is front of him. The opposition know if they let him go, he’ll put it in the back of the net. That is why he is fouled so often.

“If he was a slighter player, he’d probably get more frees. But because he is so strong, he doesn’t get as many frees as he should. We are mad about him.”

So they should be and at a time when Cork’s inter-county fortunes are at a low ebb, the progression of Glen Rovers to a provincial club final is a timely boost.

Cathal Hickey celebrates a goal Cathal Hickey made big saves at crucial times. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Indeed, their victory on Sunday was the first time since 2009 that a Cork team had won a game in the AIB Munster senior club campaign.

Since Newtownshandrum lifted the title seven years ago, the tale of woe read as follows:

  • 2010 – De La Salle (Waterford) 0-22 Sarsfields 2-15 (semi-final)
  • 2011 – Crusheen (Clare) 0-19 Carrigtwohill 1-10 (semi-final)
  • 2012 – Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary) 2-20 Sarsfields 2-15 (semi-final)
  • 2013 – Sixmilebridge (Clare) 1-17 Midleton 1-13 (semi-final)
  • 2014 – Kilmallock (Limerick) 3-22 Sarsfields 3-20 (semi-final, a.e.t.)
  • 2015 – Ballygunner (Waterford) 0-19 Glen Rovers 1-9 (semi-final)

Kelleher added: “I’m thrilled, to be honest. It wasn’t a great spectacle.

“To get into a Munster final is just unbelievable. It is something I never thought about. I never dreamt about being in a Munster final. It is just unreal for a club like ourselves.

A few years ago, our club was at a serious crossroads. Financially, we were in a huge hole. We didn’t know where we were going as a club hurling-wise.

“To turn all that around and be in a Munster final is just brilliant. We’ve an older parish, a win like this brings young kids in. It brings the club forward. It is magic.”

Glen Rovers hit 9 wides in the first half but were still very much in touch at the break, trailing by 0-4 to 0-7 after playing into the teeth of an icy breeze.

Glen Rovers warm up before the game Dave Moriarty takes Glen Rovers through their pre-match warm-up routine. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

They hung in there and after getting level twice through that man Horgan, he put them ahead at a critical juncture late on.

Kelleher said: “We have left a lot of matches late. We make things difficult for ourselves.

“We had nine wides in the first-half. We do make it very, very hard on ourselves, but we refuse to give in or give up. We always play till the very end. Today we did that and we got over the line.”

And Kelleher reserved a very special word of praise for Hickey’s heroics.

“He’s been doing that for us all year. He did it for us in last year’s (county) final.

Cathal Hickey is a serious goalkeeper. I thought they were two certain goals the way they came through at us. For him to stop both shows his calibre.”

In less than a fortnight, Rovers will need Hickey at his best again when they face a Ballyea side that registered 4-18 against Thurles Sarsfields over the course of 80-plus minutes but in Horgan, they have a bona-fide matchwinner at the other end of the pitch.

For now, though, it’s time to celebrate. And rightly so.

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