A stirring second half performance saw Mountmellick snatch a deserved draw in this thrilling Junior B Hurling final in O’Moore Park on Saturday evening against a Camross side that had looked odds on at the break to take the title.
With David Mortimer in top form in the opening period, Camross went in leading by six points at the break but the men in blue responded admirably after the restart and if this one is anything to go by, the replay should be a cracker.
Going in as slight favourites, Camross underlined those credentials with a fine start and everything good about their play was encapsulated by the performance of David Mortimer. Wearing the number 10 on his back, the Camross sharpshooter tormented the Mountmellick defence and ended up with the same amount of points as his number in one of the finest first half displays that any player is likely to put in this year in O’Moore Park or anywhere else.
His ’65 after two superb goal-line saves from Mountmellick full-back Paddy O’Brien got the scoreboard ticking over five minutes in and he would add a further nine from a combination of accurate free-taking and astonishing scores from play as he guided his side to a healthy advantage.
Mountmellick were appearing in their first hurling final since claiming the same title back in 1998 but they clearly weren’t content with just making up the numbers and two goals in the final ten minutes of the half ensured that Camross weren’t out of reach at the break. Ian Fennelly was the man who bagged both, twice finding himself in the right place at the right time to fire home from close range and despite Camross’ dominance and Mortimer’s excellence the scoreline of 1-14 to 2-5 in favour of the men in black and amber suggested that there was still plenty to play for upon resumption.
Mountmellick’s chances of a comeback were undoubtedly boosted by the fact that David Mortimer failed to replicate his first half heroics. Just minutes before the half time whistle he was on the wrong end of a shuddering challenge from his new marker John McEvoy, and from that point on Mortimer’s influence on proceedings was reduced significantly. Buoyed on by that, Mountmellick stepped up to the mark and they gradually started to eat into that six point deficit.
Aidan Challoner captained the Mountmellick men and he rallied the troops with two fine frees early in the second half. Garret Cuddy notched one at the other end but Mountmellick hit three points without reply through Shane Conlon, Keith Dunphy and Bernard Rochford to cut the lead to just two points with ten minutes to go.
Despite his earlier knock David Mortimer was still a threat and his free ended that run to put a goal between them but just when you sensed that Mountmellick had let the momentum slip away they hit back yet again. Barry Mangan gathered a long ball down the field and found Bernard Rochford who had broke free from the attentions of his marker. There was plenty left to do but Rochford surged forward and unleashed a stinging drive past Billy Lally to draw the sides level for the first time since Mortimer opened the scoring.
Things went from bad to worse for Camross a minute later when Shane Conlon’s perfectly executed shot split the posts and with five minutes left it was now Camross who had to dig deep. That they did, grinding out the chance for the equaliser and who better to take it than that man David Mortimer. He converted a harshly awarded free with a minute to go to level the sides and at that point it was anyone’s for the taking.
Mountmellick spurned two half-chances with both Bernard Rochford and Shane Conlon going agonisingly close before another soft free awarded to Camross gave them a great opportunity. It would have been hard on either side were the other to nick it at the death and so when that Camross free failed to find the mark the final whistle sounded with both sides probably content to fight it out again.
The omens are good for Mountmellick. The last time they won the O’Brady Cup they did so after a replay, and back then just as now it was felt that they had lost their opportunity in the first one. Camross are much more at home in hurling finals and as reigning champions they will be keen to retain their crown, and now that they are more aware of the Mountmellick threat they will again start as favourites when they meet again.
Scorers: Camross – David Mortimer 0-12 (5f, 1’65), Daniel Delaney 1-2, Garrett Cuddy 0-2, Brendan Ryan 0-1. Mountmellick – Ian Fennelly 2-0, Aidan Challoner 0-6 (6f), Bernard Rochford 1-1, Shane Conlon 0-3, Keith Dunphy 0-1.
Camross: Billy Lally, Craig Delaney, Keith Delaney, Aidan Carroll, Tadgh Drennan, Andrew Lowry, Aidan Hynes, Sean Higgins, Damien Ryan, David Mortimer, Garry Cuddy, Garrett Cuddy, Daniel Delaney, Darragh Moore, Brendan Ryan. Subs: Alan Bergin for Drennan (55mins)
Mountmellick: Killian Murphy, David Allen, Paddy O’Brien, Paddy Simms, John McEvoy, Darren Young, Eddie Melia, Tom Gormley, Bernard Rochford, Laurence Kenny, Aidan Challoner, Keith Dunphy, Shane Conlon, Ray O’Connor, Ian Fennelly. Subs: Barry Mangan for O’Connor (37mins).
Referee: Michael Ward (Borris-Kilcotton)