*Bryan Donnellan gets away from Seamus Foudy. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
The Fireballs certainly lived up to their historical moniker as O’Callaghan’s Mills brushed aside the challenge of Inagh-Kilnamona to cement their place in a second semi-final in three years in Cusack Park on Sunday afternoon.
O’Callaghan’s Mills 2-16
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Following successive victories over Broadford and Crusheen, the Mills brought that impressive form into Sunday’s intruging showdown as their ravenous display against the conditions saw them regain parity by the break before pushing on decisively for the new half as they outgunned their profligate opponents by 1-9 to 0-3 to ease into the last four.
It was Colin Crehan’s goal just before the water break that proved the turning point as following five successive wides, Inagh-Kilnamona had finally honed their radar with a four point burst to move 0-6 to 0-2 clear.
A determined run from captain Bryan Donnellan broke through the defensive cover before offloading to the overlapping Crehan to fire his second goal of the championship and more significantly slash the deficit to just the minimum by the welcome recess.
So while an Aidan McCarthy led Inagh-Kilnamona did keep their noses in front for the majority of the second quarter, they simply couldn’t shake off the stubborn Mills who thanks to a 1-4 first half tally from Crehan, equalised just in time for the half-time whistle at 1-07 to 0-10.
And once O’Callaghan’s Mills hit the front through another Crehan free and Gary Cooney’s opening score immediately on the restart, they would never look back thereafter.
Inagh-Kilnamona, surprisingly devoid of perspiration and inspiration, would slump to 17 wides over the hour, ten of which came in a frustrating second period.
Each one of those misses was an incremental dagger to their chances whereas it only lifted the Mills to new heights as the full-forward triumvirate of Crehan, Cooney and Sean Cotter all tacked on points to move three clear by the turn of the final quarter at 1-12 to 0-12.
Indeed, Darren Cullinan’s 50th minute point would be Inagh-Kilnamona’s last contribution to the scorebard and O’Callaghan’s Mills took full advantage as Gary Cooney and Jacob Loughnane singles would be surpassed by a monster score from Bryan Donnellan at 1-15 to 0-13 by the 55th minute.
With Inagh-Kilnamona’s heads dropping, the Mills went for the kill but a driving run from Jacob Loughnane forced goalkeeper Eamon Foudy into the save of the day to tip the powerful effort away for a ’65 that the towering forward duly converted to stretch the gap to six.
Jacob Loughnane did secure that elusive goal in injury-time albeit in fortunate circumstances as his 85 metre free deceived Foudy to trickle over the line and put the result beyond any doubt.
A better balanced and composed Mills fully merited their third consecutive victory and with another shot at a semi-final to come in a fortnight’s time, won’t fear anyone as they bid to reach a first county final in 27 years.
Scorers for O’Callaghan’s Mills: Colin Crehan (1-6, 3f); Jacob Loughnane (1-4, 1-2f, 1’65); Gary Cooney (0-3); Bryan Donnellan (0-2); Sean Cotter (0-1)
Scorers for Inagh-Kilnamona: Aidan McCarthy (0-5, 4f); Conner Hegarty, Darren Cullinan (0-2 each); Seamus Foudy, Cian McInerney, Niall Arthur, Jason McCarthy (0-1 each)
1: Killian Nugent
2: Mike Cotter
3: Conor Cooney
4: Gerry Cooney
5: Patrick Donnellan
6: Aidan O’Gorman
10: Aidan Fawl
7: Niall Donovan
8: Ciaran Cooney
12: Jacob Lougnane
11: Bryan Donnellan
9: Conor Henry
15: Colin Crehan
14: Sean Cotter
13: Gary Cooney
22: Cormac Murphy for Fawl (58)
18: Mike McGrath for Cotter (60)
1: Eamon Foudy
4: Keith White
3: Sean Mahony
2: Shane McInerney
5: Cian McInerney
6: Kevin Hehir
8: Seamus Foudy
7: Jason McCarthy
9: Darren Cullinan
18: David Mescall
11: David Fitzgerald
12: Conner Hegarty
10: Aidan McCarthy
15: Niall Arthur
13: Kealan Guyler
17: Conor Tierney for Mescall (24)
19: Eoin Fitzgerald for Guyler (42)
Referee: Joe Mullins (Clonlara)