A steelier defence could be the foundation for a Douglas county title challenge this year, or so the plan goes. Having kept clean sheets in all three of their league outings this spring, Douglas looked on course for another shut-out until Barry Johnson’s 63rd-minute goal from a 21-yard free.
Even allowing for that consolation strike, they held the Rathcormac side to their lowest championship tally since 2013, a span of 16 games.
That said, their new-look opponents were without 2018 top-scorer Cian O’Connor, who is in Canada for the year, and will have to make do without four more of last year’s starting team.
The Mark Landers-coached side will come stronger with experience in August but even with seven minutes remaining on Saturday, they were only two points off Douglas, trailing 0-14 to 0-12.
The city side’s main men then stepped up, with Brian Turnbull, debutant Diarmaid O’Mahony, and Shane Kingston scoring from play before Alan Cadogan tidied away the win with a poacher’s goal.
"Bride Rovers brought savage intensity. They were in our face. That’s what we’re trying to school now in Douglas. It’s not all about hurling,” said manager Ferghal Hayes, who is working alongside former Cork boss Kieran Kingston and coach Shane Brick.
“We said ‘no goal’ but we put the kibosh on it there. We’re delighted with it. We’re steeling up in the back.”
The Turnbull-Cadogan-O’Mahony full-forward line (albeit with O’Mahony roaming further outfield) returned 1-8 from play and every attacker was on the board by half-time, as Douglas were able to create an ocean of space for Turnbull and Cadogan to run into. That duo could’ve scored plenty more but for a high wide tally.
Bride stationed Brian Murphy in a holding role at centre-back for the second half and that stemmed the tide, keeping Douglas scoreless for the first quarter as they cut the deficit by four to 0-11 to 0-9, and tested goalie Tom Delaney for the first time.
Turnbull and Cadogan picked up knocks too in that period, but while they were getting over them, Kingston came to life with three points in a row.
Behind them, Stephen Moylan excelled in a congested midfield, combining hooks and blocks with quarterbacking the attack with an array of enticing crossfield passes. Centre-back Mark Harrington had similarly good distribution, while keeping Cork forward Daniel Dooley quiet in open play after one early score.
When asked about that duo, Hayes, with tongue in cheek, said: “They’re getting on... there’s a couple of fellas starting thinking about Intermediate hurling!
“Do you know what? It means more to them now and we couldn’t be happier with the buy-in we’ve got from them. The old campaigners are putting in some great effort.”
Whether fire and brimstone erupted in the Bride dressing room or not, they produced storming starts to both halves. Nine of their 13 scores came in the first 15 minutes of either half, including shooting into an early 0-5 to 0-3 lead. Johnson was their main scorer as he produced some brilliant long-range frees in a tricky crossfield wind.
However, Bride were held scoreless for the next 20 minutes, as Douglas, led by the usual suspects, scored the final eight points of the half. Again, they could’ve had more, with Kingston striking the base of the post after a superb flowing move.
Bride should’ve scored before the break but they bungled a quickly taken 21-yard free, which Cadogan punished at the other end.
“We’re disappointed with the result. Reasonably happy with the performance,” said Bride manager Richie O’Regan. “Before half-time we missed a free that we really should’ve really put over... That could’ve been two points different.
“We scored the first four points of the second half. We could’ve been in front and it might’ve been a different game. I was very happy with our backs. They’ve an All-Star forward line. They scored 1-18.”
Both sides complained about refereeing decisions, with O’Regan adding: “They got a goal at the finish which I’d be disputing. I thought it was a free out. I thought Alan definitely pushed our full-back.”
Scorers for Douglas: S Kingston (0-8, 5 frees); A Cadogan (1-2); B Turnbull, D O'Mahony (0-3 each); M O'Connor (s/l), M Collins (0-1 each).
Scorers for Bride Rovers: B Johnson (1-6 frees); M Collins, W Finnegan, K Kearney, D Dooley, B Roche, R Prendergast (0-1 each).
T Delaney; N Walsh, E Cadogan, D Murphy; L McGrath, M Harrington, C Kingston; S Moylan, I Lucey; M Collins, S Kingston, M O'Connor; B Turnbull, A Cadogan, D O'Mahony.
Sub: J Holland for O'Connor (57).
S Knox; J Pratt, B Murphy, F Collins; L Forde, E Roche, C Ryan; P O'Flynn, S O'Connor; M Collins, D Dooley, R Prendergast; B Johnson, W Finnegan, B Roche.
Subs: K Kearney for Forde (ht), DJ Cahill for O'Connor (53).
Referee: S Stokes (Tullylease).