Ballinhassig back at the top table

Ballinhassig 1-19 Bandon 1-15
Ballinhassig have successfully regrouped to claim their place among the top table of hurling once again.

Yesterday they turned in a very fine performance in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the Cork PIHC final and were full value for their four-point win as Bandon’s bid to create history after winning the intermediate grade just 12 months ago proved a bridge too far. However, while their dream was shattered, they must be saluted for their display.

They fell 10 points behind in the second-half but produced a rousing comeback to bring it back to three — and but for a couple of wides thereafter, it could’ve been an escape to rank up their beside any. But Ballinhassig closed it out with captain Darren Dineen along with his brother Steven immense in attack.

Darren reflected on the past year: “We lost a lot of close games last year. We couldn’t get a break. It took a lot out of us. We lost two replays by a point. We knew we weren’t a bad team but it was an absolute body blow to the club. A lot of the credit has to go to Johnny Crowley (coach) because he was a fresh mind, no baggage from last year. We knuckled down and took it day by day. This is where we are.

“All we could win at the start of the year was this county and we won it. I tell you it is not easy come back up senior. Cloyne will find it just as hard next year. Everybody was making us favourites, but for what? Not for anything we were doing. Bandon were putting up huge scores.”

Three unanswered points before the break and 1-4 without reply after the resumption was critical as Ballinhassig surged ahead 1-15 to 0-8.

Bandon never gave up though, and when Ronan Crowley found the net seven minutes from time, suddenly the Ballinhassig lead was vulnerable. They needn’t have worried though as their half back line came to the rescue. Michael Aherne was immense at centre-back, as was Mike Sheehan — who scored an outrageous point when he galloped unchallenged from his half-back berth right up to the 21-yard line before tapping over.

Ballinhassig, with the Dineens starting well, moved into an early 0-5 to 0-2 advantage but Bandon struck some fine points from Jason McCarthy, Darren Crowley, Jason Hickey and Ronan Crowley and were a mere point behind after the first quarter. Donough Lucey was solid too in defence and when Ronan Crowley levelled at 0-8 apiece on 26 minutes they looked to have weathered the first half storm.

The Dineens, along with Paul O’Sullivan notched three points coming up to the break to push Ballinhassig ahead 0-11 to 0-8 and they also had a goal from Michael Collins disallowed for a square-ball infringement. Still, Bandon were in good stead turning to play with the wind.

However, Ballinhassig helped themselves to 1-4 after the break – the goal from Fintan O’Leary following a huge free from Martin Coleman – and they also proceeded to keep Bandon scoreless for the third quarter.

The difference on the scoreboard now read 10 points but it wasn’t time to celebrate just yet. Bandon began to click up front as they outscored their opponents 1-4 to 0-1 — Crowley with the goal from close range.

With five minutes left, it was 1-14 to 1-17 before Ballinhassig hit two super points from midfielder Brendan Coleman and Darren Dineen to go five clear. Hickey did respond at the other end, but there was to be no heroics.

Scorers for Ballinhassig: F O’Leary 1-2, P O’Sullivan, D Dineen (0-1 free) and S Dineen 0-3 each, B Coleman, M Sheehan and M Aherne (frees) 0-2 each, P Coomey and D O’Donovan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Bandon: R Crowley 1-6 (0-5 frees), D Crowley 0-2, J Hickey 0-3, M Cahalane, K Hurley, J McCarthy and M Sugrue 0-1 each.

BALLINHASSIG: M Coleman; Stephen McCarthy, E Finn, M Desmond; M Sheehan, M Aherne, B Lombard; B Coleman, Shane McCarthy; D Dineen, P Coomey, S Dineen; P O’Sullivan, F O’Leary, M Collins.

Subs: D O’Donovan for P Coomey (50).

BANDON: J McSweeney; P Crowley, J Burke, J O’Donovan; E O’Donovan, D Lucey, J Walsh; C Dullea, D Crowley; J McCarthy, M Sugrue, J Hickey; M Cahalane, R Payne, R Crowley.

Subs: K Hurley for C Dullea (37), A Johnson for J McCarthy (43), P Murphy for M Cahalane (60 inj).

Referee: D Kirwan (Éire Óg).

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