BALLINHASSIG remain a senior hurling club, but only just, after an injury-time goal from goalkeeper Martin Coleman salvaged a draw in their Cork SHC relegation play-off with Bishopstown at Cloughduv yesterday.
With three minutes of normal time left, the city side looked to have done enough as a powerful second-half performance had put them five points clear, 2-14 to 0-15, though Danny O’Callaghan’s free, which only went over with the aid of the post, gave Ballinhassig hope.
A point by sub Steven Dineen as the game moved into added time, cut the lead to a goal and then, in the 62nd minute, Ballinhassig won a free outside their own 20 metre line. Coleman launched the ball deep into Bishopstown territory, where it was won by Declan O’Sullivan, but he was fouled on the Bishopstown 20, slightly to the right. Despite the presence of six Bishopstown players on the line, Coleman nailed the free to earn his team a second chance.
"Relief is the only word," Coleman said afterwards.
"With these games it’s all about winning, but thank God we’re still in it. It isn’t like a normal championship game where if you win you go on, this was the last-chance saloon."
Renowned as a dead-ball expert – there was little doubt that Coleman would be the one entrusted with the responsibility for taking the late free.
"There was nothing to lose at that stage, you just have to go for it," he said.
"You hope, just hope, that they go in. A lot of times they don’t, but thank God it did."
Ballinhassig will wonder, however, how they allowed themselves to get to such a position. At half-time they led by a point, 0-11 to 1-7, and early second-half points, from Darren Dineen and a Coleman free, pushed them three clear.
Their half-back line had done well up until then, while Dineen and Diarmuid Duggan had showed up well in attack, helping to gain the upper hand after Patrick Cronin’s penalty had put Bishopstown 1-3 to 0-1 ahead in the 12th minute.
Paul Coomey and O’Callaghan were others to impress for Ballinhassig, but Cronin had been doing well at midfield, first alongside Ian Jones and then Mark O’Driscoll.
The latter pointed in the 34th minute and then Bishopstown regained the lead when sub Brian Murray, who had been introduced at half-time, struck for a goal after Coleman had batted away a Ronan Conway delivery.
Thomas Murray added a free soon after, and with Cronin taking control around the middle, they tacked on three more without reply to lead by 2-12 to 0-13 with 11 minutes of normal time left.
As the end neared, the tension rose, illustrated by a few minor scuffles resulting in yellow cards as well as the mounting wides tallies.
Ballinhassig’s number looked to be up and their six-year sojourn at senior level over, but they continued to press and in the end earned another opportunity.
Scorers for Ballinhassig: D O’Callaghan 0-5 (0-3f), M Coleman 1-1f, P Coomey 0-3, D Duggan, D Dineen 0-2 each, S McCarthy, D O’Sullivan, D O’Donovan, S Dineen 0-1 each.
Scorers for Bishopstown: P Cronin 1-3 (1-0 penalty, 0-1f), B Murray 1-1, T Murray (0-3f), R Conway 0-3 each, I Jones, G McGlacken, M O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
BALLINHASSIG: M Coleman; Steve McCarthy, D Healy, E Finn; B O’Sullivan, B Lombard, B Coleman; Shane McCarthy, P Coomey; D O’Callaghan, D Dineen, M Aherne; B Holland, D Duggan, M Collins.
Subs: P Lombard for Aherne (39), S Dineen for Holland, D O’Sullivan for Dineen (both 47), M Sheehan for Coomey (54).
BISHOPSTOWN: K O’Halloran; B Healy, J O’Sullivan, B Lane; J Murphy, S O’Neill, M O’Driscoll; I Jones, P Cronin; M Power, T Murray, G McGlacken; E McCarthy, R Conway, D Crowley.
Subs: B Murray for McCarthy (half-time), D Lester for Lane (52).
Referee: G O’Connell (Lisgoold).