Fr O’Neill’s survived a titanic battle with Ballincollig in a lively opening round of the Cork Premier IHC at Carrigtwohill tonight. O’Neill’s, last year’s defeated semi-finalists are viewed as one of the main contenders again this year, but make no mistake about it, tenacious Ballincollig – the 2018 IHC titleholders – pushed them all the way.
The sides were level eight times in the first half, after which the east Cork men led 1-12 to 2-7, and while they managed to put a bit more daylight between themselves and ‘The Village’ as the game wore on, they got a mighty fright and had to dig deep before safely securing their passage to round three.
Fr O’Neill’s were minus the injured Ger Millerick, and the news didn’t get any better for them in the second-half when Declan Dalton limped off. He lined out at wing-forward with a strapping on his knee, but only managed eight minutes of action after the break.
Ballincollig competed very well in the first-half, they matched their opponents strike for strike. They led 1-2 to 0-2 after six minutes – Peter O’Neill finding the net after being put through by Robbie Bourke. The celebrations were short lived as Mark O’Keeffe replied instantly.
The teams were tied three more times before Fr O’Neill’s stretched the lead, 1-8 to 1-5. Ballincollig didn’t lie down and a spectacular one-two between Karl Walsh and Bourke enabled Walsh to get in for a 27th minute goal for deadlock once more. Fr O’Neill’s got four of the last five points – Liam O’Driscoll notching his fourth to give them an extremely hard-earned two-point advantage at the interval.
Eoin Conway got Fr O’Neill’s off the mark straight from the resumption. Ballincollig were never too far away and made it a one-point game once again. The match was nip and tuck, Dalton rifling over his sixth point and sub Jason Hankard getting his first point to make it 1-15 to 2-9 by the 40th minute.
This was a contest of fine margins, and the trend continued, the gap constantly moving between two and three points. With a quarter of an hour to go, Billy Dunne scored a crucial point for O’Neill’s to go ahead by four points.
Sean Walsh landed a couple of vital frees for Ballincollig, however, with the game up for grabs, it was the Imokilly side that steadied the ship. Ballincollig did have their chances approaching the final few minutes of play. However, Walsh went low from a close-in free that Colin Sloane got a stick to and they had a couple of wides as well.
Fr O’Neill’s were grateful for the let-offs, and a late point from Tom Millerick from out the field, brought a sigh of relief while also extending the winning margin to four.
Ballincollig, meanwhile, marked their promotion to the higher grade with an inspirational performance. They were no pushover and can move on to round two with plenty of optimism.
Scorers for Fr O’Neill’s: D Dalton (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65), L O’Driscoll (0-4), M O’Keeffe (1-1), B Dunne (0-3), T Millerick and J Hankard (0-2 each), C Broderick, J Millerick and E Conway (0-1 each).
Scorers for Ballincollig: S Walsh (0-8, 0-7 frees), P O’Neill and K Walsh (1-1 each), JP Murphy, D Bowen, R Bourke and L Fahy (0-1 each).
Fr O’Neill’s: C Sloane; M Millerick, Adrian Kenneally, Adam Kenneally; J Barry, D Harrington, S O’Connor; C Broderick, T Millerick; M O’Keeffe, J Millerick, D Dalton; E Conway, L O’Driscoll, B Dunne.
Subs: J Hankard for J Barry (20-21 bs), J Hankard for Adrian Kenneally (half-time), R Cullinane for D Dalton (39 inj).
Ballincollig: R Cambridge; R O’Donovan, G O’Donoghue, C Sexton; C O’Sullivan, L Jennings, JP Murphy; K Walsh, F Denny; S Walsh, C Moore, D Bowen; R Bourke, P O’Neill, L Fahy.
Subs: R Doherty for L Fahy (50), J O’Leary for C Moore (65).
Referee: Michael O’Mahony (Kilbrittain).