The huge crowd certainly got value for money.
For 20 minutes the Blues trailed an Aghada side who battled superbly only to run out of steam in the last quarter as youthful Ballinhassig picked off a succession of points to run out comfortable winners.
Its hard to believe that Ballinhassig lost their opening round to Blarney by four points in a replay, and were then without Brendan Lombard and Diarmuid Duggan, who went to Australia for most of the summer.
Both returned for the semi-final with Lombard in particular making a massive difference. Lombard took the man of the match award but it could easily have gone to centre-back Mick Ahern, who was a colossus from start to finish.
Also in contention was county minor and right corner forward Danny O’Callaghan. At 17 years of age, this lad is one for the future and his four points, all from play, marked him out as a forward with exceptional ability.
Wing back James Ahern, Stephen Dineen when switched to midfield for the second half and Fintan O’Leary were others to make significant contributions for the Blues.
Aghada, naturally, were bitterly disappointed. Having lost the 2000 decider, they went into this final confident they could make amends, and when they took an eight-point lead after 20 minutes, must have felt it was going to be their night.
For a time corner forward Trevor O’Keeffe looked like beating Ballinhassig on his own as he knocked over five points on the trot, and with Kieran O’Connor and John Paul O’Connor conceding nothing in defence, it was all going to plan for the east Cork side.
However, Aghada’s single-point lead at half-time was never going to be enough as they turned to play against the strong wind.
At the start of the match, Ballinhassig got the perfect start with two quick points inside the opening minute, but Aghada quickly settled and gave their opponents a lesson in the finer points of the game - or at least Trevor O’Keeffe did.
O’Keeffe gave his marker a roasting, knocking over five points in a row and when Dave Creedon took Ger Melvin’s exquisite pass in his stride before blasting home a goal which put his side 1-5 to 0-2 in front after 15 minutes, it looked as if Aghada would win easily.
Then Ballinhassig completely re-arranged their attack, the most significant move being the switch of Fintan O’Leary to corner forward. Darren Dineen pointed a free in the 22nd minute - Ballinhassig’s first score for 21 minutes play - before his brother Stephen parted to O’Leary on the edge who found the net for a badly needed goal.
Ballinhassig then took control as Aghada drifted out of the game completely and a succession of points, two by Danny O’Callaghan, left the east Cork side just 1-7 to 1-6 in front at the break.
Ballinhassig lost the services of Darren Dineen with a shoulder injury for the second half which meant a reshuffle. Stephen Dineen moved out to midfield to partner Brendan Lombard and Declan O’Sullivan went to centre forward and both switches paid off.
With the strong wind to their backs, Ballinhassig took a firm grip, landing three points in succession and only a magnificent save by Aghada ‘keeper Michael Lewis denied Danny O’Callaghan a goal.
John Connolly eased the pressure on Aghada with a point, his side’s first score for 18 minutes play. Then Brendan Lombard robbed Connolly as he powered forward, and hit over a magnificent long-range point.
The southeast side were rampant now and only another magnificent save by Lewis denied O’Callaghan a goal he well deserved. It was fitting that Michael Ahern should have the last say with a great point from a free.
: Ballinhassig: F. O’Leary 1-2 (0-1 free); D. O’Callaghan 0-4; D. Dineen (0-1 free), M. Ahern (frees), B. Lombard, S. Dineen 0-2 each. J. Mullaney, D. O’Sullivan 0-1 each. Aghada: T. O’Keeffe 0-9 (0-2 frees, 0-2 65s); D. Creedon 1-0; B. Morrissey, J. Connolly 0-1 each.
: M. Coleman; S. McCarthy, D. Healy, B. Coleman; J. Ahern, M. Ahern, B. O’Sullivan; D. O’Sullivan, B. Lombard; S. Dineen, D. Dineen, F. O’Leary; D. Duggan, J. Mullaney, D. O’Callaghan.
: P. O’Sullivan for D. Dineen; T. Coleman for Mullaney.
: M. Lewis; K. O’Connor, JP O’Connor, K. O’Keeffe; B. Hennessy, R. Dwane, P. Kilbane; G. Melvin, J. Connolly; P. O’Neill, P. Cashman, D. Creedon; B. Morrissey, S. O’Keeffe, T. O’Keeffe.
: B. Crowley for K. O’Keeffe; P. Wall for Cashman.
: D. Copps (Ballyhea).