In the worst conditions imaginable, the Gaeltacht club created history by winning their first adult county title and while no-one would have quibbled had the game gone to extra-time, Ballingeary just deserved the win.
Their defence played a huge part. Holding out against the driving wind and rain in the opening half, they kept Castletownbere to level scores, 0-2 each, before soaking up enormous pressure in the six minutes of added time to fashion a thrilling victory.
Amhlaoibh Lynch, Donal McCarthy and Barry Concannon were majestic in the heart of the Ballingeary defence, while team captain Peadar Concannon gave his side the advantage at midfield, his levelling point in the 50th minute worthy of winning any match. In attack it all revolved around Andreas Concannon, whose long-range free-taking was superb. He was ably assisted by Liam Shorten and Con Lehane.
Castletownbere must be wondering what they have to do to win the title. They lost the finals of 1997 and 1999 and were one of the fancied teams to take this grade, but could not adapt to the wretched underfoot conditions.
Strangely, they played far better in the second-half as Donagh Wiseman, Andrew O’Sullivan and Alan O’Regan won plenty of possession, but you don’t win county titles with one forward scoring — all but one of their points was scored by midfielder Andrew O’Sullivan. Twice they looked to be in for the all important goal but each occasion Ballingeary ‘keeper Sean Concannon managed to avert the danger with plucky saves.
Ballingeary showed one change from the drawn game, Eoin Quill on for the injured Paul Buckley. He made an immediate impact, kicking the lead point into the strong wind after four minutes. Given the strength of the wind and driving rain, CTB needed at least a six point half time lead to have any chance, but scoring was always going to be scarce in the difficult conditions and it took CTB until the 11th minute to draw level through an Andrew O’Sullivan point.
As the half wore on underfoot conditions deteriorated and the game became a lottery as players struggled to hold their feet, making for tremendous excitement amongst followers in the stand. CTB’s short passing game played into the hands of the Ballingeary backs but the pressure on their defence was intense and after Andreas Concannon gave his side the lead coming up to the break, Darren Nolan’s equalising point just on the call of half time meant the Muskerry side were the far happier, going in on level terms to resume with the elements to their back.
However, there was far more bite in CTB’s play on the changeover and with Alan O’Regan now operating out on the 40, they were camped in the Ballingeary half for the opening five minutes of the second-half — but had no reward for their efforts. As the rain continued to cascade down, the pitch turned into a quagmire and mistakes became the norm. Both teams struggled to cope, but CTB were having slightly the better of the exchanges. When Andrew O’Sullivan landed a massive point to give his side the lead, it was no more than they deserved.
However, the Ballingeary defence continued to frustrate the CTB attack and Peadar Concannon equalised from 50 metres out, levelling the contest for the fourth time. With 10 minutes to go CTB hit back and wing-back Ciarán Murphy blazed wide from a scoring position. At the other end Ballingeary introduced former Cork stalwart John O’Driscoll for the closing minutes, and as the tension mounted, Andreas Concannon pointed a 45 metre free for the lead score.
In the closing minutes CTB threw everything at Ballingeary for the equalising score, but several chances went abegging before the referee finally called a halt in the 66th minute.
Ballingeary: A. Concannon 0-2 (0-1 free); E. Quill, C. Twomey, P. Colcannon 0-1 each. CTB: A. O’Sullivan 0-3; S. O’Regan 0-1.
S. Concannon; C. Lynch, A. Lynch, F. Lynch; N. Twomey, D. McCarthy, B. Concannon; P. Concannon, L. Concannon; C. Twomey, S. Twomey, E. Quill; L. Shorten, A. Concannon, C. Lehane.
G. McCarthy for S. Twomey; J. O’Driscoll for Quill.
: JP Sheehan; D. Kelly, E. Wiseman, T. Collins; D. O’Sullivan, D. Wiseman, C. Murphy; A. O’Sullivan, B. O’Regan; D. Nolan, P. Harrington, S. O’Regan; R. Minihane, A. O’Regan, L. Harrington.
A. Harrington for Minihane.
N. Barrett (Carrigtwohill).