It was a result they deserved if only for their refusal to throw in the towel when all seemed lost, and again they gave glimpses of the power and passion of their hurling once feared by teams in the county.
However this game will be remembered for the failure on the part of the referee John Kearney not to send Barry Coleman (Ballyhea) and Fr. O’Neill’s John Flavin off for wreckless use of the hurley on each other in a disgraceful flare up in the second half.
Fr. O’Neill’s, aided by the wind, opted to play with an extra defender pulling Podge Butler back and it worked well for them. With Jer O’Leary sparkling at midfield, the East Cork side stormed into an 0-5 to nil lead after 20 minutes and Ballyhea looked in serious trouble.
Ballyhea coach Jack Russell made the decision to bring in two subs together and take off Eamon Morrissey who had been doing well in defence.
With Barry Coleman thundering into the game at centre back, Ballyhea finally got on the scoresheet with a Neil Ronan point, and approaching half time only three points separated the sides but the North Cork side was hit by a goal that had an element of luck about it. Jer O’Leary who earlier had scored four points from frees, lined up a 30-metre effort which was well within his range, but his effort went in low across the face of the Ballyhea goal where John Flavin touched it home to give his side a 1-7 to 0-4 half time lead.
Whatever their coach said to them at the interval, it certainly had the desired effect and despite conceding an early point by Jer O’Leary, Ballyhea hit back with six points in a row, three of them superb efforts by Muiris O’Sullivan, to throw the issue wide open.
It was all Ballyhea at this juncture and they should have goaled following a great passing movement which left Darren Ronan one on one with the O’Neill’s ‘keeper Paul Colbert who came off his line to avert the danger.
However they were not to be denied and as the tempo increased, Ballyhea drew level with points by Neil Ronan and Timmy Shanahan. The tension was unbearable as both went for the win but it was no excuse for the flare up which saw the referee issue yellow cards to both Flavin and Coleman when far more serious punishment should have been administered.
In those hectic closing minutes Jer O’Leary looked to have given Fr. O’Neill’s victory when he pointed his fifth free, but Ballyhea were not to be denied and after Paul Colbert was penalised for over holding the sliothar, Neil Ronan pointed the resultant free to send the game to a replay which will take place in Kilworth on Friday night next at 7pm.
Scorers for Ballyhea: N. Ronan 0-5 (0-3 frees); M. O’Sullivan 0-4; T. Shanahan 0-2; I. Ronan, D. Ronan, A. Crowley, C. Hanley 0-1 each.
Fr. O’Neill’s: J. O’Leary 0-7 (0-5 frees); J. Flavin 1-0; J. Holland 0-2; E. McCarthy, A. Brett, E. Holland 0-1 each.
O. Morrissey; E. O’Sullivan, E. Morrissey, S. Dennehy; T. O’Sullivan, B. Coleman, M. Morrissey; H. O’Leary, A. Crowley; M. O’Sullivan, N. Ronan, I. Curtin; D. Ronan, T. Shanahan, I. Ronan.
Subs: J. O’Sullivan for E. Morrissey; C. Hanley for Curtin; A. O’Connor for Hanley; G. Morrissey for D. Ronan; E. Rea for O’Leary.
P. Colbert; B. O’Driscoll, J. O’Mahony, J. Terry; R. O’Neill, B. Murphy, M. Lawton; G. Holland, J. O’Leary; MP Bailey, A. Brett, E. McCarthy; P. Butler, J. Flavin, N. Griffin.
Subs: E. Holland for Bailey; R. Murphy for McCarthy.
J. Kearney (Na Piarsaigh).