Rangers looked in control of their own destiny late on as they clung to a narrow one-point advantage and looked to work the ball out of defence. But Ballincollig pressurised them on the right wing and when the ball spilled loose, Kelleher swung over a beautiful left-foot shot. With time called soon after, Ballincollig were the upbeat camp in the aftermath.
But their satisfaction was not just extracted from their late revival, it also stemmed from the fact they kept themselves alive despite shouldering the liability of 14 men after midfielder Bryan Kelly was sent-off in the 18th minute. For Carbery Rangers it was a frustrating outcome as they looked to have survived this battle of the wills by holding scoreboard supremacy late on.
The game was far from a spectacle. Any thoughts of both teams hitting full speed in flowing football were dispelled due to the conditions which left the pitch surface soaked. The opening period was an ordeal for both teams to knit together passages of play. In the second-half the skies cleared, yet the scrappy tone of the game continued.
Backed by the breeze, Carbery Rangers began confidently with both Seamus and John Hayes pointing the way early on. Ballincollig began to come to terms with the contest with John Miskella, switched early on to wing-forward, and Patrick Kelly starting to drive them on and they registered points from Niall Allen from play and Podsie O’Mahony from a free. John Hayes inched Carbery Rangers back ahead with a free in the 17th minute but shortly after the complexion of the game changed.
Miskella was fouled out on the right wing by Michéal O’Sullivan and when Bryan Kelly rushed in to intervene in the tussle, referee James Dorgan adjudged him to have committed a third man challenge and sent him to the line. It was a critical knockback for Ballincollig to bear and they had to regroup, with Patrick Kelly going to midfield with Carbery’s Johnny Murphy sitting in front of his full-back line as the spare man.
The control shifted towards Rangers but scores were carefully rationed for the remainder of the half. John McCarthy blasted over a 25th minute point and then John Hayes converted a free after his brother Seamus was hauled down. Considering the conditions 0-5 to 0-2 was a hefty lead to take to the dressing rooms at the break.
The second-half was a ferocious struggle with the tight scrambles around the middle the defining feature. Carbery Rangers drew first blood when Hayes pointed a free, but Alan Donovan lobbed one over for Ballincollig moments later. The Mid Cork men were starting to generate more possession with Kelly and Miskella processing huge amounts of ball, and Liam Jennings giving a surging display at right half-back. In the 42nd minute they had a super chance for a goal, when Kelly grabbed a Miskella pass but he dragged his shot wide.
Carbery Rangers looked to have weathered the storm and had some marvellous defenders in Michéal Kelly, Stephen Hicks and Pádraig Hodnett.
But Ballincollig’s persistence was rewarded with scores in the final quarter. Midfielder Ciarán O’Sullivan converted after Kelly had tapped a quick 45 to him, Niall Allen clipped over a left-foot shot and O’Mahony crowned their comeback with a 56th minute free.
Yet all of Ballincollig’s efforts looked to be in vain in the 57th minute when Carbery broke in a rare foray upfield. Kevin McMahon made a brilliantly incisive run and when he placed John Hayes, the full-forward kept his calm to knock between the posts. It looked to have settled the issue only for Kelleher to rescue Ballincollig.
Scorers for Ballincollig: N Allen, P O’Mahony (0-2f) 0-2 each, A Donovan, C O’Sullivan, K Kelleher 0-1 each.
Carbery Rangers: J Hayes 0-5 (0-3f, 0-1 ‘45), S Hayes, J McCarthy 0-1 each.
BALLINCOLLIG: J Noonan; N Barry, E Hegarty, N Galvin; J Miskella, J O’Brien, L Jennings; C O’Sullivan, B Kelly; B Cotter, P Kelly, A Donovan; J Kelly, N Allen, P Mahony.
Subs: K Kelleher for J Kelly (38), F Keohane for Mahony (58), L O’Toole for O’Sullivan (61).
CARBERY RANGERS: M Moloney; M Kelly, Sean Hayes, S Hicks; P Hodnett, B Shanahan, G Ryan; M O’Sullivan, J McCarthy; J O’Rourke, J Fitzpatrick, K McMahon; D Hayes, Seamus Hayes, J Hayes.
Subs: J Murphy for Ryan (15), M Mennis for Fitzpatrick (inj) (43), N Hayes for O’Rourke (56).
Referee: James Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).