The concession of two goals in the closing stages, the second of which trimmed the gap to two points in the 62nd minute, ensured Ballymartle’s route to victory transpired to be an anxious one.
But their performance on the night entitled them to the winners’ garlands. They possessed the better individual performers, produced a storming first-half performance that created a critical six-point interval advantage and did not wilt in the face of Courcey Rovers powerful late onslaught.
The success propels Ballymartle to the final stage where they have an opportunity to exorcise the demons from last year’s defeat in the decider to Douglas. The experience accrued from that game should stand to them on October 10 when they battle it out with either Youghal or Tracton for silverware and promotion to the senior ranks.
The scoreline illustrates a key strength of Ballymartle’s performance as they posted an impressive total of 1-17. Five of their players struck at least two points over the bar, a vital statistic considering Niall Murphy was the only member of the Courcey Rovers team to do likewise. Barry Dwyer’s accuracy from frees was a strong constant all evening, Cork U21 goalkeeper Darren McCarthy showcased his versatility with a sparkling display at corner-forward while Dan Dwyer’s pace posed problems for the Courcey Rovers rearguard.
The standout Ballymartle individuals were not just confined to their attack. At midfield Seamus Corry was again in wonderful form while Michael Tobin and Daniel Coleman were resolute in defence. But the best player on the pitch was centre-back and captain Patrick Dwyer, who mopped up possession and executed a plethora of long clearances.
Ballymartle got off to a splendid start with Darren McCarthy showing some lovely stickwork before drilling the ball to the net in the second minute. However Courcey Rovers response was impressive with Seamus Hayes claiming a neat point and then the same player whipped a loose ball to the roof of the net in the sixth minute.
However Ballymartle took over proceedings for the remainder of the half. Barry Dwyer converted five place balls, with Jamie Dwyer, Ruairi Dwyer, Brian Corry and Dan Dwyer all on target from play. Despite Niall Murphy’s best efforts for Courcey Rovers, Ballymartle looked in control at half-time as they lead 1-10 to 1-4.
Despite their prospects looking bleak Courcey Rovers surged into contention early in the second-half. Tim Lordan, David Murphy and Vincent Hurley gave towering displays while Murphy split the posts with a few superb frees. They did nearly grab a goal straight after the break but Gavin Moloney’s close-range shot was smothered by the alert Declan McCarthy. Courcey Rovers did cut the gap to 1-11 to 1-7 by the 43rd minute but Murphy missed a chance to bring them within three points and then Ballymartle regained the impetus. Three quick points sent them soaring seven points ahead with ten minutes left and the game looked a done deal.
However the finale produced some stirring exchanges. Sub Dara Lordan kickstarted matters with a pointed free and then John Murphy (K) batted a Cian Lordan cross to the net in the 53rd minute.
Suddenly Ballymartle’s lead was only 1-14 to 2-8 yet they appeared to have killed off Courcey Rovers momentum with a marvellous point by Seamus Corry and another Dwyer free. But Courcey Rovers hit back in the 62nd minute when Dara Lordan did the spade work before Cian Lordan clinically finished to the net. However the spree of scores came too late for the Ballinspittle outfit and Brian Corry added the insurance point in injury-time.
Scorers for Ballymartle: B Dwyer 0-7 (six frees); Darren McCarthy 1-2 (one free); B Corry, R Dwyer, Dan Dwyer 0-2 each; J Dwyer, S Corry 0-1 each.
Scorers for Courcey Rovers: J Murphy (K), S Hayes 1-1 each; N Murphy 0-4 (three frees, one ‘65); C Lordan 1-0; G Moloney, Dara Lordan (one free) 0-1 each.
BALLYMARTLE: Declan McCarthy; D Coleman, M Tobin, Declan Dwyer; D Edmonds, P Dwyer, N Sheehan; S Corry, S O’Mahony; B Dwyer, R Dwyer, Darren McCarthy; J Dwyer, B Corry, Dan Dwyer.
Subs: G Webb for Sheehan (45), P Coughlan for O’Mahony (57).
COURCEY ROVERS: S Nyhan; Dan Lordan, T Lordan, D Duggan; B Hayes, D Murphy, J Duggan; K Moloney, D Hayes; J Murphy (K), N Murphy, V Hurley; G Moloney, S Hayes, C Lordan.
Subs: Dara Lordan for G Moloney (47), J Murphy (R) for J Murphy (K) (58).
Referee: David Copps (Ballyhea).