Battling Ballincollig shake off Castlehaven

THEY suffered the dejecting experience of coughing up a five-point lead in injury-time to 13-man Castlehaven in the drawn clash last month but Ballincollig atoned for that in style in yesterday’s Evening Echo Cork SFC fourth round replay in Bandon.

Ballincollig produced another splendid opening in this game with an Ian Coughlan goal in the second minute setting the tone and by the 20th minute they had breezed 1-6 to 0-1 ahead.

The critical difference on this occasion was Ballincollig displayed sufficient resilience and composure to protect their advantage on the scoreboard. Castlehaven came into contention as the tie progressed but Ballincollig learnt from the previous experience to eradicate errors from their play and demonstrate the nous to close out the match.

Ballincollig’s team line up was significantly altered for this clash with four changes in personnel before throw-in. The return of Liam Jennings and JP Murphy, who had only returned from the USA the day before the drawn match, aided their fortunes considerably as they brought great dynamism to their half-back line play. Behind them the tall frame of Bernie Collins posed difficulties for the Ballincollig rearguard but Stephen O’Donoghue made several fine defensive plays and alongside him Noel Galvin deprived Cork minor star Brian Hurley of a single score over the hour. Ballincollig’s defensive ploy of swarming Castlehaven attackers in possession ensured they choked the space available to the west Cork men.

Ballincollig’s work ethic around the middle third was also important in generating their early advantage on the scoreboard and helping them pin Castlehaven back in their own half. Wing-forward Ciaran O’Sullivan was particularly prominent as he feasted on several breaks from the aerial midfield battles. Patrick Kelly and John Miskella’s boundless energy saw them play important roles in orchestrating Ballincollig’s attacking moves yet their star offensive turn was Ian Coughlan at corner-forward.

The penchant Coughlan displayed for notching goals at underage level is fast becoming apparent on the senior stage. His two-goal blast against Carbery Rangers back in June revitalised Ballincollig’s season and he grabbed another vital brace yesterday. The opening strike in the second minute came when he rose to fist an underhit Miskella shot to the net and he pounced again in the 35th minute to raise a green flag at a juncture when Castlehaven were back into contention.

The only fly in the ointment for Ballincollig was a series of injuries that they incurred over the hour. David McCarthy’s afternoon ended early when he shipped a heavy challenge in the sixth minute, Noel Galvin limped off entering the final quarter as well and most worrying was the blow to the hand that John Miskella sustained in injury-time. With a quarter-final against St Finbarr’s approaching next weekend, Ballincollig will need those injury worries to ease.

Castlehaven were left to rue a debilitating slow start to the game. They couldn’t get their hands on the ball around the middle in the opening quarter and several Ballincollig players had their radar attuned in front of goal as Coughlan, Podsie O’Mahony, Niall Allen and Miskella all popped over points. As the half wore on, Castlehaven’s fortunes improved with Chris Hayes and Roland Whelton defending well, Dermot Hurley gaining a foothold around the middle and Mark Collins starting to pull the strings in attack.

However Castlehaven’s marksmanship was poor. Brian Hurley frequently managed to wriggle clear but his shooting betrayed his approach work with a succession of wides.

Ballincollig looked to have delivered a hammer blow when JP Murphy rammed a shot to the net in the 30th minute to send them 2-6 to 0-1 clear. Yet Castlehaven grabbed a lifeline in first-half injury-time when brilliant thinking by Hurley saw him play a quick free to Seanie Cahalane who finished expertly to the net.

Castlehaven maintained that momentum after the break and a flowing team move in the 34th minute saw them claim another goal when Mark Collins rolled a shot past Ballincollig goalkeeper David Lordan.

That cut the gap to 2-6 to 2-3 yet the game swerved on another course when Coughlan fired home Ballincollig’s third goal 60 seconds later.

The Mid-Cork men were in an excellent position then and they did not to spurn the chance to seize victory this time.

Scorers for Ballincollig: I Coughlan 2-3; JP Murphy 1-0; P Kelly (two frees), J Miskella 0-2 each; N Allen, C O’Sullivan, P O’Mahony 0-1 each.

Scorers for Castlehaven: M Collins 1-2 (two frees); S Cahalane 1-1; B Collins 0-2; D Cahalane (one free), P Hurley (one ‘45), A Cahalane, D Burns 0-1 each.

BALLINCOLLIG: D Lordan; N Galvin, S O’Donoghue, B Fitzgerald; B Kelly, L Jennings, JP Murphy; P Kelly, L O’Toole; D McCarthy, J Miskella, C O’Sullivan; I Coughlan, P O’Mahony, N Allen. Subs: A Donovan for McCarthy (inj) (6), J Kelly for O’Toole (half-time), N Barry for Galvin (inj) (45), J O’Brien for O’Mahony (50), K Hickey for Miskella (60) (inj).

CASTLEHAVEN: P Hurley; T O’Leary, L Collins, C Hayes; M Dineen, S Dineen, R Whelton; D Cahalane, D Hurley; T O’Donovan, S Cahalane, S Hurley; M Collins, B Collins, B Hurley. Subs: J Davis for S Dineen (inj) (24), A Cahalane for O’Donovan (half-time), D Burns for S Hurley (half-time), M Cahalane for M Dineen (39).

Referee: C. Lane (Banteer).

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