Having trailed by seven points, 0-11 to 0-4, at half-time, the city school looked to be up against it, but with the elements at their back in the second half, they set about whittling down the Fachtna’s lead as they held their west Cork opponents to just a point after the restart.
Connolly’s goal in the 48th minute, which cut the gap to just a point, was crucial, and in the end Críost Rí had the staying power to prevail, just as when they edged past Fachtna’s in their final group game of the Corn Uí Mhuirí back in November.
In November Críost Rí raced into an early lead before being pegged back, but here it was a different story as, despite going behind to the opening point from Conor Horgan, Fachtna’s got to grips with the game, kicking eight points between the third and 14th minutes.
With Cork minor star Dan MacEoin — who kicked three of those eight — the focal point of their attacks, some of their scores were of the highest quality, such as Thomas Hegarty’s after a well-worked move, Jack Bushe’s following a mazy run and a booming free from outside the 45 by Brian O’Driscoll.
O’Driscoll was on top in midfield as Fachtna’s were winning the majority of the breaks, and while they could not keep up that tempo, three more points were added before half-time.
Horgan was Críost Rí’s only scorer in the opening half, notching four, though Ciarán Dalton had gone very close with a goal opportunity in the 19th minute while Fachtna’s goalkeeper Patrick Rossiter did well to deny Eoin Finn soon after.
A few positional changes, most notably relocating Connolly to full-forward, began to reap rewards for Críost Rí in the second half and almost yielded a 36th minute goal but Rossiter first denied Connolly, then Eoin McGreevy.
Driven on by wing-back Stephen Cronin, Críost Rí had found their range with point efforts, though, as they began to reel in the deficit while Fachtna’s struggled to make inroads into their opponents’ territory.
On 44, Connolly was once again foiled by Rossiter, the netminder diving full-length to keep out his shot, but it was third time lucky three minutes later as Connolly won a delivery and produced a fine finish.
Horgan then levelled the game with an excellent free from a tight angle on the left, but just when it looked as if they were on the ropes, Fachtna’s summoned one last effort as O’Driscoll put them ahead again.
The momentum had gone from them, however, and Críost Rí continued to press, Connolly and Horgan going close before centre-back Tomás Lawrence, who had done much to nullify MacEoin in the second half, tied the game.
Lawrence then helped set up Connolly’s winner, a fine curling effort after a sweeping move, and while Fachtna’s pressed for an equaliser, dogged defending saw Críost Rí hold out.
Scorers for Coláiste Chríost Rí: C Horgan 0-6 (four frees); L Connolly 1-2; T Lawrence; C Dalton 0-1 each.
St Fachtna’s: D Mac Eoin, B O’Driscoll (two frees) 0-4 each; T Hegarty 0-2; K Lynch, J Bushe 0-1 each.
COLÁISTE CHRÍOST RÍ: J Kerins; D O’Keeffe, M Lyons, I Lucey; E Dennehy, T Lawrence, S Cronin; S O’Keeffe, E Finn; G Joyce, C Horgan, L Connolly; E McGreevy, A Nolan, C Dalton.
Sub: P Fitzgerald for Joyce (half-time).
ST FACHTNA’S: P Rossiter; B Nolan, S Hourihane, G Hurley; L Hassett, K O’Driscoll, T McCarthy; P O’Brien, B O’Driscoll; D O’Brien, K Lynch, T Hegarty; J Cahalane, D Mac Eoin, J Bushe.
Sub: R Hayes for Hurley (54).
Referee: J Bermingham (Bride Rovers).