The standard of hurling was nothing to write home about but the commitment levels compensated for that in front of a very small crowd.
The winners, who fielded a youthful side, had outstanding players in Barry Coleman, Michael Morrissey, Kieran Morrissey and Maurice O’Sullivan, while it was no fault of the evergreen Jeremy Hurley, Eoin Manning and Eamon Collins that Rovers lost.
Former county senior Eamon Collins showed Valleys the way with a brace of points in the opening two minutes but, inexplicably, they weren’t to score again for the next 28, during which time youthful Ballyhea took control.
The north Cork side had to wait 11 minutes for their opening score, a Kevin Hanley point, and it settled the obvious nerves. A combination of shrewd switches saw centre-back Barry Coleman move in on Eamon Collins to great effect, and the probing runs of Gavin Morrissey at full-forward saw Ballyhea take a firm grip.
Both sides were guilty of some appalling wides — they shared 12 after 20 minutes and had 13 each over the hour — but Ballyhea’s hurling had improved immeasurably and they led for the first time after 15 minutes with a Maurice O’Sullivan point.
Ballyhea struck for their opening goal. It came minutes after Gavin Morrissey had an effort superbly saved by Rovers keeper Willie Burke, but the bustling Morrissey wasn’t to be denied.
The wides continued to mount for both sides and at the break Ballyhea were full value for their 0-4 to 1-3 lead after Jeremy Hurley landed a Valleys point in the 29th minute, from a long range free, their first score since the second minute.
The standard of hurling improved somewhat on the change over and after the sides swapped points, Ballyhea threw down the gauntlet to the Innishannon side with their second goal in the 40th minute.
It came following excellent work by Timmy Shanahan and was coolly finished by the alert Dean Copps to put his side 2-5 to 0-5 in front.
In real danger of being dragged into a relegation battle, Valleys hit back strongly and six points in a row, four by Eamon Collins, had the sides locked together for the second time.
But Ballyhea’s Eamon Morrissey struck home a goal with his first touch after coming on as a sub and it completely knocked the wind out of the Rovers sails.
Valleys must now beat the winners of the Youghal/Watergrasshill tie to avoid relegation.
Scorers for Ballyhea: M O’Sullivan 0-5 (2f); G Morrissey, D Copps, E Morrissey 1-0 each; J O’Sullivan 0-2 (1f); K. Hanley 0-1.
Scorers for Valley Rovers: E Collins 0-7 (5f); J Hurley (1f), D. Murphy (1f), R O’Donovan, B Lehane, T Burke, E Manning 0-1 each.
BALLYHEA: D O’Riordan, O O’Sullivan, S Dennehy, T O’Sullivan; M Morrissey, B Coleman, H O’Leary; K Hanley, K Morrissey; J O’Sullivan, M. O’Sullivan, J Morrissey; T Shanahan, G Morrissey, D Copps.
Subs: E.Morrissey for Shanahan (50); E Rea for Copps (50); A O’Connor for J Morrissey (55).
VALLEY ROVERS: W Burke; C Lynch, N O’Donovan, D Lynch; J Hurley, C O’Donovan, R Lehane; R O’Donovan, R Butler; Ml O’Brien, E Manning, D Crowley; B Lehane, E Collins, T Fitzgerald.
Subs: T Burke for Fitzgerald (h-t); D Murphy for Butler (45); S O’Sullivan for D Crowley (55).
Referee: C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).