For the first time since 2007, Ballincollig triumphed at the opening round stage and did so in style against an Ilen Rovers side that could not halt the onslaught of pressure from their opponents in the closing stages.
Ballincollig were full value for their 0-8 to 0-5 lead in the 40th minute but there was a hint that Ilen could mount a revival and the game remained interesting as a consequence. Yet Ballincollig upped the intensity in the last quarter, pouring forward in numbers and cutting apart the Ilen Rovers rearguard to register 1-7 without reply.
By full time Ballincollig had a 13-point cushion while the west Cork men must plot for a local derby against either O’Donovan Rossa or Dohenys in the second round.
Ballincollig’s side was shorn some big names as emigration and retirement ruled out familiar faces. But after claiming a county U21 title in 2009 and county minor crown last year, they have a steady stream of young talent coming through, and that told.
Corner-back Darren Murphy and wing-forward Sean Kiely, members of Cork minor squads in recent seasons, made their senior debuts with Murphy defending tenaciously while Kiely did well in attack and glided through the Ilen Rovers defence to hammer home the only goal of the game with a terrific shot in the 56th minute.
Ballincollig got their match-ups right in defence as they shut down the Ilen Rovers danger men. Liam Jennings kept a tight rein on Kevin Sullivan at full-forward while Dan McEoin was watched carefully in the corner by Stephen O’Donoghue. With centre-back Noel Galvin withdrawing to act as a defensive screen in front of the full-back line, Ballincollig succeeded in restricting the amount of scores that Ilen Rovers amassed.
The West Cork side only managed two points from play over the hour, both of which arrived in the first-half courtesy of McEoin and were sublime scores under pressure.
In contrast, Ballincollig had an array of scorers in the first-half with six different players helping to contribute to their 0-7 to 0-3 interval lead. The deployment of Cork senior Patrick Kelly at corner-forward paid off as his creativity helped orchestrate their attacking play while Ballincollig coped without him at midfield as Brian Cotter and Ciarán O’Sullivan combined excellently to gain control in that sector.
Both teams were guilty of poor shooting at times during the first-half yet the match seemed evenly contested approaching half-time as Ballincollig only led 0-5 to 0-3. Ilen Rovers were starting to come more into the game with Conor and Peadar O’Driscoll making a good impact but Ballincollig finished the half stronger with Kealan Hickey and John Kelly splitting the posts in first-half injury time.
Ilen Rovers enjoyed a bright start to the second-half with Conor O’Driscoll moving back to shore up the inside line, Danny O’Donovan making some fine surging runs and McEoin curling frees between the posts.
However, Ballincollig took over in the finale and put the game to bed. They were inspired by midfielder Ciarán O’Sullivan who kicked three points in the last quarter to bring his personal return to 0-5 for the game.
By the 48th minute they were 0-12 to 0-5 to the good and then came Ilen Rovers’ best chance of a goal when Alan Holland got a shot away under pressure which David Lordan did well to smother. Ballincollig nearly registered a goal themselves when George Durrant smacked a fierce shot against the butt of the upright. Yet they soon raised a green flag when Kiely found the net to copperfasten a decisive success.
Scorers for Ballincollig: C O’Sullivan 0-5, S Kiely 1-1, B Glavin (0-2fs), J Kelly, P Kelly, K Hickey 0-2 each, B Kelly 0-1.
Scorers for Ilen Rovers: D McEoin 0-4 (2fs), K O’Sullivan 0-1f.
BALLINCOLLIG: D Lordan; D Murphy, L Jennings, S O’Donoghue; B Kelly, N Galvin, J O’Brien; C O’Sullivan, B Cotter; G Durrant, J Kelly, S Kiely; K Hickey, B Glavin, P Kelly.
Subs: I Coughlan for Hickey (54).
ILEN ROVERS: G Coakley; P Minihane, Cian O’Driscoll, B Leonard; K O’Driscoll, Conor O’Driscoll, M Hellen; P O’Driscoll, D Coughlan; D O’Sullivan, T O’Regan, D O’Donovan; D McEoin, K O’Sullivan, A Holland.
Subs: C Cotter for Leonard (23).
Referee: James Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).