A huge crowd filed into Brinny on a near-perfect Saturday evening and though the game was as tough as you’d expect in a local derby, it never caught fire or produced the outstanding passages of play both sides have demonstrated in recent years.
Ballinhassig, however, won’t lose much sleep over that and will be just be glad to have overcome the most stubborn of opponents. They squeaked through courtesy of midfielder Shane McCarthy’s intervention on the stroke of full-time when he punctured a hole in the Newcestown defence and whipped over a rousing winning point.
Having been relegated from senior last year, Ballinhassig’s quest to rejoin the top tier survived its most testing examination and though still only in the last eight, they’ll have eyes on the big prize now.
Ballinhassig were slight favourites and underlined that tag when they shot into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 14 minutes with Darren Dineen on the mark with 0-3 while Paul Commey notched the other through a good pass from Fintan O’Leary.
But Newcestown’s challenge was ignited when Kelly blasted a penalty to the net after Carthach Keane was hauled down. That score put them 1-2 to 0-4 in front and from there to the break it was nip and tuck.
O’Leary and Newcestown full-back Johnny Crowley were having the duel of the night but O’Leary pushed his side in front on 22 minutes with Kelly twice cancelling it out.
Darren Dineen’s overall input of eight points (seven frees) was crucial but the decisive score came from goalkeeper Martin Coleman who drilled home a 21-yard-free on 47 minutes when their challenge was beginning to sink.
Newcestown’s Eoin Kelly was just as efficient from dead balls and he finished with 1-5 (1-4 from frees) – meaning more than half of each sides’ tally came from frees.
The west Cork men will know this game was there for the taking and will rue some costly misses when they had Ballinhassig lined up to be taken out. When Fionn Keane hammered home an excellent goal on the three-quarter mark after collecting a delicious pass from Tadhg Twomey, they led for just the second time by 2-7 to 0-10.
Five minutes prior to that they trailed 1-5 to 0-10 but turned in their most productive spell with Twomey working hard in midfield and Niall O’Sullivan marshalling the defence to good effect.
But it all changed on 46 minutes when corner-forward Michael Collins gathered a long delivery and tunnelled his way goalwards before being upended just outside the square. Sensing their challenge was slipping, Coleman came out of goal to take the free and though it was half blocked, it squirmed into the net for parity.
Thereafter, Kelly and Dineen swapped frees – the latter it must be said, with a terrific equaliser from 65 metres and right under the supporters’ noses and extra-time looked as likely as it would have been fair.
But Ballinhassig had other ideas, and when Dineen slipped a pass to McCarthy out around the middle, the neat-and-tidy midfielder worked an angle and lofted over the winner from 45 metres.
Scorers for Ballinhassig: D Dineen 0-8 (7fs), M Coleman 1-0f, P Coomey, F O’Leary, S Dineen, M Collins, Shane McCarthy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Newcestown: E Kelly 1-5 (1-0pen, 4fs), F Keane 1-1, H Curran, M Bradfield, T Twomey 0-1 each.
BALLINHASSIG: M Coleman; Stephen McCarthy; E Finn, M Desmond; D Healy, M Aherne, B Lombard; D Brennan, Shane McCarthy; D Dineen, D O’Donovan, S Dineen; M Collins, F O’Leary, P Coomey.
Subs: B Coleman for D Healy (inj. 10), D O’Sullivan for D Brennan (ht), M Sheehan for D O’Donovan (48).
NEWCESTOWN: J O’Sullivan; O Keane, J Crowley, K Long; G O’Driscoll, N O’Sullivan, J Desmond; T Twomey, H Curran; F Keane, D Twomey, T Horgan; E Kelly, C Keane, M Bradfield.
Subs: C White for T Horgan (60).
Referee: James Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).