Since being relegated last year, the objective was to get to the Cork Premier IHC final. Well, they have, and they have done it in style, not giving Inniscarra an inch.
On a perfect Saturday evening in Páirc Uí Rinn, the Muskerry team were forced to play a secondary role. Trailing by 11 points at the break, they did improve somewhat but Ballinhassig had this tie wrapped up well inside the opening quarter.
“Last year in the senior grade we felt we didn’t do ourselves justice,” explained Ballinhassig selector Peter Brennan.
“Relegation was what we got out of it. We said this year was going to be the hardest. If we didn’t make it back to a final at least, we would be in trouble because the first year is always the year to get back up if we could.”
Despite losing midfielder Shane McCarthy to injury after just six minutes, Ballinhassig set out their stall early. Backed by the strong breeze, five points on the trot arrived before corner-forward Paul O’Sullivan showed amazing skill to pilfer a goal midway through the half.
“The goal was a big score from Paul,” admitted Brennan. “It came from a dead ball. He just kept chasing it and finished it to the net. It is his first championship game this year. We put him in based on his form in training. He has pace to burn. That ball was going nowhere and he never gave up and he finished it to the net.”
The half-time scoreboard was lopsided, 1-11 to 0-1. Aidan O’Mahony posted the Inniscarra point whilst Kevin Burke and Stephen Olden worked tirelessly at the back. Three subs were introduced before the break but when Michael Collins had the sliotar in the net a mere 22 seconds after the resumption, hopes of any sort of a revival diminished.
O’Mahony proceeded to notch seven of the Inniscarra points, while all of the Ballinhassig higher numbers scored. Free-taker Darren Dineen hit five, Fintan O’Leary three, midfielders Brendan Coleman and David Brennan pointed too. Their defence water-tight. Then, with 10 minutes to go Inniscarra took another hit when corner-back Brian O’Keeffe received a second yellow card and they had to finish out with 14 men.
Ballinhassig favourites for the final then?
“We are only favourites because we were senior for the last five or six years,” said Brennan.
“We’ve had a tough passage to get to the final. The Newcestown and Ballyhea games were right down to the wire. People might forget about those games when they see today’s game. Getting to the final is a big boost. And the lads have been there before. I’m sure there is another big game in them.”
Scorers for Ballinhassig: P O’Sullivan 1-4, D Dineen 0-5fs, M Collins 1-1, F O’Leary 0-3, P Coomey, M Aherne (f), B Coleman, D Brennan, S Dineen 0-1 each.
Scorers for Inniscarra: A O’Mahony 0-7 (5fs), C Buckley and A Sheehan 0-1 each.
BALLINHASSIG: M Coleman; Stephen McCarthy, E Finn, M Desmond; M Sheehan, M Aherne, B Lombard; B Coleman, Shane McCarthy; D Dineen, P Coomey, S Dineen; P O’Sullivan, F O’Leary, M Collins.
Subs: D Brennan for Shane McCarthy (6 inj), D O’Donovan for P Coomey (48).
INNISCARRA: J O’Keeffe; K Burke, J O’Callaghan, B O’Keeffe; T O’Regan, P Kavanagh, S Olden; F Olden, J Casey; A O’Mahony, A Sheehan, J Olden; C Buckley, D O’Connell, C Casey.
Subs: L Ó Riain for J Casey (26), R O’Connor for D O’Connell, S O’Callaghan for F Olden (both 32), T Murphy for J Olden (45), J Casey for S O’Callaghan (50 inj).
Referee: C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).