In a bruising encounter, it was level at half time, level at full time and level again after extra-time and now Ballinhassig must travel to Limerick on Saturday for the replay.
Clem Smith felt his Ballybrown charges gave it their all. “After winning the county final last weekend we came down with the pressure off of us,’’ he said. “So, we just went out and asked the lads to hurl as best they could. To be fair they gave it everything.’’
The game opened with a trademark Martin Coleman goal from a close range free. Ballybrown chipped away at the lead with points from James Hall, Alan O’Connor, Michael Kiely and Kyle Loftus and they reached the break on level terms courtesy of excellent points from Shane Kenny and O’Connor (1-6 to 0-9).
However, before the interval Ballinhassig’s Declan O’Sullivan was red-carded after an altercation with a player near the touchline.
The sides were still locked at the three-quarter mark but Ballybrown looked to have done enough with star scorer Alan O’Connor in scintillating form, returning an outstanding 12 points. Not to be outdone, Darren Dineen, although he missed a couple of frees, spearheaded the Ballinhassig fight-back although it was Paul Coomey who proved the hero with the equalising point in stoppage time.
Ballinhassig started extra-time with 15 players. And at the end of the first period, the visitors held a one-point advantage with a Dineen free sandwiched in between points from O’Connor and Shane Kenny. The drama intensified in the second period of extra-time and when the referee blew for a Ballinhassig close-in free Martin Coleman was already on his way upfield. A point behind, the netminder went for goal but his effort was brilliantly saved. However, referee Fergal Horgan awarded a penalty for another foul and again the Limerick champions cleared their lines.
The suspense was tangible as a Darren Dineen free levelled the game two minutes from time. Coleman stood over another placed ball for the win, but it was from distance, and tailed wide.
Ballinhassig selector Peter Brennan admitted this was a hard-fought game. “It was a right tough championship game for this time of the year,’’ he said.
“There isn’t a puck of the ball between us. Maybe we will get a bit more out of some of our big name players the next day.”
Scorers for Ballinhassig: D Dineen 0-10 (0-9 frees), M Coleman 1-0 (free), S Dineen and F O’Leary 0-2 each, M Sheehan, S McCarthy and P Coomey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballybrown: A O’Connor 0-12 (0-7 frees, 0-3 65s), S Kenny 0-4, J Hall 0-2, K Loftus and M Kiely 0-1 each.
BALLINHASSIG: M Coleman; S McCarthy, E Finn, M Desmond; M Sheehan, M Aherne, B Lombard; B Coleman, S McCarthy; D Dineen (Capt), P Coomey, S Dineen; P O’Sullivan, F O’Leary, M Collins.
Subs: B O’Sullivan for S McCarthy (15 inj), D O’Sullivan for M Collins (20 inj), D O’Donovan for P O’Sullivan (56).
BALLYBROWN: D Lyons; R Burke Jnr, J Kennedy, S O’Reilly; I Burke, R Kenny, D Kenny (Capt); S Foster, J Hall; K Loftus, B Griffin, S Kenny; M Kiely, A O’Connor, D Hall.
Subs: P Hartigan for S Foster (40), A Roberts for I Burke (42), P McCarthy for M Kiely, E Loftus for D Hall (both 46), B Quinn for K Loftus (59), A Cliffe for B Quinn, K Loftus for P Hartigan (both 76).
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).