From 2008 to 2011 inclusive, each campaign involved a first-round defeat and subsequent negotiation of the backdoor stage, with exertions there often contributing to defeat later on as great potential never fulfilled itself.
Saturday night’s victory over St Finbarr’s in Páirc Uí Rinn was the third year in a row they have overcome the first hurdle, even if a hefty turnaround was required. Seven minutes into the second half, they trailed the city side by 1-4 to 0-2 but managed to claw their way back. Sub Ian Coughlan’s goal levelled at 1-7 each and they powered on from there.
Battling spirit has not always been evident in the recent past, but Ballincollig manager Michael O’Brien hailed the effort put in by his side.
“From the start of the year, they have shown great character,” he said.
“We had a lapse against Carbery Rangers in the Tadhg Crowley Cup final, but we had three weeks to get ready and you saw there what we were capable of.
“At half-time, we just said we had to be patient in front of goal. We were only four points down and we had made a couple of mistakes to give them scores so the message was to keep patient, wait until you were in a scoring position and go for the point.”
Though the first half yielded just a point for Ballincollig, they were not being outclassed by the Barr’s, who had 1-2 on the scoreboard at the interval.
The goal was the opening score, coming in the third minute. Though Ballincollig’s Noel Galvin presented Barr’s full-forward Patrick Wiley with a gift in the form of a handpass 15 yards from goal, a good finish was still required and Wiley dispatched his shot to the top corner.
An Eoghan McGreevy free followed and with the Barr’s pressing high up the pitch, Ballincollig could not make much of an incision. While the withdrawal of John Miskella to a deep role helped them to get a handle, the shooting was still poor.
Cian Dorgan’s free was all they had to show for the first-half efforts, Colin Lyons with the other Barr’s point after Galvin got a great deflecting block on a goal effort.
When McGreevy extended the advantage early in the second period and the Ballincollig wides tally reached 10, a deviation from the pattern was not something anybody could foresee.
In Miskella and Patrick Kelly, Ballincollig had valuable experience though and midfielder Seán Kiely was working tirelessly against his Cork U21 colleague Ian Maguire. Kelly pointed and then set up Niall Allen before Miskella added another to leave it 1-4 to 0-5. Though Kevin Hodgins and McGreevy looked to have killed any momentum accruing with a pair of Barr’s points, Ballincollig now had their opponents in their sights and clung on gamely.
The game turned on four scores between the 50th and 53rd minutes. First, Kelly profited from Kiely’s run to leave a goal in it and then Coughlan, not long on, got that when he fisted home after Declan Murphy had done well to save his first attempt following good work by Ciarán O’Sullivan and Liam Jennings.
Dorgan put them ahead for the first time in the match and when Cork minor Cian Kiely strode forward from wing-back to add another, the landscape had altered irrevocably.
McGreevy gave the Barr’s hope with his fifth point, but now they were the ones malfunctioning in front of goal and they could not find a leveller, much to O’Brien’s relief.
“It’s critical to win,” he said, “because if you lose one or two games, you are under pressure.
“It’s great to be in the next round. The hurlers are out in four weeks so they can concentrate on that and we’ll drive on again then.”
Scorers for Ballincollig: C Dorgan (0-3, 2fs), I Coughlan (1-0), P Kelly (0-2), C Kiely, C O’Sullivan, N Allen, J Miskella (0-1 each).
Scorers for St Finbarr’s: E McGreevy (0-5, 4fs), P Wiley (1-0), C Lyons, K Hodgins, I Power (0-1 each).
BALLINCOLLIG: D Lordan; C Moore, L Jennings, N Galvin; L Prendergast, S O’Donoghue, C Kiely; S Kiely, C O’Sullivan; G Durrant, P Kelly, N Allen; J Kelly, C Dorgan, J Miskella.
Subs: D Kerstein for Galvin (44-47, blood), I Coughlan for J Kelly (46), R Noonan for Miskella (60).
ST FINBARR’S: D Murphy; A O’Connor, J Burns, R O’Dwyer; J Goggin, M Shields, G O’Connor; E Keane, I Maguire; E McGreevy, C Lyons, E Dennehy; K Hodgins, P Wiley, R O’Mahony.
Subs: I Power for Dennehy (36), D Quinn for O’Connor (60).
Referee: J Bermingham (Bride Rovers).