Coming off the back of a strong league campaign, Ballyhea recorded an excellent win over Mallow in the first round of the Cork Premier IHC at Buttevant on Saturday.
They may have stuttered a little early on, but an impressive 10-point haul in the fourth quarter left the outcome in no doubt, confining Mallow to the round two route against either Carrigaline or Kilworth, who play next weekend.
Mallow have been struggling to find form this season, yet they led briefly in the first half and were just a point behind after the restart.
Defensively they competed well but they were too reliant on Sean Hayes for their scores. In contrast, once Ballyhea settled, there was a great display of point-scoring from Pa O’Callaghan, Neil Ronan, John Morrissey and Eugene O’Leary.
In his first year in charge of Ballyhea, manager Jimmy Quilty sees plenty to work with.
“There was a bit of championship nerves in the first half,” he said. “That is understandable. We got killed on breaks but once we got on top of that we were very confident we had the hurling. We have a hell of a lot of work done.
“Ballyhea are deemed to be inconsistent. But I see them first hand and once they are working to a pattern and everyone is working together they are a phenomenal outfit. They are an honest bunch of lads.
“They are hurting for the last few years. They want to right the wrongs and finish it off. It is a relief to get the first round over, I think we will drive on after this.”
Ballyhea went 0-5 to 0-2 ahead but were hauled back when Mallow struck for a brace of goals within five minutes. Sean Hayes landed the first while Conor Stokes finished the second. Ballyhea never panicked though, answering with some outstanding point-taking and by the 20th minute had regained the initiative, 0-10 to 2-2.
In between, Mallow goalkeeper Padraig Buckley pulled off two brilliant saves to keep his team in contention.
Mallow could have snatched the lead only for Michael Browne’s fantastic stop from Patrick Herlihy. Instead, it was O’Callaghan who recorded his sixth point to give Ballyhea an interval advantage of 0-12 to 2-4.
Herlihy raised a white flag to leave wind-assisted Mallow just one point adrift two minutes into the second half. But hopes of a comeback were dashed almost immediately when John Morrissey found the net following a link-up with Ronan.
Mallow stayed in the game courtesy of four pointed frees from Sean Hayes, but they had no answer to Ballyhea in the final quarter. Ten points to one they were outscored as sub Ian Curtin rounded off a good day for the Black and White.
Scorers for Ballyhea: P O’Callaghan (0-11, 8fs, 1 65), J Morrissey (1-3), N Ronan (1f), and E O’Leary (0-4 each), D Copps, I Curtin and K Morrissey (0-1 each).
Scorers for Mallow: S Hayes (1-8, 7fs), C Stokes (1-0), P Herlihy and M Maher (0-1 each).
BALLYHEA: M Browne; O O’Sullivan, M Morrissey, A O’Connor; J McCarthy, B Coleman, S Dennehy (capt); M O’Sullivan, K Morrissey; P O’Callaghan, N Ronan, D Copps; E O’Leary, J O’Sullivan, J Morrissey.
Subs: E Morrissey for J O’Sullivan (ht), T O’Sullivan for J McCarthy (50), I Curtin for D Copps (52).
MALLOW: P Buckley; C Hannon, F O’Neill, A Luttrell; J Hayes, C Murphy, K O’Connor; P Herlihy, P Healy; K Sheehan (capt), M Maher, A Sheehan; M Roche, S Hayes, C Stokes.
Subs: R Downey for C Stokes (49), Y Browne for P Healy (56).
Referee: Brian Murphy (Carrigtwohill).