Central to that collapse was a virtuoso performance up front by Cork senior hurling sub-keeper Darren McCarthy, a deadly 1-3 in eight minutes early in that second-half. The goal was a pure peach in the 41st minute, an outrageous piece of opportunism, the score that broke the back of the Courcey challenge.
Courcey’s keeper Stephen Nyhan, who had been having a fine game, won possession in front of goals but rather than just clearing the area, he opted – as do so many keepers these days – to be a little more adventurous and brought the ball out towards the corner scanning upfield for the outlet pass. He was put under immediate pressure though by both Brian Corry and McCarthy who scented blood. They hunted him down, robbed him of possession and no-one had bothered to cover the Courcey goal-line which was a fatal error. Though only about 25m from goal and out on the sideline – a challenging distance and angle — Darren shot between the posts into an empty net. That score put Ballymartle six points in front (1-12 to 0-9) and there would be no looking back.
“Our ultimate ambition is to go further but at this stage you don’t even think of anything else,” said manager Johnny Crowley. “First round of the championship, two teams that know each other well, neither touted as potential county winners. The first ambition is to just maintain senior status and win the first round. Because of that I think we were very tense in the first-half. We knew they’d come at us like a ton of bricks and they did. We got good scores but we weren’t scrapping, we weren’t on the second-phase ball, too much loose play.
“In the second-half we wanted fellas to be a small bit less tense, to get back to hurling, to have a bit more belief in themselves and I think we did that. We were much sharper after half-time but Darren’s cheeky little goal really gave us the confidence to drive on, we played very good hurling after that.”
The first-half had indeed been a scrappy affair, tit for tat with neither side taking the initiative. Daire Lordan was lording it for Courcey Rovers up front, scorer of five points, full-forward Niall Murphy with a brace (got another two in the second-half), with Seamus Hayes also in on the act. For Ballymartle, a wider spread of scorers, all three half-forwards – Barry Dwyer, Keith Fitzpatrick and Dan Dwyer – in on the act, the oft-mentioned Darren McCarthy with another but it was will-o-the-wisp corner-forward Jamie Dwyer who most impressed, four points from four shots to leave them 0-9 to 0-8 up at the break.
The second-half though was practically all one-way traffic, McCarthy’s early blast setting Ballymartle on their way. Their second goal came in the 50th minute, Brian Corry on the end of a fine move, put them 2-14 to 0-11 clear, their third with just minutes to go and game already wrapped up, from Ruairi Dwyer.
“We started flat after half-time, conceded easy goals,” conceded Courcey’s manager Billy Lordan. “I can’t put my finger on it, it’s been happening in the league as well. We had a few chances of goals in the first-half and at this level you have to take those. We did. They didn’t. Beaten by the better team, I wish them the best of luck now in the championship.”
Scorers for Ballymartle: D McCarthy (1-5, 1f), J Dwyer (0-4), R Dwyer (1-1), B Corry (1-0), S O’Mahony, B Dwyer (0-2 each), D Dwyer, K Fitzpatrick (0-1 each).
Scorers for Courcey Rovers: D Lordan (0-9, 5fs), N Murphy (0-4), S Hayes, T Lordan (0-1 each).
BALLYMARTLE: D McCarthy; C Coleman, M Tobin, D Edmonds; S Corry, P Dwyer, J Kelly; R Cahalane, S O’Mahony; B Dwyer, K Fitzpatrick, D Dwyer; J Dwyer, B Corry, D McCarthy.
Subs: R Dwyer for Kelly (30), K McCarthy for B Dwyer (56).
COURCEY ROVERS: S Nyhan; J Duggan, G Moloney, C Daly; D Lordan, V Hurley, T Lordan; G Moloney (c), K Moloney; S Moloney, S Hayes, S Lordan; D Lordan, N Murphy, S Holland.
Subs: G Minihane for Holland (43), J O’Reilly for Hayes (48), O Gately for G Moloney (48).
Referee: C Lane (Banteer).