Leading 3-8 to 1-3 at half-time, the Rockies had to play the second-half with 14 men after Ger Regan, who scored 1-4, had been sent off in first-half injury time. A Na Piarsaigh side which had laboured badly began to find its rhythm and the gap was two goals, 3-14 to 1-14, when Keith Buckley bundled the ball to the Blackrock net after John Gardiner’s delivery.
Referee Cathal McAllister ruled the goal out, however, and though Na Piarsaigh did get a pair of late points, the margin proved too much to overhaul.
A relieved Blackrock manager John Browne was pleased with that adjudication.
“We got lucky in the end, I think,” he said.
“The ref called a square ball, if that goal had gone in then we’d have been under a lot of pressure for the last minute or so. I think we played well in the first-half and playing 35 minutes on a hot night with 14 men was tough, so credit to the lads. The sending-off was the turning point, really, but we won and that’s the main thing.”
The former Cork defender is well aware of the double-edged sword presented by a first-round win, however. Last year, the Rockies overcame Killeagh first time out but then lost to Ballymartle in the fourth round more than three months later, the south-east side having played two more games.
“The difficulty now is when we’ll play again,” Browne said.
“Last year, you’d wonder if it was better to win the first round or not. It all depends on Cork but the situation is a bit of a disaster.
“We were prepared for two weeks ago and it was postponed four or five days beforehand. The clubs have to be looked after better than that, ourselves and Piarsaigh were both missing players who would have been around for the original date.”
Regardless of who they were missing, much of Blackrock’s play for the opening 30 minutes was sparkling, even allowing for the wastage in the form of seven wides. Regan was in unplayable form, winning balls with ease, and his goal in the 19th minute, when he flicked to the net from Kevin O’Keeffe free from deep, made it 2-5 to 0-1.
Patrick Deasy had already breached the Piarsaigh rearguard two minutes previously after nice play involving Shane O’Keeffe and David Cashman, and though Chris Joyce responded to Regan’s strike with a Piarsaigh goal, Blackrock responded emphatically.
Cashman and Regan had fine points before Eoin O’Farrell fed Deasy, who showed great pace before firing across Darragh O’Connell and in for a 3-7 to 1-2 lead.
Each side had another point before the interval but the main incident was Regan’s dismissal for an off-the-ball occurrence, with little dissent from those in green and gold.
The numerical disadvantage didn’t seem to be of great effect as Shane O’Keeffe extended the lead on the resumption and Na Piarsaigh’s Pádraig Gould had a tame 20m free saved, but then the northsiders began to find their groove.
More direct play yielded a greater return, even if the wides tally was building, but Keith Buckley was in great form, scoring seven points between the 35th and 52nd minutes, Eoin Moynihan and Gardiner also weighing in.
Though Blackrock sub Olann Kelleher did steady things somewhat with two scores, it was 3-13 to 1-13 with six minutes left. Deasy could have put the issue beyond doubt when he was played through and his shot did beat O’Connell but full-back Darren Mannix managed to get a brilliant flick to divert the ball to safety.
At the other end, Joyce kicked a goal effort wide and then as the pressure mounted, Buckley had his non-goal. In the end, it was a case of restored pride after the first half but they must now await the losers of tomorrow’s Newtownshandrum-Youghal clash.
Scorers for Blackrock: P Deasy 2-0, G Regan 1-4, D Cashman 0-5 (one free, one 65), S O’Keeffe, O Kelleher (one free) 0-2 each, K O’Keeffe 0-1 (free).
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: K Buckley 0-8 (three frees, two 65s), P Gould 0-3 (one free), C Joyce 1-0, E Moynihan 0-2, J Gardiner, P O’Rourke, C Buckley 0-1 each.
BLACKROCK: A Long; S Murphy, B Aherne, R Laide; A Murphy, E Smith, G Norberg; D O’Farrell, K O’Keeffe; C O’Leary, S O’Keeffe, E O’Farrell; G Regan, D Cashman, P Deasy.
Subs: O Kelleher for Cashman (44), A O’Callaghan for O’Leary (45), R Dineen for Smith (50), M Ryan for E O’Farrell (59).
NA PIARSAIGH: D O’Connell; A Brady, D Mannix, E Moynihan; R McGregor, S Óg Ó hAilpín, J Gardiner; Anthony Dennehy, C Joyce; P O’Rourke, C O’Mahony, K Buckley; A Kenneally, P Gould, C Buckley.
Subs: Adam Dennehy for Brady, D Lee for O’Mahony, S O’Sullivan for Kenneally (all half-time), S Duggan for C Buckley (43).
Referee: C McAllister (Aghada).