Naomh Abán progressed to the Cork Premier IFC quarter-finals following a thrilling one-point victory over Ballinora in yesterday’s fourth round replay at Cloughduv.
Two sides that served up a pulsating draw at the same venue three weeks previous delivered an equally entertaining encounter with Naomh Abán coming out on top by the narrowest of margins.
The winners overcame two black cards, a missed Micheal Ó Cronín penalty and a failed Ballinora free attempt deep into injury-time before booking their place in the last eight where a tantalising match with Bantry Blues awaits.
“People were critical of our defence in the drawn game when we let in three second-half goals, but we conceded no goals tonight and were very disciplined throughout the hour,” said Naomh Abán’s Donal Ó Cronín.
Micheal Ó Cronín led from the front with six points, but the second-half introduction of 37-year-old former Cork stalwart Anthony Lynch steadied Naomh Abán’s defence at a time their opponents were growing in confidence.
“Anthony came in and steadied the ship for us. He came good for us tonight even though he isn’t in perfect condition, but when our need was greatest he was able to answer the call,” noted Donal Ó Cronín.
As in the drawn game, Ballinora proved more than a match for their opponents with Iain Wycherley, Ben Ahern and Aodán O’Connor in fine form. The Muskerry side came from 0-6 to 0-3 down at the break to lead for the first time after 47 minutes, but an inability to open up Naomh Aban’s defence proved costly.
Michael Murphy had an opportunity to take the game to extra-time but couldn’t convert a difficult free amid a swirling wind and Naomh Abán’s tenacious defending ensured the Gaeltacht side saw out the remaining minutes.
Naomh Abán led 0-4 to 0-2 at the end of a tight opening quarter thanks to Micheal Ó Liathain and Seamus Ó Laoire points, as well as a pair of magnificent Micheal Ó Cronín efforts. Iain Wycherley was Ballinora’s main attacking threat of the opening 30 minutes and scored all three of his side’s points before the half time whistle blew.
Naomh Abán lost Diarmaid Ó Liathan to a black card shortly before the interval but his replacement Diarmuid Ó Ceallaigh made an instant impact by floating over a terrific score.
The sides changed ends with Ballinora trailing 0-6 to 0-3, but with a strengthening wind at their backs.
Leading 0-7 to 0-4 in the 34th minute, Naomh Abán were presented with a glorious opportunity to put the game out of reach when Micheal Ó Laoire was fouled in the square.
Micheal Ó Cronín stepped forward but sent his penalty off the upright and away to safety.
Ballinora responded positively to that let off with consecutive braces from Ben Ahern and Michael Murphy plus a fine Aodán O’Connor effort moving the red and green a point clear with 13 minutes to go.
Micheal Ó Cronín came to his side’s rescue with three superb points in the closing stages and Naomh Abán’s defence stood firm in the face of incessant Ballinora attacks to cement a 0-10 to 0-9 win.
Scorers for Naomh Abán: M Ó Cronín (0-6, 3fs), M Ó Liathain, S Ó Laoire, M Ó Duinin and D Ó Ceallaigh (0-1 each).
Scorers for Ballinora: I Wycherley (0-4), B Ahern (0-2, 45 1f), M Murphy (0-2, 1f), A O’Connor (0-1).
NAOMH ABÁN: M Ó Donnchu; C Ó Deasuna, S Ó Mathuna T Ó hAiliosa; D Ó Scanaill, S Ó Riada, L Mac Suibhne; M Ó Laoire, T Ó Scanaill; S Ó Laoire, M Ó Liathain, N Ó Ceallaigh; M Ó Duinin, M Ó Cronín, D Ó Liathain.
Subs: D Ó Ceallaigh for D Ó Liathain (bc, 23), A Lynch for D Ó Scannaill (36), S MacCarthaigh for M Ó Liathain (53), D Ó Suilleabhain (57).
BALLINORA: C O’Connor; D O’Neill, M Lordan, T Crotty; C Murphy, B Ahern, T McGrath; M Hodge, A O’Connor; I Wycherley, G O’Halloran, A O’Neill; P Fitton, C Brosnan, M Murphy.
Subs: J O’Regan for T McGrath (50), D Holmes for C Murphy (55).
Referee: J Bermingham (Bride Rovers).