Leading by a point, 0-9 to 1-5, at half-time, the north Cork outfit looked to have swung the outcome irrevocably their way as Dylan O’Callaghan’s goal underpinned a break-neck start to the second half.
The lead stretched to six points at one stage, but Bantry — thanks largely to Shane O’Neill’s dead-ball prowess — got back into contention and a second inspirational point from centre-back Seánie O’Leary had them 1-13 to 1-12 just behind with three minutes left. While Brian O’Reilly set up his brother Colman to give Shanballymore breathing space once more, two minutes of injury-time gave Bantry hope. An attack looked to have broken down only for referee Ger Ahern to give them a free after an advantage didn’t accrue and then dissent saw it brought closer to the goal.
O’Neill converted for his ninth point of the game, but unfortunately for the Carbery side, they couldn’t engineer an equalising chance. When Brian O’Reilly won the break from a Declan Fitzgibbon puck-out and sent over his fifth point, it was Shanballymore’s night. Selector Conor Hannon paid tribute to the belief shown by his side.
“Bantry really upped their game,” he said, “that’ll happen teams in finals, but I was pleased with the composure shown. They kept coming back and we kept pulling away, which is the sign of a good team.”
The opening quarter of the game brought six Shanballymore scores to just one for Bantry, but crucially that was a Darren O’Donovan goal and it kept them in touch, even though their opponents were having the better of proceedings, playing sharper hurling.
Shanballymore weren’t always utilising possession as effectively as possible though and as the half wore on, Bantry began to come more into it. Steven Coughlan’s point brought them to within two points, 0-7 to 1-2, and while Jamie Sheedy’s third point was Shanballymore’s response, three frees from O’Neill — answered only by one more from Sheedy — ensured Bantry had a great chance as they retired at half-time just one point behind.
The dawning of the second half saw a more clinical and efficient Shanballymore, however. Brian O’Reilly got his third point soon after the restart and then Dylan O’Callaghan netted after Bantry midfielder Jack McCarthy had made a heroic block on the line from an Alan Sheedy shot. Another Jamie Sheedy free and another from Brian O’Reilly continued that momentum, Bantry with only a Shane O’Neill free in the opening 10 minutes, and a 1-12 to 1-6 lead looked strong.
O’Leary led the Bantry revival though, with sub Arthur Coakley also on target as they ate into the advantage while Shane O’Neill was deadly accurate. Shanballymore’s nerve was tested but they were resolute and O’Reilly’s late score ensured victory.
B O’Reilly, J Sheedy (four frees) 0-5 each, D O’Callaghan 1-0, J Fitzgerald, M Burke, A Sheedy, C O’Reilly, E O’Regan (65) 0-1.
S O’Neill 0-9 (eight frees, one 65), D O’Donovan 1-0, S O’Leary 0-2, S Coughlan, A Coakley 0-1.
D Fitzgibbon; R Burke, E McHugh, J Dennehy; J Fitzgerald, S Lynch, E O’Regan; M Burke, D Roche; J Sheedy, B Sheedy, B O’Reilly; C O’Reilly, D O’Callaghan, A Sheedy.
P Burke for Fitzgerald (51), K Barry for D Roche (60).
J Connolly; S Hanley, K Harrington, C O’Leary; J Lavin, S O’Leary, R O’Mahony; J McCarthy, J O’Leary; G Hurley, S O’Neill, D O’Donovan; D Barron, M O’Sullivan, S Coughlan.
A Coakley for Lavin (38), S McCarthy for Barron (50).
G Ahern (Canovee).