But Ballincollig soon put paid to any notion of aValley Rovers upset with a fine performance which will make all pretenders take notice.
Valley came into this one with some good league form and had every reason to feel confident. But they found Ballincollig on top of their game, though some notable absentees like Darragh Crowley Aidan Walsh, Darragh Murphy and Eoghan Delaney didn’t help Valley’s cause.
All four appeared during the second-half, but too late to make a difference as Ballincollig’s solid 0-7 to 0-2 interval lead always looked like prevailing on a night the champions played some sublime football.
No wonder manager Mike O’Brien was happy. “In fairness we expected a hard game from Valley’s and we got it. They have been going fantastically well in both football and hurling but we really got things going tonight and with that half time lead I just told the lads to make sure we consolidated it in the second-half. We did just that”.
“It was a very pleasing performance by the lads, real championship stuff at times, and especially after such a long wait. But it’s only one game, when the next one comes around, be it Castlehaven or St. Finbarr’s, we’ll have to be even better prepared..”
Yet it was Valley who opened the brighter with Kevin Canty making a quick impression. And they were first to make the breakthrough on the scoreboard, corner-forward Hugh O’Donovan with a fine point from play and another from a free, all inside six minutes.
But Ballincollig responded well and once they got motoring looked real slick. There were fruitless shouts for a Ballincollig penalty before Cian Dorgan got the champions going with a converted ‘45 and with Paddy Kelly and Dorgan operating as a two-man full-forward line it wasn’t long before they were level, Johnny Kelly having his shot saved by former Cork keeper Alan Quirke and Dorgan pointing his second 45.
Seán Kiely made it 0-3 to 0-2 to Ballincollig after the opening quarter and now the champions began to cut loose, Their defence was majestic, particularly the full back line of Colin Moore, Liam Jennings and Noel Galvin, who was imperious.
Valley’s ploy of delivering high balls into Fiachra Lynch and John Cottrell were continuously snuffed out and with man of the match John Paul Murphy, who only passed a late fitness test, in super form, Rovers didn’t score again in the first-half.
Ballincollig attacked at speed with Pa Kelly always the link man and opened the Valley’s defence almost at will. George Durrant got their fourth point in the 21st minute, Dorgan a fifth two minutes later.
And the champions finished the half with two more points from Dorgan, one after a bit of grand lanceny by Pa Kelly set him up, as they led 0-7 to 0-2 at the break.
Valley’s brought Darragh Crowley and Darragh Murphy into the action for the second-half and they made a difference, scoring as many points in the opening five minutes as in the entire first-half with Hugh O’Donovan and Murphy at midfield on target with a point apiece. Unfortunately, Ballincollig, in the style of champions, responded to those scores with points of their own from another Dorgan free and Durrant’s second from play.
With Sean Kiely and Ciarán O’Sullivan running the show at midfield, the champions now really began to open up and treated the fans to some sweet points - a fabulous Dylan Keirstein effort and an even better one from Pa Kelly after a delicious pass from the non stop J P Murphy.
By the third quarter it was 0-11 to 0-5 to Ballincollig and with Fiachra Lynch getting no change from the excellent Galvin, Valley’s were finding scores hard to come by.
But they never gave up. After John Kelly got Ballincollig’s 12th point, Canty, always in the action, chipped in with two nice Valley’s points and although Ballincollig were sloppy in the closing 10 minutes, last year’s intermediate champions found the gulf in class too much to overcome.
Sean Kiely closed out the game with Ballincollig’s 13th point and with Darragh Murphy getting a late black card from referee Denis O’Leary, Valley’s had to finish the contest with 14 players having used all six substitutes.
C. Dorgan 0-6 (2 45s’, 2 frees), S. Kiely and G. Durrant 0-2 each, D. Keirstein, P. Kelly & J. Kelly 0-1 each.
H. O’Donovan 0-5 (0-3 frees), K. Canty (0-2) & D. Murphy 0-1.
J. Gibbons; C. Moore, L. Jennings, N. Galvin; J.P. Murphy, S. O’Donoghue, D. Keirstein; S. Keily, C. O’Sullivan; G. Durrant, P. Kelly, C. Kiely; J. Kelly, C. Dorgan, A. O’Donovan.
S. Lucey for O’Donoghue (30m, inj.), R. Noonan for O’Donovan (32m), I. Coughlan for J. Kelly (53m) & S. Murphy for J.P. Murphy (57m).
A. Quirke; N. O’Donovan, J. Lynch, T. O’Brien; I. Crowley, D. Lynch, D. Lordan; K. Canty, M. Power; G. Farrell, J. Murphy, J. Walsh; H. O’Donovan, F. Lynch, J. Cottrell.
D. Crowley for Cottrell (ht), D. Murphy for Power (ht), E. Delaney for J. Murphy (40m), E. O’Reilly for Lordan (43m), A. Walsh for N. O’Donovan (46m), B. Crowley for H. O’Donovan (53m), D. Murphy (bc, 56).
D. O’Leary (Kiskeam).