Two late second half goals put an added gloss on Ballinhassig’s win but, in the final analysis, the Blues were full value for victory and set up a meeting with the winners of Carrigaline-Mallow clash in round two.
Replete with arguably the most skilful set of hurlers playing hurling at this grade, and allied to the sideline brainpower of 1990 All Ireland senior hurling winner Seán McCarthy, Ballinhassig will be one of the favourites to breast the winner’s tape at this grade.
Managed by Peter Brennan, the Blues will face tougher obstacles in the 2016 Championship but they got a good test – particularly in the first half - against a competitive Tracton outfit, one that was forced to line out minus the services of former Kerry hurler, Shane Brick.
Tracton were in the hunt for victory at half-time, trailing by two points (1-8 to 0-9) but, when Ballinhassig upped the tempo on the three-quarter mark, the Minane Bridge club were unable to respond to the opposition’s new-found firepower.
The stats tell most of the story of a game that, on occasions, had a derby feistiness to it. Ballinhassig’s inside forward triumvirate of Patrick Collins, Fintan O’Leary and Daniel O’Callaghan amassed 3-18, with former Cork senior panellist O’Leary notching 1-10 full-forward.
O’Leary’s footwork, stick-work and positional sense were a joy to behold while it also helped that he, Collins and O’Callaghan had a hard-working half forward line in Colin Reynolds, Cillian Tyers and Michael Ahern all of whom helped boost the supply of ball to the inside line.
In the backs, the quietly efficient Seán Coleman, Eddie Finn and in particular, Michael Desmond, were prominent over sixty-plus minutes, while Martin Coleman provided further solidity between the posts.
Tracton relied heavily on the excellent free-taking of Ronan Walsh. They can also take some comfort from their first half efforts that saw them level with Ballinhassig on three occasions thanks in the main to the excellent hurling of Sean O’Sullivan, John Good, Kieran and Billy Lynch and David O’Callaghan, the latter who popped up with three excellent points over the hour.
Their cause wasn’t helped when Kieran Lynch saw red in the 47th minute, although that flashpoint came at a moment when Ballinhassig were very much in the ascendancy.
After Fintan O’Leary goaled inside 20 seconds, Tracton knuckled down and, by the 20th minute, Seán O’Sullivan’s point levelled affairs for the first time (1-3 to 0-6). And when Gar Kingston landed a lovely point in the 25th minute to push Tracton in front, the Blues knew they had a game on their hands.
Ballinhassig did finish strongest with points from Michael Desmond and two from the outstanding O’Leary.
On the turnover a new Ballinhassig emerged. Moving the ball faster and running at their opponents when necessary, the openings soon appeared. Colin Reynolds was unlucky not to have goaled in the 34th minute and, while Ballinhassig were playing all the hurling, Tracton somehow kept in touch with John Good particularly impressive.
A run of five points in five minutes saw the Blues move into a 1-18 to 0-13 lead by the 49th minute and, though O’Sullivan and Walsh kept Tracton in touch, they could now match Ballinhassig’s high tempo game that saw them finish complete the job with a flourish with two excellent goals from Daniel O’Callaghan and Patrick Collins.
F O’Leary (1-10, 5 frees); D O’Callaghan and P Collins (1-4 each); M Desmond (0-2); M Aherne, C Reynolds and S McCarthy (0-1 each).
R Walsh (0-8, frees); D O’Callaghan, S O’Sullivan (1 free) (0-3 each); G Kingston (0-2), D Griffin and K Lynch (0-1 each).
M Coleman; S Coleman, E Finn, C Reynolds; M Desmond, D O’Donovan, S Sheehan; C O’Mahony, S McCarthy; C Reynolds, C Tyers, M Aherne; P Collins, F O’Leary, D O’Callaghan.
D O’Neill; J Lynch, G Jagoe, B Lynch; K Healy, K Corrigan, T McGuinness; J Good, K Lynch; R Walsh, S O’Sullivan, J Kingston; G Kingston, D O’Callaghan, D Griffin.
C McGuinness for J Kingston (21).
Joe Larkin (Douglas)