Seven games later, the mid-Cork side stand 60 minutes away from a second title in three years, as they face Carbery Rangers in Sunday’s final (3.45pm), aiming to repeat their 2014 final victory against the same opposition.
Given how thing have panned out, it’s little wonder that Ballincollig talisman Patrick Kelly cites that loss as having provided the push required.
“It has turned out to be a great thing for us,” he says, “it gave us a kick up the backside and has probably shaped our summer.
“I think the first round is kind of losing its value. They’re good competitive games and it’s the first game out but we knew the draw afterwards wasn’t the toughest.
“We weren’t really a team at that stage at all, we had three lads away with Cork U21s, and we played poorly on the day; Bishopstown were better than us, but it’s not the catastrophe that it used to be.
“Previously, if you lose in the first round you were one game away from crisis whereas now…I wouldn’t say it was handy but we avoided big teams when we were at our most vulnerable.”
It hasn’t been all plain sailing since then, with the fourth-round tie against Cork IT needing a replay and then reigning champions Nemo Rangers leading by 1-3 to 0-0 in the semi-final before Ballincollig ground their way back into the game.
That game provided evidence of a composure and belief within the Ballincollig team, Kelly feels.
“I was never really panicky in the first half, we were against a strong wind,” he says.
“If they had got that penalty that would have put them eight or nine up, then it would have been a different story but Seán Kiely’s goal brought it back to three points and then we went in only down by two at half-time, maybe deserving to in five or six down.
“Small things like that went our way, I suppose a lot of it is mental strength and experience.
“It’s often said that teams playing Nemo or the Haven are nearly beaten beforehand. We certainly felt that we had a good team and a good panel and that we could match them pound for pound, the big thing for us was being able to hold their forwards and then seeing if our forwards could get enough scores.
“It was a lowish-scoring match, which probably suited us, but we never felt as if they were a lot better than us.” Now, the task is to overcome Carbery Rangers again. Does the 2014 victory give Ballincollig an edge, or will their Rosscarbery opponents be motivated by revenge?
“After Dublin-Mayo, it was the same story,” Kelly says, “they were saying that Mayo had to be hungrier and it had to count for something, Dublin go and win it and then it’s their experience that won it, you don’t know until afterwards.
“They’re two evenly matched teams, they were six or seven up on us in the final two years ago, they’ve consistently been in semi-finals, and they’re top of the league.
“They’re a better team than they were two years ago, judging by their personnel alone. It’s easy to be wise in hindsight but I’d be surprised if there were more than two or three points in it either way.”