Despite spotting Coláiste Choilm an early lead of 1-1 to 0-0, the 2015 defeated finalists battled back to lead by a point at half-time and though a good start to the second half was undone by the concession of another goal, once again they dug deep to secure the two points.
Three points in a row from corner-forward Conor Russell were key in turning the tie Rochestown’s way in the final quarter while goalscorers Liam Grainger and Colin O’Mahony both showed up well and full-back Eoghan Riordan got in some vital blocks too.
On the Ballincollig side, corner-forward Eolan O’Leary got some nice points, Fionán O’Donovan also had his moments, while Seán Warren took both of his goals nicely. In addition, corner-back William Ronan rarely put a foot wrong and they will rue a couple of small things which could have turned the encounter their way.
They could hardly have wished for a better start. Centre back Luke Fahy — another who impressed — pointed within 15 seconds of the throw-in and then O’Donovan’s high ball was taken down by Warren, who finished to the net with a ground shot.
Roco were rocked, but found a response in the seventh minute as early sub O’Mahony fired a powerful shot past Eoin Curzon from a tight angle, and they would score three of the next four points to take the lead by the 11th minute, centre-forward Matthew McAuliffe setting the tempo.
Three points from O’Leary and one from Jack Murphy, following a good interception, turned the game Coláiste Choilm’s way once as they led by 1-6 to 1-3 with half-time approaching, but they were suckered before the break.
First, Grainger’s point attempt dropped low and lopped into the net, and then Russell, quiet until then, drilled a long-range free into the wind and over the bar for the interval lead.
James Holland, from a narrow angle, and Russell, with a boomer, extended the advantage on the resumption. However, O’Leary pulled a point back after he linked with Murphy and then Warren got his second goal, palming home from the handpass of the hardworking wing-forward Rob Burke following Fahy’s delivery.
That made it 2-7 to 2-6 and Warren might have had a hat-trick goal but for a good Riordan stop on the line. Russell’s leveller was answered by O’Donovan but it was the last time Ballincollig led.
Grainger’s fine point tied the game again before Russell went into overdrive, though at the other end David O’Keeffe denied O’Leary a Ballincollig goal. O’Donovan also went close, shooting wide after Fahy’s delivery broke and, while he nailed two good 45s, Rochestown were always able to respond. James Holland scored the clincher in injury time to set them up nicely for a place in the knockout stages.
C Russell (0-6, 3 frees); L Grainger, C O’Mahony (1-1 each); J Holland (0-3); M McAuliffe, A Hennessy (0-1 each).
S Warren (2-1); E O’Leary (0-4, 1 free), F O’Donovan (0-4, 2 45s); J Murphy, L Fahy (0-1 each).
D O’Keeffe (Douglas); D Corkery (St Michael’s), E Riordan (Carrigaline), A Murphy (Shamrocks); J Lyons (Nemo Rangers), N Walsh (Douglas), R Coleman (St Michael’s); L Grainger (St Michael’s), C Denn (St Michael’s); A Hennessy (St Michael’s), M McAuliffe (Douglas), D Nason (Douglas); J Holland (Douglas), B Powter (Douglas), C Russell (Douglas).
C O’Mahony (Douglas) for Nason (5, injured), S Downey (Shamrocks) for Denn (56, injured), G Walker (Carrigaline) for Powter (59).
E Curzon (Kilmurry); W Ronan (Kilmurry), F Warren (Kilmurry), S Walsh (Ballincollig); E Kiely (Dr Crokes, Kerry), L Fahy (Ballincollig), S Quigley (Éire Óg); C O’Callaghan (Éire Óg), J Murphy (Éire Óg); R Burke (Ballincollig), J O’Sullivan (Éire Óg), C Bennett (Inniscarra); E O’Leary (Macroom), F O’Donovan (Ballincollig), S Warren (Kilmurry).
F Denny (Ballincollig) for Bennett (43), R O’Donovan (Ballincollig) for Kiely (54).
J Larkin (Ballinora).