You could argue Ballinhassig were lucky enough to win Saturday evening’s Cork PIHC quarter-final in Midleton on the basis that Fr. O’Neills made more of the running in a terrific contest.
At the same time, understrength Ballinhassig were full value for their victory as they fought bravely all through and at a time when it was shaping up like a draw, ensured victory with a late Stephen Sheehan goal.
That was after Conor Desmond had brought them level and reserve Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins then put them in front two minutes into injury time with a massive free from inside his own half.
It was controversial because the free could very well have gone the other way and when, in Ballinhassig’s next attack, the ball ended up in the net after an error by excellent ‘keeper Paudie Higgins it was all over.
Winning manager John O’Sullivan readily conceded that the game could have gone ‘either way’ and the goal had been ‘fortuitous.’ “We gave them scores whereas we were working hard for ours,” he commented. “But, we bided our time and it was going to come.”
Scores were level four times in a pulsating opening half with Fr. O’Neills seizing the initiative with a goal from Declan Dalton’s well struck penalty in the 4th minute. Inspired by Donnacha O’Donovan at centre-back and, with the experienced Fintan O’Leary prominent in their attack, Ballinhassig went in front for the first time through Michael Collins’ goal in the 15th minute after he was placed by Declan O’Sullivan. However, the better balanced Fr. O’Neills didn’t take long to regain the lead through the industrious Kevin O’Sullivan and two scores from Dalton – one superbly struck from around midfield – helped them to a 1-11 to 1-9 interval lead.
The second half was even more competititve with Patrick Collins, whose goalkeeping was outstanding, putting over a free from near his own 65 metre line and Michael Collins equalising from play. That was in the 36th minute and it was to Fr. O’Neills’ credit that once again they responded to a growing threat with points from Kevin O’Sullivan and two from Dalton in an eight-minute spell.
During this time, and later, it was noteworthy that the earlier threat from the Ballinhassig full-forward line had been largely nullified, helped by tight marking and the use of substitute Mark O’Keeffe in a sweeper role. The sense of drama was intensified by the wastage of scoring opportunities on both sides, but improved play from Ballinhassig had them level by the 54th minute.
Again, Fr. O’Neills had the confidence – and the ability – to open up a two points gap before the impressive Sean Coleman gave Ballinhassig hope with a well-struck free from far out on the left wing. Almost immediately, Brendan Lombard set up Conor Desmond for an equaliser and then came the match-winning scores from Collins and Sheehan.
S. Coleman (0-6, 2f, 1 ’65); M. Collins (1-2); S. Sheehan (1-1); F. O’Leary (0-3); P. Collins (0-2 frees); P. Coomey, D. O’Sullivan and C. Desmond 0-1 each.
D. Dalton (1-5, 1-3 frees); K. O’Sullivan (0-5, 2f); E. Conway (0-2); S. O’Connor, C. Broderick, G. O’Leary and L. O’Driscoll (0-1 each).
P. Collins; J. O’Callaghan, E. Finn, P. O’Leary; S. Sheehan, D. O’Donovan, B. Lombard; S. Coleman, S. McCarthy; P. Coomey, D. O’Sullivan, C. O’Mahony; F. O’Leary, M. Collins, C. Tyers.
. Desmond for Coomey (40); J. Finn for Tyers (54); K. Maguire for Collins (59).
P. Higgins; P. Butler, B. Murphy, M. Millerick; D. Harrington, A. Kenneally, G. Millerick; T. Millerick, C. Broderick; J. Millerick, K. O’Sullivan, S. O’Connor; E. Motherway, D. Dalton, E. Conway.
M. O’Keeffe for Murphy (inj., 16); P. McMahon for Motherway (30); L. O’Driscoll for O’Connor (38); J. Barry for Butler (46); G. O’Leary for O’Sullivan (inj. 53).
Simon Stokes (Tullylease).