It may have taken a well-worked 53rd-minute goal from full-forward Conor Russell to seal the deal but Douglas were full value for their six-point victory over fancied but wasteful Ballincollig at Páirc Ui Rinn yesterday. The 2014 champions missed several goal chances and some erratic shooting in the second half was to prove costly in this lively Cork SFC quarter-final clash.
This was easily Douglas’ best performance of the season with young Niall Hartnett, who played with the Cork minors last season, a towering figure at midfield with his All-Ireland-winning U20 brother, Brian. Between them they scored four points, two apiece, and it was largely their influence that carried Douglas through.
Ballincollig playmaker Paddy Kelly failed to make an impression, with Eoin Cadogan keeping close tabs, though they were always in the contest until Russell’s clincher.
It only took the influential Darren Murphy 30 seconds to put Ballincollig ahead but Douglas were soon level when Sean Powter, who played his first full 60 minutes of the season, was on target. Douglas moved the ball quickly from defence and although their distribution wasn’t always the best it was no surprise when Niall Hartnett and Kingston pushed them two clear.
Niall Hartnett only got the nod to partner his brother Brian at midfield after Eoin O’Sullivan failed a fitness test, and they were to have a strong influence on proceedings. Still Ballincollig were well in the picture and it was no surprise to see the sides level after the opening quarter at 0-3 apiece, with Cian Dorgan and JP Murphy replying for Ballincollig and Douglas were lucky that Colin Moore missed a great goal chance after being set up by Garry Comerford.
Kingston restored the Douglas lead with a free but he was to miss two more chances as Cian Dorgan again restored parity in the 20th minute and it took two terrific saves from Brian Boyle to deny Ballincollig’s best forward Murphy goals, the corner- forward scoring three points as the sides finished 0-7 apiece at the break.
Douglas were full of energy on the restart. Kingston, who played with a chest infection, rattled over a fine point and Conor Russell followed with a free but again they lived dangerously in defence as first Cian Kiely smashed a shot off the upright and then Boyle had to make another fine save from corner-forward Comerford, this time with his head.
Douglas, with the Hartnetts sublime, upped the ante and entering the final quarter Russell fired over another point to give his side a 0-10 to 0-7 lead.
Dorgan did reduce the deficit with a free but then Douglas, frustratingly, had a Holland goal disallowed for a square ball. But the all-important goal did arrive in the 53rd minute when in one of Cadogan’s few raids downfield, Powter and Holland did the spadework for a simple Russell finish.
Douglas were on their way to a sem-final meeting with either champions St Finbarr’s or Nemo Rangers, who clash next week. Douglas simply locked up the back line to deny Ballincollig space and Niall Hartnett went on to cap a terrific performance with his second point on the whistle.
Enthused Douglas manager Mick Evans afterwards. “Did you see that point he scored from 40 yards, just a minor and in school, he showed the others how to kick a point. It will be hard to leave him out now the next day.
“We made a few changes at half-time and we are lucky we have a strong bench. Boyle’s save was vital, the ball hit him right in the face but it was vital for block for us. We will work hard now over the next few weeks. Shane Kingston had a chest infection out there, nobody knew that, and he still ran himself into the ground.
“We locked up the defence which forced then into mistakes. We had not played for a a while and it took us a while to get up to the tempo. But we have put in a lot of work this season we are in a semi-final now, and we’ll drive on for a final place now.”
Scores for Douglas: C. Russell (1-3, 1f), S.Kingston (0-3, 1f), N. Hartnett, B. Hartnett (0-2), S. Powter, J. Holland (0-1).
Scorers for Ballincollig: C. Dorgan (0-4, 3f), D. Murphy (0-3), J.P. Murphy, D. Comerford (0-1).
B. Boyle; K. Hayes-Curtin, N. Walsh, L. McGrath; S. Wilson, E. Cadogan, K. Flahive; B. Hartnett, N. Hartnett; S. Kingston, D. Hanrahan, S. Powter; J. Holland, C. Russell, B Collins.
Subs: S. Collins for B. Collins (ht); B. Lynch for Hanrahan (49); D. Sheehan for McGrath (52); D. Murphy for Kingston (58).
J. Gibbons; N. Galvin, L. Jennings, K. Coleman; L. Fahy, C. O’Connell, C. Kiely; S. Kiely, P. O’Neill; JP Murphy, P. Kelly, C. Moore; G. Comerford, C. Dorgan, D. Murphy.
Subs: C. O’Sullivan for O’Neill (BS 7), K. Browne for O’Connell (36), C. O’Sullivan for S. Kiely (45), D. Dorgan for O’Neill (59).
Referee: P. O’Driscoll (Bride Rovers).