A sensational second-half performance propelled Blackrock into the Cork IHC semi-finals at the expense of Éire Óg in Ballincollig on Saturday.
Trailing by 0-11 to 0-7 at the break, the Rockies turned things around on the resumption, outscoring their mid-Cork rivals by 3-6 to 0-2.
Key to the dramatic turnaround was veteran full-forward Colin O’Leary.
As a late addition to the starting line-up, O’Leary had caused the Éire Óg rearguard some problems in the first-half but he wreaked havoc on the resumption, playing a central role in all three goals.
Two points from Eoin O’Farrell and one each from Ian O’Keeffe and Martin O’Farrell had brought Blackrock back level before O’Leary was fouled for a penalty in the 44th minute.
Olan Kelleher dispatched it with aplomb before O’Leary found himself bearing down on goal a minute later. Dylan Desmond managed to save, but Billy Cain was on hand to finish the rebound to the net.
O’Leary then found the net himself, batting home smartly after a line ball from Kelleher broke loose around the square to leave Éire Óg reeling and Blackrock boss, Olan Murray, purring at his full-forward’s contribution.
“He was brilliant but the thing that stands out to me most about Colin is his attitude and what he brings to the other lads around him. He inspires guys. I know hurling is an amateur sport but he’s very professional in everything he does.”
The game petered out after that three-goal salvo as the outstanding Eoin Smith ensured the Blackrock defence would not be breached.
Kelleher and O’Keeffe did trade scores with Eoin O’Shea and Kevin Hallissey before Éire Óg’s misery was compounded when Desmond’s late penalty flew wide of the target as the Muskerry side were left wondering where it all went wrong.
They were the better side in the first-half with John Cooper and Brian Corcoran on top in midfield, Eoin O’Shea immaculate from placed balls and Daniel Goulding playing smartly on the ’40.
Points from all of those players saw them lead by 0-5 to 0-4 at the end of the opening quarter with Eoin and Martin O’Farrell and Mark O’Keefe on target for the Rockies.
Five more points from O’Shea and a super line ball from Cooper stretched their lead out to four with frees from O’Farrell and Kelleher keeping the lead manageable for the Rockies before O’Leary took the wrecking ball to the Éire Óg defence after the break.
It sets Blackrock up a semi-final clash with another mid Cork outfit, Aghabullogue, as last year’s beaten finalists continue down the road to atonement.
E O’Farrell (0-6, 5 frees), O Kelleher (1-2, 1pen, 0-1 free), C Cain and C O’Leary (1-0 each), I O’Keeffe and M O’Farrell (0-2 each), M O’Keeffe (0-1).
E O’Shea 0-8 (0-6 frees, 0-1 ’65), J Cooper (0-2, 1 s/line), B Corcoran, D Goulding and K Hallissey (0-1 each).
D O’Mahony, J Golden, A Hogan, R Coleman, C O’Brien, E Smith, R Cantwell, D Cormack, M O’Farrell, E O’Farrell, I O’Keeffe, M O’Keeffe, O Kelleher, C O’Leary, L O’Sullivan.
B Cain for O’Sullivan (37), P Kennedy for Kelleher (55).
D Desmond, J Kelleher, C McGoldrick, J Mullins, M Brady, M Kelleher, D Herlihy, John Cooper, B Corcoran, E Kelleher, K Hallissey, E O’Shea, Joe Cooper, D Goulding, C O’Callaghan.
B Hurley for Joe Cooper (28), D Kirwan for E Kelleher (inj, 33).
Ciarán O’Regan (Ballyhea).