Ultimately, it was St Michael’s more polished forward division that earned the Blackrock club its first Cork U21 ‘A’ football title since 1976 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
In a thrilling encounter, they blitzed Ballincollig in the opening exchanges and by the end of the first quarter they’d established a 1-3 to 0-1 advantage that the Muskerry men could never fully bridge.
Alan Connolly struck for the goal in the second minute, Dave Hurley tapped over two frees while the outstanding Tadhg Deasy kicked the first of his four points to give the Blackrock side their early advantage. Darren Murphy was on target for Ballincollig during that period, but Ballincollig relied on his sharp-shooting skills a bit too much as he finished with 0-7 across the hour.
The mid-Cork side will look back with regret on the chances they left behind them early on as they shot four wides and saw Cian Denn save a penalty from Murphy.
Two more points from Murphy and another from Luke Fahy brought to them to within two, but Michael’s finished the half strongly with scores from Hurley and Adam Hennessey while Deasy crashed a scorcher off the crossbar and Shane Hogan saved brilliantly from Liam Grainger.
It left the city side in front by 1-5 to 0-4 at the break and on the resumption, they went about increasing their advantage. Deasy and Tim Lenihan knocked over early points, Murphy responded for Ballincollig before Alan Connolly struck for his all-important second goal to push Michael’s lead out to eight points, 2-7 to 0-5.
Credit to Ballincollig, however, as they dug in brilliantly to bring themselves back into contention.
Murphy tapped over two more points, Steve Willis cracked home a goal after a fantastic run from Luke Fahy and Evan Cooke found his range from the ‘forty to, remarkably, leave just two points in it going into the final quarter, 2-7 to 1-8.
But St Michael’s weren’t to be denied as they answered the Ballincollig challenge with three points- in-a-row to re-establish their superiority. Inevitably, Deasy kicked two of them while Hurley added the third.
The Muskerry side continued to carry the fight and points from Willis, Dara Dorgan and Murphy gave them a puncher’s chance right up to the death, but two points from Robbie Cotter were enough to spark joyous scenes amongst the St Michael’s faithful when Conor Lane brought proceedings to a close.
So, St Michael’s start 2020 by capping off 2019 in style, and with senior football to look forward to this year, they’ve plenty to be optimistic about.
Scorers for St Michael’s: A Connolly (2-0), T Deasy and D Hurley (3 frees) (0-4 each), R Cotter (0-2), A Hennessey and T Lenihan (0-1 each).
Ballincollig: D Murphy (0-7, 3 frees), S Willis (1-1), L Fahy, E Cooke and D Dorgan (0-1 each).
ST MICHAEL’S: C Denn; J Golden, O O’Sullivan, R Colman; D Corkery, D Cormack, T Lenihan; B Cain, F Cronin; A Hennessey, T Deasy, L Grainger; D Hurley, E O’Donovan, A Connolly.
Subs: M O’Keeffe for Cronin (40), R Cotter for Connolly (42), P Cunningham for Corkery (55), E Sheehan for Cain (59).
BALLINCOLLIG: S Hogan, K Crowley, S O’Neill, K Spillane, F Denny, G O’Donoghue, R Bourke, L Fahy, J O’Leary, D McCullagh, E Cooke, E O’Reilly, K Walsh, F O’Donovan, D Murphy.
Subs: S Willis for O’Leary (35), D Dorgan for Denny (40), J O’Connor for O’Donovan (48), J Murray for McCullagh (53), C Twomey for Spillane (59), F O’Donovan for Twomey (bc, 61).
Referee: Conor Lane (Banteer).