County champions from two years ago, St Finbarr’s secured a winning start to the Bon Secours Cork Premier SFC first round at Páirc Ui Rinn.
After a tentative opening period, they were forced to work hard to grind out a positive result in this Group 1 encounter – a contest which failed to ignite after a promising first 30 minutes.
Ballincollig led by a point after quarter of an hour, and although St Finbarr’s centre-back Olan Murphy spent a spell in the sin bin during this period, the Barr's regained their composure to lead at the halfway mark, 1-8 to 0-9.
A sloppy second half eventually went the way of the Togher side.
Both Cian Dorgan and Steven Sherlock were among the chief scorers for their respective clubs, however, St Finbarr’s had the upper hand mainly through talisman and captain Ian Maguire who marshalled the middle area to great effect and a lively forward line that should have more scores to show for the possession that was put their way.
Ballincollig started brightly and took the lead after 11 minutes, 0-3 to 0-2, a free from Cian Kiely edging them ahead. But the game turned moments later when a speculative delivery from Brian Hayes spilled in the square and Eoghan McGreevey was on hand to boot the ball to the net for a Barr's goal.
Darren Murphy (2) and Dorgan pushed Ballincollig one clear, but St Finbarr’s finished the half with purpose, outscoring their opponents six points to three. Colm Keane, McGreevey, Hayes and Cillian Myers Murray all scoring from play, and in fact both McGreevey and Hayes opted for points with possible goal chances there for the taking. A brace from Sherlock (one from play) gave St Finbarr’s an interval two-point advantage.
Dorgan, meanwhile, kept Ballincollig within touching distance with three frees.
The second half was slow to get going with no flag from play until the 46th minute. Dorgan nailed Ballincollig’s only point of the half six minutes after the restart from a placed ball and they failed to register again. Prior to that, if they had put away a chance, it might have been a different story but goalkeeper Patrick O’Neill saved from Evan Cooke.
At the other end, Jack Gibbons denied Sherlock but it wasn’t long before the Barr's took control again. Myers Murray found space to angle over three on the trot — the first when he was put through by sub Denis O’Brien who was only a couple of minutes on the field.
As the clock ticked down, Maguire got in on the act and his point put them five up.
Deep in stoppage the lively Colm Barrett closed out the scoring for St Finbarr’s to emerge six-point winners.
Carrigaline and Clonakilty are also in this group – they lock horns today, and no doubt both St Finbarr’s and Ballincollig will be keeping a close eye on how this pans out with the top two teams qualifying for the knockout stages.
St Finbarr’s are up and running. Ballincollig last won the Andy Scannell Cup in 2014, and while they came up short this time, they must regroup quickly if they are to salvage something from this championship.
E McGreevey (1-1), S Sherlock (0-3 frees) and C Myers Murray (0-4 each), C Keane, B Hayes, I Maguire and C Barrett (0-1 each).
C Dorgan (0-6, 0-5 frees), D Murphy (0-2), C Kiely (free) and L Fahy (0-1 each).
P O’Neill; S Ryan, J Burns, G O’Connor; C Scully, O Murphy, A O’Connor; I Maguire (Capt), C Keane; C Barrett, S Sherlock, C Walsh; C Myers Murray, B Hayes, E McGreevey.
Subs: A McCarthy for C Scully (bs 13-20), O Murphy (sin bin 15), D O’Brien for O Murphy (45), M Shields for C Keane (53), C Lyons for C Scully (54).
J Gibbons; S Murphy, L Jennings (Capt), G O’Donoghue; K Browne, N Galvin, C Kiely; P O’Neill, JP Murphy; S Kiely, L Fahy, E Cooke; C Dorgan, P Kelly, D Murphy.
Subs: C O’Sullivan for P O’Neill (36), D Dorgan for E Cooke (45).
Referee: James Bermingham (Bride Rovers).