Conor Lehane scores 3-11 to lift Midleton beyond Ballyhea challenge

Ballyhea lead at half-time before Midleton's surge
Conor Lehane scores 3-11 to lift Midleton beyond Ballyhea challenge
Midleton's Sam Quirke is tackled by Ballyhea's Caoleann Cox and Pa O'Callaghan at Fermoy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Midleton 4-23 Ballyhea 1-13 

Conor Lehane scored 3-11 as Midleton ignited their Co-Op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC challenge with what was, in the end, an impressive win over Ballyhea at Fermoy on Friday night.

However, this clash of the Magpies – Midleton played in all-black, with Ballyhea in all-white – wasn’t all plain sailing. A first-half goal from Tom Hanley put Ballyhea into the lead for the first time and they held a five-point advantage on two occasions before Midleton – beaten by Sarsfields last week – finished the opening half strongly to trail by just a point, 1-9 to 0-11.

The opening ten minutes of the second half were all Midleton, though, outscoring their opponents by 4-3 to 0-1, Pa White getting a goal in addition to Lehane’s three. By the end, they were 19 clear, the scoreboard kept active as this group, which also contains Douglas, could yet be determined on scoring difference. 

Midleton manager Ger Fitzgerald was pleased with how his charges reacted to their first-half setback.

“They didn’t panic, they drove on,” he said.

“We were very pleased with them, they kept their composure and stuck to the plan and the way we wanted them to play.

“We were looking to up our work-rate from the Sars game. We felt that we didn’t work hard enough, particularly in the second half, and we did that tonight. Our tackle count was better and we were looking for that.

“We just need to develop a bit of consistency now, we’ve a few new players coming into the team this year and we want them to become familiar with playing at this grade and this level and to be consistent with their performances.” 

While White’s point put Midleton 0-4 to 0-2 ahead after eight minutes, Ballyhea seized the initiative with an unanswered 1-3, Pa O’Callaghan – who had had all of their scores from dead balls prior to that – setting up Hanley for the goal on 14 minutes with Caoleann Cox adding a point.

With Midleton failing to take three goal chances midway through the first half – Sam Quirke and Luke O’Farrell shot wide before Tommy O’Connell was denied by Mikey Browne – Ballyhea were able to push further clear and O’Callaghan’s fifth point made it 1-8 to 0-6 on 25 minutes.

The rest of the half plus stoppages was Midleton’s though, as Josh Beausang and Luke O’Farrell had points to add to Lehane’s and they retired with the deficit at the minimum.

When O’Connell, having claimed Killian Burke’s delivery, was tugged back in the large rectangle just after the restart, Lehane slotted home the resultant penalty to put Midleton ahead for the first time since the opening quarter and the scores flowed from there.

Even allowing for another good Browne save, denying Beausang, Midleton were rampant as Lehane fired in 1-2 in quick succession, O’Connell setting up his goal, before Beausang set up White to make it 3-13 to 1-9 on 36 minutes.

Cormac Walsh was the provider for Lehane’s third goal in the 40th minute and, all of a sudden, 14 points separated the teams. Midleton refused to relent and O’Connell finished with four points while sub Seán O’Meara got in on the act, too.

“Scoring difference could be important,” Fitzgerald said, “we were conscious of that and we wanted to finish the game out strongly.

“Also, there’s competition for places within our group, fellas have to take their opportunities and that’s very important as well.

“We’ve a few weeks to prepare for the Douglas game. They’re a top-class team with some formidable players.

“We’ll be under pressure but we’re looking forward to the challenge.” 

Scorers for Midleton: C Lehane 3-11 (1-0 penalty, 0-6f, 0-2 65) P White 1-2, T O’Connell 0-4, L O’Farrell, C Beausang 0-2 each, S O’Meara, C Walsh 0-1 each.

Scorers for Ballyhea: P O’Callaghan 0-8 (0-6f, 0-2 65), T Hanley 1-1, C Cox, E O’Leary, G Morrissey, S O’Kelly 0-1 each.

MIDLETON: J Loftus; K Burke, E Moloney, S Smyth; S O’Leary Hayes, J Nagle, S O’Farrell; S Quirke, P O’Farrell; C Walsh, C Lehane, C Beausang; L O’Farrell, T O’Connell, P White.

Subs: A Daly for S O’Farrell (50), A Ryan for L O’Farrell, S O’Meara for Quirke (both 53), S O’Farrell for Moloney (60).

BALLYHEA: M Browne; K Copps, L O’Connor, A Barrett; T Foley, J Copps, M Morrissey; C Cox, J Morrissey; T Hanley, M O’Sullivan, G Morrissey; L Crowley, P O’Callaghan, E O’Leary.

Subs: J O’Leary for Foley (39), S O’Kelly for G Morrissey (42), S O’Kelly for M Morrissey (44).

Referee: C Lane (Banteer).

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