The closing stages of the Cork senior football championship final seemed to pass in slow motion.
Three times, the Ballincollig supporters poured onto the field during the six minutes of injury-time played by referee James Bermingham. Each time, furious stewards ushered them back outside the whitewash. Spectators in green and white struggled to contain themselves. History neared.
When Bermingham sounded the whistle for the last time on their battle with Carbery Rangers, the outpouring of relief, ecstasy and elation was beyond description. Mothers, fathers, and players wept. Ballincollig’s 128-year wait for senior football glory was over.
Shortly after 7pm, as the stewards threw the locks up around Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the Ballincollig players were still roaming the field, still trying to come to terms with what they achieved. One member of the grounds staff agreed to take a team picture on the condition the squad hit for the road thereafter.
Patrick Kelly struggled to find the words required for such an occasion.
“Just an incredible feeling,” he reflected. “The last few weeks, the fear of losing and the dread of not getting over the line (was always there). The feeling of winning is just exceptional. We have been starved of success. We have been the bridesmaids so many times. We haven’t produced on our potential ever. Thankfully Sunday we got over the line. We have created history.
“The first time in 128 years. It is some feeling.”
At half-time in the final, Ballincollig club officials and members of the extended squad made their way to the front of the tunnel to clap the players on the back as they returned to the dressing room.
Michael O’Brien’s charges had kicked six points on the hop during an ultra-productive five-minute spell to reduce the deficit to a point, 0-9 to 0-8.
“Even though we were one down, psychologically it felt as if we were one up. Carbery did get the goal, which was a bit of a blow. Then John [Kelly] went and got our goal. That brought us back into it.”
The corner-forward’s goal on 39 minutes was the direct result of a quick piece of thinking by his brother.
“I had got my free, I saw George (Durrant) out of the corner of my eye and thought there might be something on here,” continued Kelly.
“They very nearly got a hand to it. Kevin McMahon threw himself at it and very nearly got to it. George showed quick hands to get it to John, and he is as good a finisher as is in the county. That gave us the impetus.”
On 42 minutes, Sean Kiely and James Fitzpatrick collided when attempting to field a Paul Shanahan kick-out. Neither were able to continue, helped off the field by members of their respective backroom teams.
“I am not really sure what happened . It was all a blur,” said midfielder Kiely. “There was a kickout. I went up for it, came down and my ankle was not good. I thought I couldn’t go on. The physio strapped me up well, in fairness. I was mad to get back on. I didn’t want to be standing on the sideline not when this is such a big occasion for the club. We have never been here before. I was hurrying them along to get me back out there, which they did with around 10 minutes to go. In previous years, this team have been known not to finish out games. When the game was there for the taking, we tended not to take it. This year has been different. We were adamant about playing to the last whistle and showing as much character as we can. We did it again today. It is absolutely massive. It is unchartered territory. The whole parish is down here. I have fellas coming down congratulating me that I haven’t seen in years. It makes me very proud to see everyone and how emotional they are right now. They love it, they love the club. It is part of us. It is what we are.”
nBallincollig will be away to the Kerry representatives in the Munster senior club championship on the weekend of November 16.
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