They battled deep into the Brinny darkness in miserable conditions on Saturday night, but, in the end, Kilbrittain proved extra special in this compelling Cork Premier IHC opening round contest, leaving Ballincollig to face a backdoor battle with Watergrasshill.
It was probably cruel luck on Ballincollig, who owned the opening half and could have had two goals in the second-half, Ian Coughlan and Ciarán O’Sullivan missing sitters. But they had to rely on some generous injury time from referee Colm Lyons for O’Sullivan’s last gasp 65th minute equalising free after Alan Donovan missed an earlier chance to tie up the scores.
The master stroke for Kilbrittain was the switching of Ross Cashman to midfield to partner David McSweeney and Vincent O’Brien to centre-back on the resumption, for despite being outplayed in that opening half, 0-7 to 0-3, Cashman turned on the power with some probing long runs and skilful play in the testing conditions. Indeed Ballincollig were held to just three second-half points, all frees, and just barely survived.
Kilbrittain centre-forward Maurice Sexton’s input too was enormous, a massive 11-point haul on a night just three of their of their players found the target with Jamie Wall — he’ll have better outings — well held by Ballincollig corner-back Liam Jennings.
Despite the heavy rain and playing against the wind, Ballincolling looked assured in that opening half. Donovan soon put them two points clear and although Sexton had Kilbrittain level, the Mid Cork side were looking strong and balanced.
Frank Hickey and Brian Glavin soon added to Ballincollig’s tally and with Colin Harris and Jennings excellent in defence, and Colm O’Connor and David Bowen battling hard up front, it was 0-4 to 0-3 after the opening quarter, Cashman getting Kilbrittain’s third point.
There was no stopping Ballincollig in the second quarter, O’Sullivan, Kealan Hickey and Donovan making it 0-7 to 0-3 in Ballincollig’s favour at the break. But, with Cashman at midfield for the second-half, Kilbrittain were a different force, for he gave a thundering display as the rain cascaded down. By the end of the third quarter the Ballincollig lead was down to two, 0-8 to 0-6, Sexton and Alan Hayes pointing. And if Dave Desmond had been more accurate they might well have been ahead. The action was fast and furious in the final quarter, Kilbrittain finally getting their noses in front in the 56th minute through another Sexton free, but O’Sullivan saved the day for Ballincollig deep in injury time after two great goal chances had been spurned.
Ballincollig shaded the opening 10 minutes of extra-time, Brian Glavin and Kealan Hickey giving them a two-point advantage only for the radar like Sexton to make it 0-12 to 0-11 after the opening period.
Time to be counted now as another Sexton free and an excellent Cashman point again put Kilbrittain in front. Although Galvin again tied things up in the 74th minute, it was Kilbrittain who had that extra gusto as two Sexton gems from play powered them into the fourth round draw on a night they showed real battling qualities.
Scorers for Kilbrittain: M Sexton 0-11 (6fs), R Cashman 0-3 (1 65), A Hayes 0-1.
Scorers for Ballincollig: A Donovan 0-4 (2fs), C O’Sullivan (2fs), B Glavin 0-3 each, K Hickey 0-2, F Hickey 0-1
KILBRITTAIN: R Hayes; P Ryan, J Murphy, C Moloney; V O’Brien, R Cashman, D Hickey; D McSweeney, J Deasy; D Murphy, M Sexton, T Harrington; J Wall, A Hayes, D Desmond
Subs: C O’Leary for Deasy (20 bs), O’Leary for Murphy (40).
BALLINCOLLIG: F Kelly; J P Murphy, N Galvin, L Jennings; B Cotter , S O’Donoghue, C Harris; C O’Sullivan, K Hickey; D Bowen, B Galvin, C O’Connor; F Hickey, I Coughlan, A Donovan.
Subs: J Miskella for K Hickey (48), J O’Brien for O’Connor (56), E Ryle for Donovan (60).
Referee: C Lyons (Nemo Rangers).
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