Ballyhea can approach their Premier IHC quarter-final with Ballinhassig in confident mood after eliminating Kilbrittain at Coachford on Saturday.
Goals at the start of each half were the primary difference and Ballyhea selector John Mortell believes their mix of youth and experience is a telling factor.
“We are delighted,” he said.
“After beating Newcestown we had a seven or eight-week break, so we had to get going again. The lads have worked hard and Dermot O’Riordan [coach] has done great work with them. We have a few young lads after coming in like Pa O’Callaghan and Mikey Browne. They are 17 years old and both were excellent today. And this has given a new lease of life to the older lads.”
Ballyhea struck early — a goal from Jonathan O’Sullivan opened up a 1-3 to 0-0 lead on five minutes. Kilbrittain, who were without the injured Jamie Wall outscored Ballyhea 0-7 to 0-2 on the run up to half-time with every player in the Kilbrittain half-back line getting on the scoreboard along with free-taker Maurice Sexton. They trailed by one, 1-5 to 0-7 at the changeover.
However, the Avondhu side more than made up for the lull immediately after the break hitting a wonderful goal a mere 35 seconds in. A mazy run from O’Callaghan ended with his shot being saved but Maurice O’Sullivan rebounded to the net.
A five-point gap ensued but two great points from Chris Hickey and Sexton made it a three-point game with 15 minutes remaining, 2-7 to 0-10.
But from thereon Kilbrittain were out-pointed as a superb Ballyhea defence led by goalkeeper Browne, Owen O’Sullivan, James Hennessy and Barry Coleman wouldn’t give way.
Three points on the trot — a smashing effort from O’Callaghan as he doubled on the sliothar, Neil Ronan who collected from Kevin Hanley and Jonathan O’Sullivan and Ballyhea were gaining momentum.
Kilbrittain trailed by five points with as many minutes left (2-11 to 0-12).
The nearest they got to goal was a brilliantly struck Ross Cashman free that was diverted over.
Scorers for Ballyhea: N Ronan 0-6 (3fs, 1 65), M O’Sullivan 1-2, J O’Sullivan 1-1, J Morrissey 0-3, P O’Callaghan 0-2, K Hanley 0-1.
Scorers for Kilbrittain: M Sexton 0-5 (0-4 frees), R Cashman 0-3 (0-2 frees), V O’Brien 0-2, C O’Leary, P O’Mahony, C Hickey, D Hickey.
BALLYHEA: M Browne; O O’Sullivan, J Hennessy, S Dennehy; M Morrissey, B Coleman, T Shanahan; T O’Sullivan, E Rea; J O’Sullivan, M O’Sullivan, K Hanley; P O’Callaghan, N Ronan, J Morrissey.
Sub: K Morrissey for E Rea (41).
KILBRITTAIN: R Hayes; P Ryan, J Murphy, C Moloney; V O’Brien, R Cashman, D Hickey; J Deasy, D McSweeney; M Sexton, O Sexton, C Hickey; D Murphy, A Hayes, D Desmond.
Subs: C O’Leary for M Sexton (23-25 bs), P O’Mahony for D McSweeney (45), C O’Leary for O Sexton (48).
Referee: D Kirwan (Eire Óg).
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