Ballincollig staged a stunning comeback to draw with Nemo Rangers in a thrilling Cork U21AFC final at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday.
Six points adrift with just three minutes remaining they showed remarkable composure, firing two quick goals in the 59th and 62nd minute, Cian Dorgan netting from a penalty before David Tobin equalised in stoppage time.
Nemo started well but, wind-assisted, Ballincollig fought back to claim a three point interval lead. During the third quarter the sides were deadlocked three times. Then Nemo hit 1-3 before Ballincollig launched their storming fight back.
“We have been accused of not having character, but there is a lot of character in this team,” said Ballincollig selector Tom Dorgan.
“They are a great bunch of young fellas. They didn’t give up. There were some brilliant performances. Having said that, we made a lot of mistakes and we have a lot to work on for the next day.”
Nemo had the ball in the net after 13 seconds through Barry Madden following a Ryan Kennedy pass. They led 1-2 to 0-3 before outstanding midfielder Sean Kiely cleverly picked out Matt O’Leary for a Ballincollig green flag. From there to the break, and in spite of having corner-forward Ryan Hogan black carded, the mid Cork side dominated as Cian Kiely, Dorgan and Sean Kiely notched quality points to extend their lead, 1-6 to 1-3.
The hard-working Dorgan stretched the lead soon after the restart. However, Nemo capitalised when Ballincollig coughed up possession too easy and Conor Horgan fisted over a point. Maintaining the momentum, it was Horgan again who planted a brilliant goal low to the corner (1-7 to 2-4) – both within two minutes, the provider Stephen Cronin who excelled at centre-back.
Ballincollig registered two frees and Alan O’Donovan pointed twice from play to level, 2-6 to 1-9, but Nemo struck once more. Corner back David Barrett brought possession all the way up field, set up full-forward Ciaran Dalton, who did ample justice to a superb build up by providing a marvellous finish. With a little under 10 minutes to play, the city outfit looked secure, adding points from Conor Horgan, Craig Madden and Donal O’Keeffe, 3-9 to 1-9.
“We started to think we had it won,” Nemo manager Paul O’Donovan said. “I don’t know what happened with the penalty, I think it was soft enough. But look, that is the way things go. We are happy to be still involved and to have another cut off of it.”
The penalty, for what appeared to be a square infringement, was awarded and after earlier missing a close-in free, Dorgan made no mistake, this time coolly slotting home. As four minutes of injury time was announced, incredibly Ballincollig rallied once again. And when the ball broke for centre-forward Tobin, he somehow managed to find the net, earning his team another deserved day out. The replay date will be decided this week.
Scorers for Ballincollig: C Dorgan (1-5, 1-0 pen, 2fs), D Tobin and M O’Leary (1-0 each), R Hogan, C Kiely, L Prendergast (f) and S Kiely (0-1 each).
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: C Horgan (1-3, 1f), B Madden (1-1), C Dalton (1-0), A O’Donovan (0-3, one free), C Madden and D O’Keeffe (0-1 each).
BALLINCOLLIG: J Gibbons; S Murphy, E Ryle, S Lucey; L Prendergast (Capt), C Moore, D Kirstein; C Kiely, S Kiely; D
O’Connor, D Tobin, R Noonan; R Hogan, C Dorgan, M O’Leary.
Subs: S Coughlan for R Hogan (13 bc), F Downs for M O’Leary (ht), K Browne for D O’Connor (47), M O’Mahony for E Ryle (58).
NEMO RANGERS: M Martin; D Barrett, K Fulignati (capt) D O’Neill; C Madden, S Cronin, J Donovan; A O’Donovan, J Horgan; C Ogbene, B Madden, E Compagno; R Kennedy, C Dalton, C Horgan.
Subs: D O’Keeffe for E Compagno (41), D Buckley for R Kennedy (45), R McCarthy for J Donovan (57).
Referee: Ml Sheehan (Liscarroll).
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