00:00 Saturday 23 May 2009  Written by Noel Horgan

Heroic goalkeeping sinks Courceys

Ballyhea 3-12

Courcey Rvs. 1-11

Defeated finalists in 2008, Courcey Rovers made their exit from the premier county intermediate hurling championship when they fell to Ballyhea at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday.

The Ballinspittle men finished seven adrift in a second round clash that might well have produced a different outcome but for the heroics of Ballyhea 'keeper David O'Riordan, who brought off a string of splendid saves in the second half. Add in the fact that Courceys gifted Ballyhea a goal in the early stages of the first half, and it becomes obvious that there wasn't a whole lot between the teams in general play over the hour.

That will provide little in the way of consolation for the losers, however, who will now be involved in the relegation play-offs just 12 months after they were narrowly denied promotion to senior ranks by Blarney.

Never headed at any stage, the foundations for Ballyhea's win were laid in the opening quarter when they scorched into a 2-4 to 0-1 lead, with their first goal coming from corner forward Ryan Hanley, who punished a mistake by Courceys custodian Stephen Nyhan after the latter had foiled his initial effort.

That made it 1-3 to 0-1 after 12 minutes, and Courceys rapidly lost further ground when Maurice O'Sullivan slipped over a point for Ballyhea before first-timing a defence-splitting delivery from midfielder Ian Ronan to the net.

O'Sullivan was a constant threat at full forward, and, in finishing with 2-5 to his credit, he did most, along with 'keeper O'Riordan, to pave the way for Ballyhea's win.

Aidan O'Connor and Eamonn Morrissey played leading roles as well in the full back line, particularly in the first half when they kept a tight rein on Courceys' key attackers Seamus Hayes and Cian Lordan respectively.

Only hard-working John Murphy and Daire Lordan made any sort of an impact up front before the break for Courceys, but the team showed steady improvement in the second quarter, thanks in the main to the efforts of David Hayes at midfield, and half backs David Duggan, who played his heart on the right flank, Brian Hayes and Vincent Hurley.

CLASS

Lack of penetration in attack meant they were unable to make significant inroads on the deficit, however, and Ballyhea, with Cork senior Neil Ronan showing his class to notch two points against Courceys' pivot Brian Hayes, went in at half time leading by 2-7 to 0-6.

After Seamus Hayes got them off the mark in reply to a brace of Ballyhea scores inside the first ten minutes, the return from the Courceys forward from play amounted to just three points shared by Daire Lordan and John Murphy, who slotted over two, in the first half.

David Hayes and Neil Murphy, who converted a free, were the South East side's other marksmen before the break, but the tactic of using just two players in the full forward line almost yielded rich dividends for Courceys on the turnover.

Revelling in the extra space near goal, Seamus Hayes and Cian Lordan, linking up well, regularly threatened to unhinge the Ballyhea rearguard, with Lordan latching on to a Vincent Hurley clearance to bring the best out of David O'Riordan in the 34th minute.

O'Riordan produced another fine save from David Hayes shortly afterwards before Maurice O'Sullivan took a hand at the other end to send Ballyhea's prospects soaring.

O'Sullivan scored a delightfully audacious goal in the 42nd minute, deftly flicking the ball over the head of Courceys advancing 'keeper Nyhan from the edge of the square to propel the North-Cork men, who were involved in the relegation play-offs last year, into a commanding 3-9 to 0-7 lead.

To their credit, Courceys never lost heart even after they were again denied a goal by O'Riordan, who proved equal to a shot from John Murphy a minute later. Courceys were finally rewarded for their persistent pressure when Seamus Hayes, picked out by a precision cross from Cian Lordan, fired in a goal midway through the second half.

But Ballyhea replied with an inspirational point from the irrepressible full forward Maurice O'Sullivan which made it 3-10 to 1-8, and 'keeper O'Riordan prevented Courceys from getting back into contention when deflecting a blistering shot from Seamus Hayes out for a 65 in the 50th minute.

CAPPED

As things transpired, Courceys never managed to trim the gap to less than six points on the run-in, and their fate was effectively sealed when, with the score at 3-11 to 1-10, Ballyhea's O'Riordan capped an outstanding performance between the sticks with a double-save from Cian Lordan and substitute Anto Hegarty inside the last five minutes.

To say that it was a frustrating outing for Courceys would be an understatement

Once they settled down after a sluggish start, they gave a creditable display in a contest that lacked for nothing in terms of spirit and commitment on the part of the combatants, and contained some excellent passages of hurling despite the intermittent downpours which made conditions difficult.

Scorers - Ballyhea: M. O'Sullivan 2-5, N. Ronan 0-4, R. Hanley 1-0, L. O'Connor, B. Coleman, free, and E. O'Sullivan 0-1 each. Courcey Rovers: S. Hayes 1-2, N. Murphy 0-3 frees, D. Lordan, J. Murphy (wing forward) 0-2, D. Hayes, V. Hurley, free, and J. Murphy (sub) 0-1 each.

Ballyhea: D. O'Riordan, A. O'Connor, E. Morrissey, H. O'Leary, E. O'Sullivan, B. Coleman, M. Morrissey, I. Ronan, A. Crowley, J. O'Sullivan, N. Ronan, L. O'Connor, R. Hanley, M. O'Sullivan, D. Ronan. Subs: T. Shanahan for J. O'Sullivan, I. Curtin for Hanley, K. Hanley for O'Leary, K. Copps for E. Morrissey (injured).

Courcey Rovers: S. Nyhan, Dan Lordan, D. Murphy, T. Lordan, D. Duggan, B. Hayes, V. Hurley, D. Hayes, T. Collins, J. Murphy, N. Murphy, J. O'Regan, S. Hayes, C. Lordan, Daire Lordan. Subs: J. Murphy for Collins, A. Hegarty for Daire Lordan..

Referee: C. McAlister (Aghada).

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