00:00 Saturday 15 August 2009  Written by TAS

Ballincollig U-21s finally reach their holy grail

Ballincollig ........................0-11

St. Finbarr's .......................0-9

THE tide has finally turned for Ballincollig at under-21 county level in football with their final victory over St. Finbarr's on Sunday evening last at Páirc Uí Rinn helping to erase the memories of previous heartbreaking narrow defeats.

The county championships at under-21 level were introduced in 1973 and in the years following their introduction up to the current one, Ballincollig have participated on fifteen occasions in under-21 football county championships. They have dominated the under-21 football championship in Muskerry, but despite some praiseworthy displays, their efforts at securing a county crown have not been fruitful. Narrow defeats had to be endured at the hands of outstanding teams from Nemo Rangers, O'Donovan Rossa, Beara and Mallow and the club were despairing of ever reaching the holy grail.

Exciting victories at divisional level this season, however, presented the club with another opportunity of entering the county championship arena and well merited victories over Ilen Rovers and Newmarket gave the team a final place. Páirc Uí Rinn was the venue for the final on Sunday evening and Ballincollig faced a daunting task when they lined out against the highly fancied St. Finbarr's fifteen.

It was not an attractive evening for Gaelic football with the rain falling throughout the game, but both teams had a positive attitude to the contest with their endeavours always being towards purposeful play and the level of sportsmanship letting nothing to be desire.

St. Finbarr's rating as favourites appeared to be justified in the early stages and two early points from play from impressive corner forward Joe Fitzpatrick enhanced their prospects of victory. Cian Lougheed converted a free to consolidate the reigning champions' position and one would be forgiven at that stage for predicting another final defeat for the Mid-Cork side.

The situation changed dramatically following the first ten minutes of action, however, and a couple of factors led to Ballincollig wresting the initiative from their opponents. Tenacious corner back Tim O'Leary was switched from the right to the left with the obvious intention of curbing the threat posed by Joe Fitzpatrick and he proved equal to the task, while Ballincollig's midfield duo, man of the match, Ciarán O'Sullivan and Colm O'Connor, began to get on top in the vital midfield area.

The Mid-Cork side was on the offensive as a consequence for most of the remaining first half exchanges but they failed to capitalise on numerous scoring opportunities with ten first half wides speaking for themselves. Among those first half misses were two from very scoreable frees, but their return from placed balls improved subsequently when Kieran O'Driscoll, who was wide with his first effort, was unerring for the remainder of the game.

It was from a Ronan O'Driscoll free that the winners secured their first minor and the arrears were reduced to the minimum when Kieran Joyce was on target from play in the 14th minute. Ballincollig had their highly rated opponents on the back foot at that stage but their squander-mania continued and a clear dominance was not reflected on the scoreboard. The mid-Cork side managed three additional points before the short whistle as Kieran O'Driscoll converted a free and confidently drove the football between the uprights from a 45, while team captain Noel Galvin kicked their fifth point and St. Finbarr's added one point to their tally.

Jason Sexton, from a free, was the scorer so the half time score in Ballincollig's favour was 0-5 to 0-4. The interval position did not reflect the mid Cork side's first half dominance and there was still a danger that their first half squander mania would return to haunt them.

Ballincollig improved their position early in the second moiety when Ian Coughlan confidently knocked over a point but the Barr's then produced a good period of attacking play. The Togher side regained the lead when points from play from Fitzpatrick and Sexton were followed by a Cian Lougheed point from a free so the issue was still delicately poised when the final quarter approached.

Ballincollig must have been bemoaning their first half misses at that stage but the determination that was a characteristic of their play throughout the year came to the forefront at that vital time. The mid Cork side got on level terms in the 47th minute when Kealan Hickey who had moved upfield from his left half position kicked a superb point from out near the sideline and Ballincollig got well on top following that inspirational score.

Mickey Lordan worked hard to get close to the Barr's goal in the 50th minute and taking no chances he punched the football over the crossbar so Ballincollig had regained the lead. Ian Coughlan increased their advantage two minutes later when he got his fist to a Noel Galvin centre and the ball went between the uprights so two points now separated the sides.

The weather conditions were deteriorating by the minute but there was no stopping Ballincollig as they were roared on by their large contingent of supporters and Kieran O'Driscoll made light of those conditions when he confidently raised white flags from a free and a forty five.

Four points now separated the sides and time was on Ballincollig's side but St. Finbarr's are a proud club who were sure to go down fighting. Corner forward Ian Leahy's effort in the 58th minute was over the bar so three points separated the sides but there was no way through for the blues for an equalising goal subsequently and Pat Wiley's point during the time added on period was the final piece of excitement.

The full time whistle sounded and Ballincollig's supporters' feelings of elation were clear to be seen when they charged on to Páirc Uí Rinn to salute their heroes.

Scorers- Ballincollig: Kieran O'Driscoll 0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-2 45, Ian Coughlan 0-2, Mickey Lordan, Noel Galvin, Kieran Joyce and Keelan Hickey 0-1 each. St. Finbarr's: Joe Fitzpatrick0-3, Cian Lougheed 0-2 frees, Jason Sexton 0-2, 0-1 free, Ian Leahy 0-1, Pat Wiley 0-1.

Ballincollig: Eric Doyle, Timmy O'Leary, Liam Jennings, Darren Murphy, John Paul Murphy, Ronan O'Driscoll, Kealan Hickey, Colm O'Connor, Ciarán O'Sullivan, Kieran O'Driscoll, Noel Galvin, Michael Lordan, Kieran Joyce, Ian Coughlan, Conor Sexton. Subs: Cian O'Callaghan for Conor Sexton, Dan Murphy for Kealan Hickey.

St. Finbarr's: Darren Haines, John Neville, Glenn O'Connor, Keith Punch, Tom McCarthy, David Bracken, Cormac Holland, Eoin Keane, Pat Wiley, Denis O'Brien, Colin O'Sullivan, Cian Lougheed, Joe Fitzpatrick, Jason Sexton, Ian Leahy. Subs: Dave O'Brien for Keith Punch, Jonathan Power for Denis O'Brien.

Referee: E. Sheehy, Newcestown.

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