O'Connor key as Ballydesmond triumph
BALLYDESMOND got their County IFC credentials back on track thanks to a productive finish to overcome Cill na Martra in a pulsating second round back door qualifier at Dromtariffe on last Saturday evening.
On the balance of play, Ballydesmond deserved their win to a game that hung on a knife edge for a lengthy period. But at the end of the hour, the Duhallow side had considerable cause to be grateful to the silken shooting of county player Donncha O'Connor on amassing a 1-8 contribution.
Right through a fiery but highly entertaining encounter, the tackles were tough as teak, no questions asked or given by either side. Indeed, the game remained up for grabs into injury time, Ballydesmond holding a nervous two point advantage, won a penalty and O'Connor availed of the opportunity to despatch emphatically to the net.
The calm and composed county player reacted with satisfaction on a job well done, the win gathers compensation for a defeat to Kinsale, six days previously.
"Ourselves and Cill na Martra are always up for a battle. We were up against it at half-time on facing into a strong breeze but we showed fighting spirit to pull through," he said.
"Though , we were only just two points up in the closing stages, I had no hesitation in going for the target from the penalty awarded. With the position of the kick brought forward by two metres, one has to go for goal."
Favoured by the breeze in the opening half, Ballydesmond had begun in whirlwind fashion with four prompt points to O'Connor and Niall Fleming. Cill Na Martra got to grips with the situation and warmed to their task after Michael Desmond netted from a penalty to force parity.
That score lifted the Gaeltacht side, their rising confidence boosted by the input of Graham Vaughan, Colm and Dónal Óg Ó Laoire along with the brilliance of minor player Desmond in the centre to lay off quality ball into attack. For good measure, Desmond thumped over a series of place balls for Cill na Martra to jump four ahead.
Ballydesmond had conceded 1-5 without a reply for 18 minutes, the scoring famine needed a jolt after Cill na Martra 'keeper Antóin Ó Conaill made a timely block from Fleming. However, a pair of O'Connor points, halved the arrears for Ballydesmond trail 1-5 to 0-6 at the break.
And Ballydesmond restarted in encouraging fashion to regain the lead from Shaun Murphy, Paudie Breen and Richard Flynn. The exchanges continued to be razor keen, Cill na Martra holding a facility to respond, Danny Ó Duinnín and Caoimhín Ó Suilleabháin helping to force parity for the fifth occasion.
Ballydesmond stood their ground, more eager in their game through the voracious workrate from Tim Howard, Donal Kelly and Murphy in defence with Bertie O'Callaghan and Seán Cronin ruling the roost at midfield.
In attack, O'Connor despite the attentions of former county colleague Nollaig Ó Leary remained deadly accurate. And in the 49th min, Ballydesmond received a telling breakthrough, Shane Kelly redeployed to full forward on receiving a knock, took a pass from Neill O'Sullivan to net.
Both sides went for it with fervour, Ballydesmond keeper Fergal O'Sullivan reacting brillantly to turn an O'Sulleabháin flick around the post for Desmond to convert the resultant '45. Still, Ballydesmond held a hunger to succeed, O'Connor applying the smoothest of finishes to point off both play and a free.
Fittingly, O'Connor finished off the job, creating the opening for substitute Nicky O'Leary to gape down on goal only to be upended. O'Connor stepped forward for the resultant penalty and confidently slotted home for the insurance score.
BALLYDESMOND: F O'Sullivan; T Howard, J Healy, Donal O'Connor; Denis Kelly, Donal Kelly, S Murphy 0-1; S Cronin, B O'Callaghan; Donncha O'Connor1-8 (1-0p, 0-5f) , R Flynn 0-1, S Kelly 1-0; N Fleming 0-1, N O'Sullivan, P Breen 0-1 Subs: J Dunlea for Donal O'Connor (inj 21), N O'Leary for S Kelly (inj 49), A Fleming for Flynn (51), C Linehan for Dunlea (52), J Kearney for Denis Kelly (62)
CILL NA MARTRA: A Ó Conaill; T Mac Suibhne, G Ó Mocháin, S Ó Loinghsigh, A Ó Mocháin, C Ó Laoire, N Ó Laoire; M Ó Deasúna 1-4 (1-0p, 0-3f, 0-1'45), S Ó Ceallachair; M Ó Conchúir 0-1, D Óg Ó Laoire, M Ó Duinnín; D Ó Duinnín 0-3f, C Ó Suilleabháin 0-2, D MacLochlainn
Referee: E Sheehy (Newcestown)