Disappointment for Ballincollig in U21 final
County Under 21 A Football Championship Final: St Michaels 2-12 Ballincollig 1-11
The 2019 GAA season was certainly a busy one for the progressive St Michael's Gaelic Football Club with their teams reaching the concluding stages of several championships with an overlap of players meaning that some were exceptionally busy.
The club had to endure another heartbreaking Premier Intermediate Football Championship defeat when Éire Óg were narrowly ahead in the county final, but they also secured some significant victories.
The Blackrock side's second team were worthy winners of the City Division Junior Football Championship, while their third-choice adult football team were resounding winners of the Junior (B) County Championship.
In recent weeks their Under 21 team secured impressive victories over St Finbarrs and Kilshannig so they qualified for the Under 21(A) County Football Championship final; their only outright victory at that level was as far back as 1976 so they were certainly hungry for victory when they faced Ballincollig in the decider at the 4G pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday last.
Ballincollig made the first attack following the throw-in, but it was promptly intercepted by the confident, opposing defence who went effectively on the offensive. Full-forward Eoin O'Donovan had possession close to the Ballincollig goal and he dispatched the football to Alan Connolly who was in a goalscoring position and the latter duly found the net.
Ballincollig's subsequent efforts at reducing the arrears were off target on a few occasions and St Michaels were looking good when a point from the impressive Tadg Deasy from play was followed by two Dave Hurley minors from frees. Ballincollig's only reply was a point from Darren Murphy, so the Blackrock side were looking good leading 1-3 to 0-1 following eleven minutes of action.
The former then got an opportunity of significantly improving their situation when a penalty was awarded after a St. Michael's defender was guilty of a foot block. Murphy's effort was easily saved by Cian Denn, the St Michaels cul baire, and left off the hook, it appeared that St Michael's were likely to press on.
Ballincollig had other ideas, however, and they determinedly stayed in contention. Murphy, making amends for his penalty failure, raised two white flags while Luke Fahy was also on target. Two points now separated the sides, but the winners were the dominant force in the remaining period before the break.
Points from Hurley and Adam Hennessy consolidated their position and they could have secured two additional majors. A powerful drive from Deasy struck the crossbar and was scrambled to safety while Shane Hogan, the Ballincollig number 1, made a superb save from a blistering Liam Grainger shot.
The score at the short whistle was consequently 1-5 to 0-4 in St Michael's favour and they promptly increased their advantage when the action resumed. Deasy drove the football between the uprights in the thirty-second minute and that score was quickly followed by their seventh minor, this one a spectacular effort from Tim Lenihan who soloed from the half-back line deep into the opposing territory and finished his run with an accurate delivery that raised another white flag for the Blackrock side.
Murphy, from a free, got a point back for Ballincollig, but they were rocked by a second St Michael's goal in the thirty-seventh minute. A scoring attempt from full forward, Eoin O'Donovan, came back off the upright, but Alan Connolly was in the right place to push the ball over the goal-line.
Ballincollig now had it all to do trailing 2-7 to 0-5 but they dug deep into their resolve and the contest entered its most exciting phase. Two more points from Murphy raised their hopes and they were followed by a major as the enthusiastic attendance was now on its feet.
A determined run goalwards by Luke Fahy opened up the St. Michael's defence and his subsequent transfer of the football to substitute Steve Wills was at the opportune time. The latter's effort found the net via a deflection and St. Michael's had reason for worry when that score was followed by an Evan Cooke point which reduced the arrears to two entering the final quarter.
They displayed the ability to reply effectively however and two points from Deasy plus a converted free by Hurley put them in a good position as the finishing line was approaching. St Michaels obsession with trying to secure a third major cost them additional scores during that tense period.
Ballincollig's dogged fight continued and Wills, another substitute Darragh Dorgan and Murphy, from a free, raised more white flags so the score now read 2-10 to 1-11. A few minutes of play still remained, and the substitute Robbie Cotter scored two points to secure a St Michaels victory and bring the curtain down on a top class Under 21 (A) Football Championship County Final.
Scorers: St Michaels: A. Connolly (2-0), T. Deasy (0-4), D. Hurley (0-4, 0-3 frees), R. Cotter (0-2), A. Hennessy, T. Lenihan (0-1 each). Ballincollig: D. Murphy (0-7, 0-3 frees), S. Wills (1-1), L Fahy, E Cooke, D Dorgan (0-1 each)
St Michaels: Cian Denn, Joe Golden, Owen O'Sullivan, Ross Colman, Dylan Corkery, Diarmuid Cormack, Tom Lenihan, Billy Cain, Fiachra Cronin, Adam Hennessy, Tadg Deasy, Liam Grainger, Dave Hurley, Eoin O'Donovan, Alan Connolly Subs: Mark O'Keeffe for Cronin, 40, Robbie Cotter for Connolly, 42, Peter Cunningham for Corkery, 55, Emmett Sheehan for Cain, 59
Ballincollig: Shane Hogan, Kevin Crowley, Shane O'Neill, Karl Spillane, Fentan Denny, Gearoid O'Donoghue, Robbie Bourke, Luke Fahy, James O'Leary, Dave McCullagh, Evan Cooke, Eoin O'Reilly, Karl Walsh, Fionan O'Donovan, Darren Murphy Subs: Stephen Wills for O'Leary, 35, Darragh Dorgan for Denny, 40, Jordan O'Connor for O'Donovan, 48, Jordan Murray for McCullagh, 53, Ciaran Twomey for Spillane, 59, O'Donovan for Twomey (Black Card), 61
Referee: Conor Lane (Banteer)