Ballincollig captures the U21 Premier 2 Hurling Championship   02/12/2018

Courtesy of Éamonn Murphy via the Echo

Ballincollig 0-19 Courcey Rovers 0-17 (After extra-time) 

BALLINCOLLIG saw off a dogged Courcey Rovers in a hard-hitting U21 Premier 2 hurling final at Páirc Uí Rinn.

A series of frees in extra time converted by the outstanding Seán Walsh and earned by the pace and skill of corner-forward Luke Fahy, gave the Collig an U21 cup for the first time in 22 years. It capped off a superb 2018 for hurling in the club, following on from their intermediate triumph in October, an U16 Premier 2 championship, an U15 Premier 1 league and an U12 trophy for good measure.

The Mid Cork side dominated the first half with the wind and led 0-9 to 0-4, with Karl Walsh, Gearóid O'Donoghue and Jordan Murray providing the platform around the middle third. Seán Walsh, Stephen Wills, Shane Murphy and Fahy clipped over some lovely points from play while Paul Cooney came close to a goal.

Yet Courceys upped the gears after the break. Cathal Maguire thundered into the contest at midfield with Seán Twomey re-deployed at the edge of the square. Fergus Lordan was dominant at centre-back, John McCarthy a constant menace up front and Tadhg O'Sullivan's frees kept the scoreboard ticking.

However, O'Sullivan sent a penalty wide after a foul on Twomey after 48 minutes and in added time, after Maguire levelled, his long-range free to nab the win was off target. It was a frustrating finale for Courceys, who were defeated after a replay by Charleville in the PIHC decider.

Ballincollig regained the initiative in extra time, with Fenton Denny, James O'Leary and Conor O'Leary powering out with possession time and again from defence even after Ross O'Donovan went off injured, while Courceys' last-gasp free from 20 metres to snatch the win was blocked. James Linehan's composure in goal helped, especially as midfield dynamo Robbie Bourke was suspended.

The sound of the final whistle ensured manager Michael O'Brien was involved in another major success, having overseen the Village's 2014 senior football breakthrough and a Premier 2 minor hurling win too. His selectors were Terence O'Leary, Danny Dwyer and Johnny Dwyer, the latter a vital cog in the 1996 U21-winning unit.

Scorers for Ballincollig: S Walsh 0-13 (0-10 f), L Fahy 0-2, P Cooney (65), S Murphy, J Murray, S Wills 0-1 each.

Courcey Rovers: T O’Sullivan 0-9 f, J McCarthy 0-4, M O’Donovan, C Maguire 0-2 each.

BALLINCOLLIG: J Linehan; R O’Donovan, J O’Leary, K Spillane; C O’Leary, J Murray, G O’Donoghue; K Walsh, F Denny; S Wills, E Cooke, P Cooney; S Murphy, S Walsh, L Fahy.

Subs: S O’Neill for S Murphy (e-t), C Connery for E Cooke (69), E Cooke for R O’Donovan (inj 71).

COURCEY ROVERS: T Keating; L Collins, D Coghlan, M Collins; R Sweetnam, F Lordan, M Dorman; C Maguire, J McCarthy; A O’Donovan, S Twomey, M O’Donovan; B Ryan, T O’Sullivan, S Russell.

Subs: R O’Donovan for L Collins (e-t), DJ Twomey for S Russell (65), S Allen for M Dorman (72).

Referee: Ciaran O’Regan (Ballyhea).

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