Even in defeat Ballincollig did their Club Proud

Even in defeat Ballincollig did their Club Proud

November 19, 2014

THERE were times last Sunday when it felt Ballincollig’s incredible season was on course to reach new heights. That what was in theory mission impossible, a victory over a Kerry side on their soil, was merely going to be a stepping stone to a Munster final and beyond.

A sense of destiny was in the air when the panel jogged across towards the bench for the pre-match photo. The ripple of applause in the packed stand in Tralee exploded into a wave of noise as every Ballincollig fan rose to their feet. It was as spontaneous as half time of the county semi-final against Nemo, when the Collig attendance defiantly cheered the players and management down the tunnel in the Páirc. Collig team

They had traveled over the border in their thousands, reflecting the groundswell of support reaching a first senior county had generated. The spirit of ‘The Village’, as the club hardcore refer to themselves, had spread across the whole town. In the countdown to the throw-in, everyone present knew it was a special occasion. As it transpired the Collig were just a little short of the nous and sharpshooting needed in this type of encounter, but the result didn’t take from the event.

While the game was a dogfight at times, the sound and fury at Austin Stack Park will linger for a long time. The colour created by two passionate sets of fans, with their megaphones, chants, drums and facepaint, was like the atmosphere at a soccer derby in the best possible way. Collig fans

At times during the match Ballincollig seemed ready to break the cycle of Kerry dominance over Cork club teams since Nemo beat Dr Crokes in a classic 2010 Munster decider.

It was there in the electric opening quarter as they raced into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead. The deployment of Steve O’Donoghue at the edge of the square to shackle Kieran Donaghy was frustrating Stacks and two of O’Donoghue’s turnovers led directly to points.

Cian Kiely and Cian Dorgan, the Collig’s two youngest starters at 17 and 19 respectively, delivered audacious scores while Pa Kelly squeezed in a lovely goal from a tight angle. Liam Jennings was processing a mountain of ball from centre-back and Seán Kiely’s direct running was opening up the middle. They needed to tack another two or three points on in that first 20 minutes though, to really rattle Stacks. Pa goal

A couple of frees and misplaced final passes wasted gilt-edged opportunities and the home team were never given cause to panic. Shifting Donaghy out to the middle generated slight confusion over whether O’Donoghue would follow him or stay minding the house. When Stacks had their period of supremacy, just like Ballincollig had in their comeback county final win over Rosscarbery, they made it count.

Ballincollig needed to use short kick-outs and recycle possession to run the clock down to the break. Instead Donaghy and man of the match Greg Horan started lording the skies and ball was turned over through low-percentage passes punted towards Kelly on the 40. Even a point in front when the short whistle sounded, the Collig were in trouble.

As happens on days like those, the breaks didn’t go their way. Ciarán O’Sullivan, who made the shortlist for Reardens Club Footballer of the Year, hobbled off before the break and Peter O’Neill, making his senior debut after a year on the sidelines through injury, was never going to offer the same bullish physicality or scoring threat from deep.

Noel Galvin had only flown back from a three-week holiday in Thailand Friday evening. He doesn’t drink and is naturally fit but wasn’t at full tilt and eventually had to be replaced by 17-year-old Seán Lucey, another senior debutant. Ballincollig also lost dynamic wing-back JP Murphy to injury, though Dylan Kerstein (just 19) showed a promising bit of cutting and class off the bench.

While Stacks too had their issues on a heavy pitch, it was telling that four of the Collig’s five subs were U21. Alan Donovan, their liveliest replacement up front had fractured his shoulder in training, and his loss was acute. If he’d been available the management might have brought him in for O’Sullivan and switched George Durrant to midfield. When the county final man of the match, foraged for ball in the second half and in extra time he made a serious impact.

They’re the types of ‘ifs, buts and maybes’ that haunt a team after a narrow defeat.

Of course the Collig faithful still clung to the belief they were going to defy the bookies when John Miskella let rip from outside the 45-metre line in the 63rd minute and the ball flew and then dipped with a couple of feet to spare over the Austin Stacks crossbar. It was an epic effort from the 36-year-old who, in what could be his last game in the green geansaí, managed three points of genuine quality across a 55-minute spell between the second half and extra time, during which his team managed just five scores.

Before extra time Michael O’Brien and his selectors brought the players across to form a huddle in front of the wall of Ballincollig noise in covered stand. It was another moment when the hairs stood up on the back of everyone’s neck. Anything seemed possible.

It wasn’t to be. Yet as the group walked off to a standing ovation, many with tears in their eyes, every Ballincollig man, woman and child present knew it was a day they’d never forget.

Extracted from Evening Echo Article - Nov 18 2014 By Eamonn Murphy