WITH the clock against St Finbarr's in last week's crunch Premier 1 minor hurling game in Ballincollig, Jack Cahalane gathered possession out wide.
Despite hurleys flicking in from his markers — and the dual Cork minor required two backs to curb his enthusiasm to any degree — he ran towards the D, shortened his grip to avoid being hooked, and sliced the sliotar between the posts. It pulled the Barrs to within two points of the hosts and in the following minutes, Cahalane was fouled for a free that could have been a penalty and then forced the 65 that Ben Cunningham converted to level.
There was no shortage of drama in a game that the Blues eventually won in extra time, to put them through to the semi-finals where they'll take on the loser of the last group game on the other side between the Glen and Sars.
Ben Cunningham and James Dwyer, Tadhg O'Connell versus William Buckley and Ethan Twomey against Brian Keating were among the epic match-ups between some of the most promising young hurlers in Rebel county. Mark Oldham, Darragh O'Mahony and Cian O'Driscoll hit some mighty points for the Village; Shane Kennedy, Ruairí Fitzpatrick and Ben O'Connor (what a name for a skillful hurler) caught the eye for the Barrs.
Cahalane really stood out though. He doesn't have the height of his older brothers Damien and Conor, but his combination of wrists, work-rate and ball-winning make him a sensational prospect.
On this occasion, his haul was 1-5 from play and four assists. St Finbarr's were senior football champions two seasons ago but they haven't been as competitive in hurling in the modern era.
They've high hopes for their current U16 and minor panels, which is why they've two former Cork managers on board in those set-ups. Donal O'Grady is over the U16s with the iconic Jimmy Barry-Murphy, still looking lean and mean in his trademark black combo on the sideline, a minor selector alongside Brian Hurley, a vastly experienced coach and former Cork underage goalie himself. Well-known Barrs stalwart Pat Keane is also involved.
Ballincollig have put a fierce effort into their underage hurling. They were beaten in last year's P1 U16 decider, by the Barrs, and made the minor semi-final.
Victories in their remaining U16 and minor group games, against Na Piarsaigh and Douglas respectively, will earn them spots in the last four again.
The Collig's adult hurlers ground out a vital PIHC victory against Valley Rovers last weekend. If they defeat Ballinhassig, they'll join Watergrasshill in the knockout stages.
Whatever about young guns, a few veterans impressed in the scorching conditions at Cloughduv. Liam Jennings and Barry Coleman, formerly of Ballyhea, were both immense in defence, and Dave Bowen hit a goal.
Valley Rovers powerhouse Kevin Canty came on in the second half and was a real handful.
Class is permanent.