Midleton 2-18 Ballincollig 3-13
TWO points deep into injury-time mean Midleton get the chance to defend their Carrigaline Court Hotel Premier 1 MHC title after a dramatic clash Ballincollig last night in the Mardyke.
This was a pulsating game in front of a big crowd, featuring some excellent hurling and ferocious intensity throughout.
The holders can thank Aaron Mulcahy and Jack Fitzgerald, who hit some vital scores, while Sam Quirke and Paul Connaughton were also to the fore, and they now take on Glen Rovers in the final. They were 1-10 to 0-5 after a first half when they were that bit slicker up front, and needed all their experience when they fell behind in the closing stages.
Credit to Ballincollig they made them fight all the way and recovered from that poor first 30 minutes and looked like they had done enough to at least take it to extra-time, led by the efforts of Conor O'Leary, Stephen Wills and Paul Cooney, before the late Magpies scores.
The Collig could have been in front inside the first minute when James Dwyer and Dara Dorgan combined to put Cian O’Driscoll in, but his goal chance went narrowly wide, though a minute later Evan Cooke raised the first white flag.
Midleton got their first score five minutes in when Mulcahy pointed from a free, with Cian Crowley getting their second. Sam Quirke made it 0-3 to no score as Midleton were more clinical. Connaughton got their fourth, before Ballincollig pointed again, this time Stephen Wills with a soaring shot from out the field.
They had another goal chance, David O’Sullivan’s effort going narrowly wide and would eventually pay the price for those early misses.
Midleton took over in the second quarter, hitting three success points through Connaughton, Crowley and Mulcahy, with Cooney replying for Ballincollig.
Quirke increased their lead and they took a grip on the game, particularly when Tim O’Sullivan played Connaughton in and he blasted calmly to the back of the net, to make it 1-9 to 0-3. Cian O’Driscoll pulled a point back for Ballincollig, with Mulcahy replying at the other end. A Wills free was the last score of the first-half as Midleton led 1-10 to 0-5 at half-time.
O’Sullivan and O’Driscoll pointed early in the second-half for Ballincollig and two goals turned the game on its head. The first came after a brilliant sideline from Wills to set up O’Driscoll and the second after a scorching run from Willis with Evan Cooke finishing well.
However, Midleton's second goal, from O'Sullivan, was critical as it meant they were 2-11 to 2-8 ahead at the end of a period when they were struggling to split the posts.
A third Collig goal, courtesy of David O'Sullivan and neat points from O'Leary and sub Dara O'Mahony nudged Ballincollig two up heading into injury time. Huge credit to the champions, they showed they're made of the right stuff down in Imokilly by forcing frees, which Mulcahy converted to level.
Then Mulcahy nabbed another and in the last play a point from Fitzgerald wrapped up the victory after an epic battle.
Scorers for Midleton:
A Mulcahy 0-8 (0-4 f), P Connaughton 1-3, T O'Sullivan 1-2, C Crowley, S Quirke 0-2 each, J Fitzgerald 0-1.
S Willis 0-6 (0-4 f), C O’Driscoll 1-2, E Cooke, D O’Sullivan 1-1 each, P Cooney, D O’Mahony, C O’Leary 0-1 each.
MIDLETON: B Saunderson; C Smyth, D Scanlan, P Kane; L Hennessy, C Murphy, C Walsh; S Quirke, G Reddy; J Fitzgerald, C Fitzgerald, A Mulcahy; P Connaughton, C Crowley, T O’Sullivan.
Subs: A Quirke for C Fitzgerald, D McCarthy for G Reddy.
BALLINCOLLIG: D Keohane; C Twomey, J Cotter, C Lyons; S O’Donoghue, C O’Leary, J Ambrose; S Wills, B Keating; J Dwyer, D O’Sullivan, C O’Driscoll; E Cooke, P Cooney, D Dorgan.
Sub: D O’Mahony for B Keating.
Ref: Colm Lyons, Nemo Rangers.