WITH phase one of the season completed and the knock-out stages on the horizon, Ballincollig know they’ll need to reach a higher level to challenge for the IHC.
Eoin Hegarty, co-captain along with Rory O’Doherty, has full faith in ‘The Village’ squad to build on their early summer promise in the coming months.
There was nothing spectacular about a 0-16 to 0-11 victory over Douglas’ second team last Saturday night, apart from the panel’s ability to cope short key players like Colin Moore, David Bowen, Liam Jennings and Ian Coughlan. As was the case in the first round against Inniscarra, Ballincollig simply went about their business without fuss.
However, for the experienced Hegarty – whose father Donie is a selector alongside Paul O’Connor, Don Walsh, Tom Weste and manager Danny Dwyer – getting the better of Douglas with a clutch of new faces was encouraging. Luke Fahy and minor Seán Walsh made their debuts, while U21s James O’Leary and Ross O’Donovan were rock solid.
“This year we took a look at ourselves and saw there was a good bunch of players with young guys coming through and the older stock. Huge work has gone on all through the preseason and coming up to this stage. There’s a real professionalism there and having Danny involved with the set-up he has helped, plus the few faces in Don and Paul.”
For the likes of Peter O’Neill, Fahy, Hegarty and Ciarán O’Sullivan the hurling victory was a pick-me-up after the disappointment of a football defeat to Valley Rovers, though there is a backdoor reprieve still to come for last year’s SFC runners-up.
“Being a dual player is a heavy work-load but the fellas who do it love it. We hurling and football and it’s hard to pick. If you’re selected to be on the hurling team it’s your obligation as a club man to play if you’re good enough.”
While a core of players compete at the top level in both codes for Ballincollig, a number of the rookies are focused on hurling only but learning from the veterans.
“We’re trying to drag ourselves up and set real standards. There are senior lads who are completely committed and I think they set the example for the rest. We have some intelligent hurlers and there’s young talent there. Ross O’Donovan and Seánie Walsh were outstanding there. Robbie Bourke fumbled a couple of balls, kept at it and hit three points.”
In the short term, Ballincollig are aiming to reach the latter stages of the IHC. Since relegation from the premier tier, the closest they’ve come is a narrow loss to Aghada in the 2015 quarter-final, which was still a drop from the heights of 2008 and 2009 when they were PIHC challengers, getting knocked out to the eventual champions, Blarney and Douglas, in successive years.
Beyond that the ambition is to emulate Douglas by being senior on two fronts.
“Ballincollig as a club are down too low. When I left were premier and it’s not good enough for us to be down in lower intermediate. We need to be getting to the final stages of this championship and to see where that takes us.”
Roll on the draw where a tougher test awaits the Collig after taking on second teams in the first two rounds.