With Pa O’Callaghan firing, Ballyhea are ready for battle with Courcey Rovers

John Mortell's side face a tough test against last season's PIHC winners at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
With Pa O’Callaghan firing, Ballyhea are ready for battle with Courcey Rovers

 Ballyhea's Eugene O'Leary is tackled by Ballymartle's Donnacha Desmond. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

BALLYHEA have a strong surge of momentum in the Co-Op Superstores Cork Senior A Hurling Championship.

That form carried them into the quarter-final stages of the competition, where they will face Courcey Rovers in the coming days. Ballyhea have looked a determined outfit throughout this championship, with Pa O’Callaghan in particular in red-hot scoring form.

John Mortell appears to have developed a group that is full of resilience and they will need all of that and possibly more, when they take on Courcey’s at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday at 7pm.

Ballyhea in their opening group stage game faced off against Ballymartle on what was a wet July day in Grenagh.

Overall it was a well-deserved victory for Ballyhea 1-22 to 0-12, with their talisman Pa O’Callaghan scoring an impressive individual total of 1-11, while Eugene O’Leary also proved to be a potent attacking threat for Ballyhea as he scored 0-7.

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Mortell was satisfied with how his team adapted to the poor conditions on the day.

“Yeah the lads played well, they were well clued in. We’ve been waiting for a championship victory for a while now and it was so pleasing we got it and we deserved it.

“We were expecting a tough battle and we got just that. It was tough going out there, not the kind of weather we were expecting, but we adapted well and some of our big players were on top of their games.

“We are out again next week against Bride Rovers but this win will give us a huge boost as nearly all our squad are fit. Well be up for it.”

 Brian Roche, Bride Rovers, tackles Tom Hanley, Ballyhea, in their SAHC clash. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Brian Roche, Bride Rovers, tackles Tom Hanley, Ballyhea, in their SAHC clash. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

The next game for Ballyhea was indeed that clash with Bride Rovers, with both teams, in the end, playing out what was an entertaining draw, Bride Rovers on 1-17 to the 2-14 of Ballyhea.

This was a captivating contest that made for enthralling viewing from the outset. There were twists and turns aplenty. Bride commenced like a steam train, then Ballyhea rallied to go in front.

The final outcome was still on a knife edge heading into the second-half stoppage time until Bride struck for a late point from young Adam Walsh to ensure the sides ultimately could not be separated.

Ballyhea again saw O’Callaghan produce the scoring goods, as he got a very impressive 2-10.

In the final group stage game, Ballyhea took on Carrigtwohill. This game also ended in a draw, as Ballyhea secured a point which ultimately proved enough to book their place in the quarter-final stages of the competition.

In Pa O’Callaghan, Ballyhea possesses a man that has been in red hot scoring form throughout this championship campaign to date.

In fact, O’Callaghan is the top scorer across the whole of the Cork SAHC competition to date. He has so far scored a very impressive 3-30 (22 from frees). This is a reliable weapon for Ballyhea to have, knowing they have a free-taker with pinpoint accuracy from placed balls.

That is higher than talents such as Mark Coleman (Blarney) and Declan Dalton (Fr O’Neill’s), which also puts into context how well O’Callaghan has been doing for Ballyhea to date.

This reporter was in attendance at the Ballyhea game in Kildorrery, on an afternoon where it felt like everything O’Callaghan touched was turning into a score.

Likewise, on what was a very wet day in Grenagh, I covered the Ballyhea game for this newspaper and O’Callaghan also was in fine scoring form despite the inclement conditions.

This appears overall to be a spirited group of Ballyhea players and management.

One glance at his hurling CV tells you everything about the regard Mortell is held in. Mortell has served Cork as a selector at all levels. That includes in recent years when he was part of the Cork U21/U20 hurling management team under manager Denis Ring that made it to the All-Ireland final back in ‘18 and ‘19, having seen the minors reach the All-Ireland in ‘17.

Another role that Mortell has been involved with is being the manager of the MTU Cork Fitzgibbon hurling team.

He has a good coaching CV to say the very least. His task will be to come up with a game plan to guide Ballyhea into the final four.

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