Ballincollig booked their place in the First Round proper of the 2017 FAI Senior Cup with a 1-0 win away at College Corinthians on Saturday afternoon, the crucial goal coming from David Tobin one minute before half time.
Corinthians may well have felt aggrieved going in at the break after a half in which they had offered the more credible attacking threat, while their back four – all of whom were under-18 players – had coped admirably with Ballincollig’s rare forays into enemy territory.
It was a game that was played largely in the middle third of the pitch, an area dominated by the composure and energy of Corinthians’ Chris Madden, while Ballincollig’s middle three of Kieran O’Driscoll, Barry Lawlor and Gavin Moore fought hard to contain the home team’s efforts to push forward.
Playing five across the middle, the visitors had an extra man in that area but they got little value for it and lone striker David Desmond was often isolated as a result.
Corinthians, meanwhile, benefitted from the the industry of Evan Browne, who played creatively behind main striker Willie Heffernan and these two might each have opened the scoring after just six minutes.
Heffernan’s original shot was cleared off the line by Ballincollig captain David Sweeney and Brown’s follow up was excellently saved by Gabor Szalkai. Four minutes later Browne saw his sweetly hit shot fizz just outside Szalkai’s left hand post.
The even handed battle in midfield meant there were lengthy periods without a threat on either goal but on 26 minutes Corinthians almost took the lead when Evan McGrath played a perceptive ball through to Heffernan.
The striker might have chosen to blast the ball from 20-odd yards, but instead he executed a perfectly judged lob that would have snuck under the Ballincollig crossbar but for the diligence of the back-pedalling Szalkai who just managed to tip the ball over for a corner.
It appeared as if the half would end scoreless with Ballincollig having been limited to fairly harmless long distance efforts from Gavin Moore and Kieran O’Driscoll, but just one minute before the break the away side scored against the run of play.
Moore played a fine ball through the middle for Tobin to chase but, between them, keeper Mark Power and the chasing defender should have dealt with it.
Perhaps they left it to each other, or just misjudged the pace of the ball. Either way, Tobin nipped between them to chest the ball beyond Power, and from there he had a free run to goal and rolled the ball into the empty Corinthians net.
The second half saw Ballincollig come more into it, while Corinthians concentrated their efforts down the right flank where Alex Connolly, ably supported by right full Bryan Cotter, proved a handful for the visitors’ defence.
Canice Caffrey fired narrowly over for Corinthians moments after the restart while at the other end Desmond curled an impressive header wide from Tobin’s cross. Lawlor then fired over the bar for Ballincollig but the introduction of Ronan Stanton in the 52nd minute allowed Corinthians to regain the edge in midfield.
Connolly’s shot towards the top right corner was well saved by Szalkai just before the hour and moments later Stanton dropped a free kick just over the crossbar.
Browne flung a 25-yarder just inches above the bar on 67 minutes and two minutes later Stanton released Stephen Fox, whose progress towards goal was only stopped by an excellent block from Ian Roche.
Corinthians' best chance to draw level came on 72 minutes when Cian Murphy’s cross from the left was headed against an upright by Heffernan and Browne’s follow up was saved down low by Szalkai.
After that it seemed as if it just wasn’t meant to be for the home team and despite their continued efforts Ballincollig’s defence put in a heroic final twenty minutes, superbly marshalled by Dave Sweeney, which saw them over the line.
College Corinthians: Mark Power; Bryan Cotter, Chris Healy, Matthew Draper, Stephen Fox; Alex Connolly, Chris Madden (Jack French 86), Evan McGrath (Ronan Stanton 52), Canice Caffrey (Cian Murphy 66); Evan Browne; Willie Heffernan.
Subs Not Used: Robbie O’Leary (gk).
Booked: Willlie Heffernan (86), Ronan Stanton (90+1), Evan Browne (90+2).
Ballincollig: Gabor Szalkai; Evan Kennick, David Sweeney, Cian O’Shea, Ian Roche; Barry Lawlor; David Tobin, Kieran O’Driscoll, Gavin Moore (Daniel Murphy 73), Gordon O’Meara; David Desmond (Jason Duff 78).
Subs Not Used: Jack Gibbons.
Booked: David Sweeney (64).
Referee: Ray Murphy.
Attendance: 50 (estimate).
Extratime Man of the Match: David Sweeney (Ballincollig).