It became all too easy for Blackrock with a runaway victory over Ballyhea in the second game of the Cork SHC double-header at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday.
Before any sliotar was thrown in, this first round tie had a lot to live up to, given the excitement of the Charleville and Erin’s Own match beforehand.
But, once Blackrock settled following a sluggish start, there was never going to be an upset as they kept their foot firmly on the pedal.
Finalists from two years ago, and semi-finalists last year, the Rockies emerged impressive victors with no less than 11 players contributing to the scoresheet, including captain Niall Cashman and Andrew Murphy from the half-back line.
Blackrock manager Fergal Ryan pointed to the experience of his troops.
"I think Ballyhea gave up the ghost a bit when we went eight points ahead. It may have made it look easier for us than what it actually was. But, yeah, very pleased with the win.
“We were looking for momentum. For the first 15 minutes we didn’t have it at all. Ballyhea went two or three up at one stage. Our first goal came at a good time for us, we were definitely at a bit of sixes and sevens.
"We weren’t tight enough. Albeit we had a good second 15 minutes, at half-time we wanted them to be clear on what we wanted them to do. I think they came out and did it in the second-half.”
Ballyhea, who defeated Killeagh in a relegation play-off in 2018, were competitive in the first half but they struggled in the second, only managing 1-1.
Maurice O’Sullivan’s goal three minutes after the restart gave them a glimmer of hope, but once Blackrock opened up, the Avondhu club couldn’t stay with them.
The north Cork team led by 0-5 to 1-0 after eight minutes. Tom Hanley (2) and Pa O’Callaghan (3) landing early points.
But their good work was nullified by John O’Sullivan’s brilliant solo goal which arrived in the third minute. Midway through the half, the sides were tied 1-3 to 0-6, and with every puck of the ball the city team were growing in stature.
Blackrock went on to score five points without reply, and the signs were ominous. Getting into their stride now, points flowed from all over the pitch including Daniel Meaney, Stephen Murphy, Ciarán Cormack and Kevin O’Keeffe who was in fantastic form.
As well, Mikey Browne did well to bundle the sliotar out for a ’65 in an effort to deny Kevin O’Keeffe what looked like it would be a certain goal. At half-time, the Rockies were 1-11 to 0-9 ahead.
With the exception of O’Sullivan’s goal, Blackrock resumed posting nine points on the trot. Michael O’Halloran, Cormack, O’Sullivan, Kevin O’Keeffe all to the fore as they raced 1-20 to 1-9 in front.
O’Callaghan got Ballyhea’s second score of the half in the 44th minute but Blackrock showed no mercy and with their defensive set-up rock-solid, Ballyhea would not register again.
Kevin O’Keeffe’s classy finish found the net eight minutes from time after he was fed a wonderful pass from Cormack.
Blackrock followed with another run of excellent points, leaving substitute Tadhg Deasy to stroke over their final score a minute from time. The result safe, there will be an extended break until the next round.
“I won’t say I am looking forward to the break,” said Ryan. “I think it is a big problem for the GAA, everybody has said it. I know they are trying to put measures in place but there is no real fix to it unless the inter-county scene changes and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
"That is the way it is and we have got to play within the terms that are there. We have that break now until August. We will give them a week or two off now We will just have to try and manage that.”
Scorers for Blackrock: K O’Keeffe (1-7, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65), J O’Sullivan (1-3), Ciarán Cormack (0-4), N Cashman (0-3), S Murphy, T Deasy and D Meaney (0-2 each), A Murphy, D O’Farrell, S O’Keeffe and M O’Halloran (0-1 each).
Scorers for Ballyhea: P O’Callaghan (0-7, 0-4 frees), M O’Sullivan (1-0), T Hanley (0-2), J Copps (0-1).
D O’Shea; J Ryan, G Norberg, R Laide; Cathal Cormack, A O’Callaghan, N Cashman (Capt); S Murphy, D O’Farrell; M O’Halloran, D Meaney, S O’Keeffe; J O’Sullivan, Ciarán Cormack, K O’Keeffe.
Subs: A Murphy for Cathal Cormack (24), T Deasy for A O’Callaghan (42).
M Browne; A Barrett, M Morrissey, W Carroll; T Foley, B Coleman (Capt), L Hanley; J Morrissey. C Cox; T Hanley, P O’Callaghan, G Morrissey; J Copps, M O’Sullivan, E O’Leary.
Subs: K Copps for T Foley (39), O O’Sullivan for W Carroll (50).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Aghada).