Ballyhale expecting a tough examination
This week has been a visit to purgatory for everyone involved with Oulart-The Ballagh and Ballyhale Shamrocks. Sunday’s late, yet correct, decision by referee Barry Kelly to postpone the Leinster club semi-final, forcing the eventual victors into the depths of December hurling has been a frustrating blow. Everything was ready to go only for the monsoon to send them all home.
“It’s difficult, especially so close to the start time,” said Oulart manager Pat Herbert. “With so much water on the pitch he just had to call it off. Major disappointment, for both teams. They were totally focused from the night before at home, families had travelled down in the morning, and suddenly there is the deflation. Another major disappointment is come Saturday it will be four weeks since we beat Kilmacud Crokes.”
Ballyhale selector Michael Kelly agreed: “We just wanted to get back on the bus and straight back home as fast as possible.”
At least Oulart wing back Lar Prendergast gets to enter his sixth-week rehabilitating damaged ankle tendons – he’ll have a fitness test on Friday – but Kilkenny’s newest All Star, TJ Reid, will not recover from the cracked kneecap, sustained in the All-Ireland final replay, until February.
Playing top club matches in deep December could be seen as disrespectful to the teams – or a test of their inner steel.
“Any team likes fast ball, no matter who you are playing,” Herbert explained. “It’s a pity to be playing such high level hurling in these conditions.A mistake, caused by the conditions, can be so costly.
“This time of year just isn’t conducive to this game. It is unfortunate that a Leinster hurling final, the showcase of the year, will be played two weeks before Christmas.”
Offaly champions Kilcormac/Killoughey are waiting. “The All-Ireland final has been traditionally held in September and unless that is brought forward it is very difficult to change it,” says Herbert
Ballyhale’s attitude is evident in their results. They don’t even attempt to hurl like they would in August. They see it as a different type of hurling, arguably even a different sport.
“This is the kind of weather the club championship is played in all the way down through the years,” said Kelly. “Same goes for Fitzgibbon hurling; it’s played over the winter months. It adds a little bit to it; it is a survival test as much as anything. An endurance test, not a test of pure hurling skill that we see during the summer time.
“We are expecting another tough encounter down in Wexford Park on Saturday. We know we will be up against it.”