Ballyhale (Kilkenny) 3-22 Naas (Kildare) 1-16
Ballyhale Shamrocks remain on course to extend their unprecedented Leinster dominance as they reached yet another provincial final at the expense of Naas at Croke Park on Sunday.
Slow to get going, the reigning Leinster champions overcame a complacent opening to romp home in the finish. Two goals in 30 seconds from Joey Cuddihy and Eoin Cody firmly put the one-sided second half to bed and any chance of a comeback also.
Naas relied on Jack Sheridan for the duration and he did not disappoint, finishing with 0-12, but it was never enough to worry the Kilkenny supremos.
It could have been so much different. Shamrocks goalkeeper Dean Mason was called to action at least three times in the opening eight minutes as the reigning All-Ireland intermediate champions hit the ground running. Cathal Sheridan rebounded home a low Brian Byrne drive that was parried by Mason. Naas led by six and were full value for it, but they were still missing chances in the process, hitting eight wides in that opening flurry.
Darragh Corcoran was the man Ballyhale looked to to stay in touch as new father TJ Reid was wrapped up well by marker John McKeon. There was a marked difference in prolificacy between the two sides in front of the posts and, as a result, there was a sense once Ballyhale drew level in the 23rd minute that Naas would regret all they wasted.
That feeling grew when TJ Reid buried a penalty, that he set up with a sumptuous pass for the driving Colin Fennelly, who was pulled down by full-back Ross Kelly.
With the sides level five times down the stretch of a frenetic opening half, Corcoran ensured Ballyhale went in with their noses in front 1-11 to 1-10 at half time.
But the second half was a non affair, with the two quick-fire goals putting paid to the contest, although Naas half-back Kevin Whelan did produce a wonder score by way of riposte.
While Adrian Mullen showed his class in patches, Pat Hoban’s side eased home and can look forward to a fourth successive Leinster final in a week’s time.
Ballyhale Shamrocks: Dean Mason; Darren Mullen, Killian Corcoran, Joey Holden; Evan Shefflin, Richie Reid, Darragh Corcoran (0-3); Ronan Corcoran (0-3), Paddy Mullen (0-3); Adrian Mullen (0-4), TJ Reid (1-6, 4 frees 1-0pen), Eoin Cody (1-2); Eoin Kenneally, Colin Fennelly, Joey Cuddihy (1-0). Subs: Niall Shortall for Cuddihy, 50 mins; Eoin Reid (0-1) for A Mullen, 61 mins; Brian Butler for K Corcoran, 61 mins.
Naas: Cormac Gallagher; Rian Boran, Ross Kelly, Peter O’Donoghue; Harry Carroll (0-1), John McKeon, Kevin Whelan (0-2); Conan Boran, Simon Leacy; Kevin Aherne, Charlie Sheridan, James Burke (0-1); Brian Byrne, Jack Sheridan (0-12, 9frees), Cathal Dowling (1-0). Subs: Conor Dowling for Aherne, 49 mins; Ferran O’Sullivan for Kelly, 56 mins; Darach Mac Donncha for R Boran, 59 mins; Rian Monaghan for Burke, 61 mins; Liam Walsh for C Sheridan, 62 mins.
Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Naomh Fionnbarra)