Ballyea deny final debutants Inagh-Kilnamona to secure Clare hurling crown

Third title in six seasons for Ballyea as they finally overturn deficit in the closing stages

Ballyea 1-17 Inagh-Kilnamona 1-16

Ballyea are the hurling kingpins in Clare for the third time in six seasons after finally gathering momentum by the hour mark to edge out newcomers Inagh-Kilnamona in Cusack Park, Ennis on Sunday afternoon.

Despite the monumental loss of talisman Tony Kelly to injury after the quarter-final stage, Ballyea still possessed enough character and winning know-how to grind out a memorable victory, only hitting the front in injury-time for the first time in 35 minutes.

Such a storming finish typified their entire campaign as out of their six championship matches that included a group decider draw with Cratloe, this proved to be their fourth minimum win.

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It was a result that didn’t seem likely when Inagh-Kilnamona soared four clear nearing the final water break in contrast to a profligate Ballyea that would total 17 wides.

However, the 2016 and 2018 champions' fortunes would turn in the 50th minute when capitalising on a rare chink in Inagh-Kilnamona's miserly defensive armour as Aaron Griffin earned a penalty that chief marksman Niall Deasy duly converted to the net to level up the tie at 1-12 to 1-12.

An Aidan McCarthy-led Inagh-Kilnamona responded admirably to restore a two point cushion by the 55th minute but by now, Ballyea could smell blood and following a brace of Deasy frees, Cathal O’Connor and replacement Martin O’Leary nudged them decisively in front.

It was cruel on senior final debutants Inagh-Kilnamona who led for the majority and had gotten off to the perfect start with a goal from National Young Hurler of the Year nominee Aidan McCarthy in the opening minute.

Niall Deasy’s frees kept Ballyea ticking over throughout though, even when the narrative appeared to be veering towards their opponents who flipped a two point first quarter deficit to soar 1-8 to 0-9 clear by half-time after McCarthy finished with the last four points.

Inagh-Kilnamona maintained that upward curve in the new half but would be knocked to the canvas by the penalty and subsequently floored by Ballyea’s late blitz that ensured only the club’s third ever Canon Hamilton Cup success.

Ballyea: B Coote; P Casey, P Flanagan, C Meaney; J Murphy (0-1), J Browne, B O'Connell; G Brennan (0-2), S Lineen; C O'Connor (0-2), P Lillis, C Brennan; A Griffin (0-1), N Deasy (1-9, one penalty, seven frees, two '65s), M Gavin. Subs: M Garry (0-1) for C. Brennan (44), M O'Leary (0-1) for Gavin (51), R Griffin for Lineen (56), A Keane for A. Griffin (57).

Inagh-Kilnamona: P Kelly (0-1, one free); C Shannon, K White, C McConigley; K Hehir, J McCarthy (0-1), D Fitzgerald (0-2); D Cullinan, C Hegarty (0-1); S Foudy, D Mescall (0-1), N Mullins (0-1); C McInerney, A McCarthy (1-7, four frees, one '65), J Guyler (0-2). Subs: G Coote for C McInerney (HT), S McInerney for Coote (52), C Tierney for Mescall (54), E McNamara for Guyler (58).

Referee: J Healy