Ballyea into St Patrick’s Day decider as Tony Kelly stalls comeback
St Thomas almost claw back a 12-point deficit with 10 minutes left, but Kelly saves the day
Ballyea’s Tony Kelly celebrates with Paul Flanagan after their semi-final victory. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Ballyea (Clare) 1-19 St Thomas’ (Galway) 2-14
Ballyea held off a powerful late comeback from St Thomas’ to reach their first All-Ireland club hurling final, where they will meet either Dublin champions Cuala or Derry’s Slaughtneil.
Neil Deasy was the chief score getter for Ballyea and his goal in the 12th minute of the second-half proved crucial as St Thomas’ set about closing a 12-point deficit with ten minutes to go.
Conor Cooney had earlier struck a 20-metre free to the net to ignite the Galway champions, and after they hit nine of the next ten points they had a sniff of a comeback win.
Substitute Anthony Kelly goaled in added-time to cut Ballyea’s lead to the minimum, before former hurler of the year Tony Kelly landed the winner from the right to settle his nervy side and set up an All-Ireland decider on St Patrick’s Day.
For the opening 50 minutes the Clare champions were head and shoulders the better team as Deasy’s free-taking prowess proved stronger than his opposite number Conor Cooney. In fact the usually deadeye Cooney was taken off placed ball duty and replaced by Darragh Burke before the interval.
St Thomas’ struggled to control Kelly at midfield and Ballyea were good value for their 0-10 to 0-3 lead at the break, which was largely built by Deasy, although a couple of excellent points from wing-back Gearoid O’Connell certainly played its part in building that seven-point advantage.
Things didn’t get much better after the break for the Galway side as Kelly found his range with two good points, and once Deasy fired past Patrick Skehill for the game’s first goal there looked to be only one winner.
Cooney struck a free to the net 13 minutes from time however to give St Thomas’ hope, which triggered seven unanswered points in six minutes to really ignite belief.
Anthony Kelly did well to flick to the net in added-time, but with all the momentum suddenly turned against them, up stepped Tony Kelly - and who better to clinch the victory for Ballyea.
Ballyea: K Sheehan; J Neylon, J Browne, B Carrigg; G O’Connell (0-2), P Flanagan, J Murphy; T Kelly (0-3), S Lineen (c); N Deasy (1-11, 9f), G Brennan, C Doohan (0-1); PJ Connolly (0-2), D Burke, P Lillis.
Subs: M O’Leary for Burke 36, M Caulfield for Farrell 44.
St Thomas’: P Skehill (c); F Burke, C Burke, E Burke (0-1); D Cooney (0-1), S Cooney (0-1), J Regan (0-1); David Burke, B Burke; C Cooney (1-0f), Darragh Burke (0-8, 5f, 2’65), D Sherry; B Farrell, S Skehill, K Burke (0-2).
Subs: A Kelly (1-0) for Sherry 22.
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny).