Ballyhale Shamrocks forwards prove decisive in All-Ireland final
Wides costly for Kilmallock as first-half Colin Fennelly goal proves key
Ballyhale Shamrocks’ Henry Shefflin and Eoin Reid go for a high ball in the All-Ireland club final against Kilmallock. They scored five points between them. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-18 Kilmallock 1-06
Ballyhale don’t always win Kilkenny and when they do, don’t always win Leinster. Play them in Croke Park however on a good surface with wide open spaces and chances are you lose.
Nothing much went right for Kilmallock. They arrived in Tuesday’s AIB All-Ireland club hurling final with an admirable Munster campaign behind them, a reputation for boisterous resilience and good, long-range shooting and buoyed by the eternal optimism of Limerick hurling.
For a few moments everything looked possible. Paudie O’Brien heaved over a point within 10 seconds to get them off the mark and even if the veteran Bob Aylward equalised within half a minute, Kilmallock’s belief in the frailties of the Ballyhale full back line sustained an aerial bombardment of Richie Reid’s goal.
In the fourth minute Jake Mulcahy launched another missile and the goalkeeper missed it but the goal was disallowed for a square infringement. The winners’ joint-manager Andy Moloney said that the reprieve had been significant in depriving Kilmallock of early encouragement.
The Munster champions’ feistiness was further depleted by a sequence of wides from various positions, which by half-time had reached double figures. It was all the more dispiriting for their backs, who were sharp and combative and hustled their opponents off a succession of deliveries.
Fennelly moved out to centre forward in a switch with Henry Shefflin, who took a high ball in the right corner before flashing over a point for 0-4 to 0-1. The margin was down to two, 0-6 to 0-4 – due to some good scores by Kilmallock’s Jake and Graham Mulcahy – when the match changed in the 25th minute.
Firstly, Kilmallock replaced full forward Kieran Kenneally in implicit acceptance that the high-ball strategy wasn’t working. In goal Reid had been played into the match by the number of shots dropping short and Joey Holden commanded his square with all the authority of someone being tipped to replace JJ Delaney on the county team.
Secondly, Colin Fennelly who was beginning to thrive on the 40 raced on to a breaking ball in the 27th minute and raced in for a terrific finish high to goalkeeper Barry Hennessy’s left. By the break it was a six-point match, 1-7 to 0-4.
Instead Ballyhale knocked off another three. Shefflin, overall well marked by Mark O’Loughlin, did well to control a wayward ball from TJ Reid and clipped it over the bar. Substitute Mark Aylward pointed a minute later and TJ Reid added a signature score in the 39th minute.
Showing all the instincts of a quality inter-county player, he managed to shrug off a retinue of markers in tight confines by turning quickly and creating space for himself to slip away and fire off the shot.
Kilmallock couldn’t get the same inspiration from their county men although Graeme Mulcahy tried hard to get into the game but the high ball might have been mixed with some more sympathetic deliveries for him. Gavin O’Mahony never got going against Michael Fennelly and was eventually moved to centrefield while O’Brien couldn’t repeat his early accuracy racking up four wides.
The match ran out of steam and Ballyhale’s sense of urgency wandered a little. There was still excellent tidying up and invention from TJ Reid although some of his shooting was erratic and a high work-rate from Colin Fennelly. The points total mounted and although Robbie Hanley got in for a late goal for the Limerick champions, they were on their way to a double-digit defeat, a harsh end to a battling campaign.
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: R Reid; K Nolan, J Holden, A Cuddihy (0-1); P Shefflin, M Fennelly, A Cummins; C Walsh, B Aylward (0-1); J Fitzpatrick, H Shefflin (0-2), TJ Reid (capt; 0-6, four frees); P Reid, C Fennelly (1-3), E Reid (0-3).
Subs: M Aylward (0-2) for P Reid (half-time), T Coogan for Nolan (58 mins), D Hoyne for Walsh (59 mins), M Dermody for P Shefflin (60 mins).
KILMALLOCK: B Hennessy; L Hurley, M O’Loughlin, A Costello; L Walsh, P O’Loughlin, K O’Donnell; B O’Sullivan, P O’Brien (0-1); J Mulcahy (0-1), G O’Mahony, R Egan; G Mulcahy (capt, 0-1), K Kenneally, E Ryan (0-3, three frees).
Subs: P O’Loughlin for Kenneally (25 mins), R Hanley (1-0) for Egan (45 mins), C Barry for O’Sullivan (56 mins).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).