Ballyhale Shamrocks to come out on top despite Offaly champions’ experience
Kilcormac/Killoughey won’t be cowed by Ballyhale’s stars but it won’t be enough
Henry Shefflin: the Ballyhale Shamrocks player has been awarded Hurler of the Year three times throughout his career. Photograph: Alan Betson
By an odd roulette spin of history, when Ballyhale have come around to picking up Leinster titles down the years it has been Offaly clubs who have by and large suffered worst at their hands.
Birr (twice), Tullamore, Coolderry and Kinnity have all lost Leinster finals to the Shamrocks, who will go out on their own at the head of the province’s roll of honour if they add Kilcormac /Killoughey to the list tomorrow.
Looking at recent history, there’s no overwhelming reason why the Offaly champions should cower in fear here. They’ve won a Leinster title since Ballyhale last managed it, won an All-Ireland indeed.
They’ve done three in a row in Offaly and look to be easing away from the pack there if the growing margin of victory in the last three county finals is anything to go by.
But there’s no getting away from the level of quality in the Ballyhale side. The numbers sizzle off the page – 37 All-Irelands, 19 All-Stars, two Hurlers of the Year (one of them, a Mr H Shefflin, three times over), one Young Hurler of the Year.
Kilcormac/Killoughey have too much experience to be blinded by the stars here and the 9/2 odds available about them is a touch disrespectful of a side that were All-Ireland champions 18 months ago. But all said and done, it’s hard to look past the Kilkenny kingpins.