Ballyhale Shamrocks to meet Dicksboro in Kilkenny SHC final
All-Ireland champions see off James Stephens as The Boro beat O’Loughlin Gaels
Ballyhale’s Ronan Corcoran holds off Cian Kenny and Mathew McWey during his side’s win over James Stephens. Photograph: Inpho
Dicksboro and Ballyhale Shamrocks will contest this year’s Kilkenny SHC final after showing their mettle in two tough battles.
The Boro were first to grab a place in the September 27th encounter when they saw off city rivals O’Loughlin Gaels by 2-16 to 0-14.
In a tight first half there was nothing between the teams. Having met in the league final, which went all the way to penalties, it was no surprise to see the teams level on 0-8 apiece after 30 minutes. Shane Stapleton did most of the scoring for Dicksboro - he hit five points, including two superb scores from sideline cuts. Eoin O’Shea was the threat for O’Loughlin’s, helping himself to 0-3.
Dicksboro raised their game in the second half and quickly took a decisive grip on proceedings. Aidan Nolan gave them a boost when, somehow, he found enough space to rattle the net from the narrowest of angles within seven minutes of the restart (1-9 to 0-10).
O’Loughlin’s tried hard to get back into the game, but a Boro defence inspired by Cillian Buckley and Ollie Walsh refused to let their rivals mount a comeback. Dicksboro kicked on and took a huge step towards their first final since 2017 when Shane Stapleton cut through the Gaels defence to drill an unstoppable shot to the net eight minutes from the final whistle.
Ballyhale joined Dicksboro in the final, but the reigning champions were made to work hard to get there.
In the end, late points from TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly helped as the All-Ireland club champions beat James Stephens by 3-22 to 1-26, keeping their hopes of a third-straight county title alive.
The Shamrocks looked odds-on to record a big win when two goals scored in lightning quick time by Reid (penalty) and Fennelly saw them sprint into a 2-8 to 0-6 lead after 22 minutes. However, the Village hit back. Inspired by Eoin Guilfoyle, they hit nine points in a row to eke out a one-point lead by the break (0-15 to 2-8).
James Stephens kept a good tempo going in the second half, but saw their lead wiped out when Fennelly found room to twist and turn before striking his second goal on 43 minutes (3-13 to 0-21).
The Village made an instant reply, Guilfoyle blasting a goal to restore their advantage, but the champions ground it out in the final quarter to turn things their way.