Defending champions Ballyhale Shamrocks made to work by Clonkill
Eoin Cody scores three goals for Shefflin’s side to see them through in Mullingar
Eoin Cody scored 3-4 for Ballyhale against Clonkill. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Ballyhale Shamrocks 3-21 Clonkill 2-15
Ballyhale Shamrocks had to work hard to dispose of a gutsy Clonkill side in Mullingar on Sunday afternoon, the reigning All-Ireland champions eventually winning by a nine-point margin.
The Kilkenny champions raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead, but a fine goal by Brendan Murtagh levelled the contest in the sixth minute.
Murtagh, a former Leinster player, was untypically wasteful during the following 15 minutes - he shot five wides in total in the first half - while at the other end Eoin Cody was the main scoring threat and his two goals in the 12th and 22nd minutes put Ballyhale in control. TJ Reid also converted three frees and his side led by 2-9 to 1-5 at the interval.
Cody completed his hat-trick within a minute of the resumption of play to end any lingering doubts about the outcome.
However, the Westmeath men battled away manfully with the evergreen Murtagh leading the way and he ended up as the game’s top scorer. He showed great skill to score his second goal in the 46th minute, but a brave Clonkill outfit could never get closer than six points with Reid converting a range of frees for Ballyhale.
Ballyhale Shamrocks: D Mason; D Corcoran, J Holden, D Mullen; E Shefflin, M Fennelly, R Reid; E Shefflin (0-1), M Fennelly, R Reid (0-1); R Corcoran, J Cuddihy; A Mullen (0-1), TJ Reid (0-11, seven frees), B Cody; E Reid (0-1), C Fennelly, E Cody (3-4). Subs: M Aylward (0-1) for B Cody (half-time), E Kenneally (0-1) for Cuddihy (39 mins), C Phelan for C Fennelly (51 mins), G Butler for M Fennelly (54 mins), P Hearne for Corcoran (59 mins).
Clonkill: A Mitchell; D Egerton, Adam Price, J Kenny; K Reilly, P Dowdall, L Folan (0-1); S Power (0-1), C Austin; N Mitchell, P Scally, L Loughlin (0-1); N Dowdall (0-2), B Murtagh (2-9, five frees, one ‘65), J Smyth. Subs: E Price for Kenny (23 mins), Anthony Price (0-1) for Austin (39 mins), M Keegan for Scally (44 mins), C Nolan for Smyth (47 mins), E Loughlin for Mitchell (50 mins).
Referee: J Heffernan (Wexford).