Henry Shefflin hails his young guns as Ballyhale rout Ballyboden

Kilkenny champions ease to Leinster club final victory to set up clash with Ballygunner

Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) 2-21 Ballyboden St Enda’s (Dublin) 0-11

Never let it be said that Ballyhale don't know how to share the credit around. As Mick Fennelly began his acceptance speech here after a thoroughly ruthless routing of Ballyboden in the Leinster Club final, he kept a special word for substitute Mark Aylward who came on and scored a point to cap off a weekend in which he also experienced the birth of his first child. "And thanks as well to Mark's fiancée Margaret for all her hard work yesterday," added the Ballyhale captain, keeping the whole thing right and proper.

And so Henry Shefflin’s team laid waste to Ballyboden in much the same way as they laid waste to Gorey in the semi-final. They took a while to find their groove in the Kilkenny championship this year in all truth but they’ve hit a new gear in the province now and it was little wonder that Shefflin said afterwards that he wished the next game was coming up straight away. That said, their clash with Ballygunner in February ought to be something to behold.

Here, it was a case of new faces telling an old story. Ballyhale are, of course, TJ Reid and the Fennellys and Joey Holden up through their spine. But there's a younger generation driving them now as well, with the likes of Eoin Cody, Evan Shefflin and Eoin Reid all terrific here. And of course, they have a newbie on the sideline too.


“It is a different feeling,” said a delighted Shefflin afterwards. “It is satisfaction more than anything else. It was relief as a player. I didn’t think we would be here and I never thought about it until after the county final, to be honest. We were thrilled that we won that and it was our sole focus.

“The young lads have done well for us all year. This time last year we had a massive win in the under-21 championship and that has really stood to us. Evan playing beside Mick – if Mick is going well then Evan is going to go well. They are working very hard, putting in the shift and we are getting the bounce as a management team fresh in. They are probably hanging on our words a lot and that probably changes over the years, no doubt about it. Things have just worked very well for us this year

“Even in the first-half when it was tight – we had ten wides and we wouldn’t have been happy with that, a 41 per cent conversion rate. We experienced that in the club championship at home where we went in at half-time not shooting the lights out. We knew there was more in us in the second-half and that stood to us.”

The Kilkenny champions were a rolling rock for the first half here, scattering everything in their path through sheer force but sorely lacking in precision. They didn’t allow Ballyboden a single shot from play in the first 14 minutes, such was their dominance throughout the pitch.

And yet the Dublin side were able to stay in touch, thanks for the most part to Ballyhale's wayward shooting. TJ Reid had five wides to his name by half-time alone. And though an Adrian Mullen goal on 12 minutes bounced Ballyhale into an early 1-2 to 0-1 lead, the Dublin side had inched their way to parity five minutes short of the break. County footballer Colm Basquel was dangerous any time they could get him into the game and Niall McMorrow carried plenty of fight in him too.

If there was a turning point – and it was actually more of a clarifying point, if anything – it was a save by Dean Mason in the Ballyhale goals on 25 minutes. Boden had weathered the storm and fought their way back and had Stephen O’Connor’s shot found the net, they’d have gone three up. It’s feasible – likely, even – that Ballyhale would still have prevailed in the end but when Mason’s save was followed by the Kilkenny champions banging over the closing four scores of the half, you suspected that was more or less that.

And any doubts were drowned as the clouds burst during the half-time break and suddenly Ballyboden were facing into a monsoon for the second half. Ballyhale promptly went to town on the them, with the two Fennellys and Eoin Cody particularly impressive. Mullen helped himself to another goal and it was over long before the end.

Ballyhale Shamrocks: Dean Mason; Darren Mullen, Joey Holden, Brian Butler; Evan Shefflin (0-1), Michael Fennelly (0-1), Conor Walsh; Ronan Corcoran, Richie Reid; Brian Cody, TJ Reid (0-9, 0-8 frees), Adrian Mullen (2-1); Eoin Reid (0-3), Colin Fennelly (0-2), Eoin Cody (0-3). Subs: Gavin Butler for Walsh, 39 mins; Mark Aylward (0-1) for B Cody, 15 mins; Joey Cuddihy for E Reid, 54 mins; Paddy Mullen for Butler, 56mins; Kevin Mullen for Corcoran, 58 mins

Ballyboden St Enda's: Gary Maguire; James Madden, Dean Curran, Shane Durkin (0-1); Stephen O'Connor, Simon Lambert, Luke Corcoran; David O'Connor, David Curtin; Niall McMorrow (0-1), Conal Keaney, Aidan Mellett; Paul Ryan (0-5, 0-3 frees), Conor Dooley, Colin Basquel (0-2). Subs: Niall Ryan (0-2) for Dooley, 30 mins; Paul Doherty for Mellett; Finn McGarry for Madden, 47 mins; Conor McCormack for S O'Connor, 50 mins; Mal Travers for D O'Connor

Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times