Youghal are the Munster Club IHC champions following a titanic battle with Ballina at Mallow yesterday.
A huge crowd witnessed an enthralling contest as both teams were reduced to 14 players in the second half, but Youghal held strong to become the first Cork team to receive IHC title since Ballymartle in 2010.
Youghal clung on to a three-point advantage in the dying minutes as Ballina searched for the equalising goal. The final whistle brought great scenes of celebration, and for top-scorer Brendan Ring (0-7), it was a day to savour after an incredible year.
“You know we didn’t have the best of starts to the year,” he said. “We were beaten in the first round of the Cork championship but we rallied. You can see that here today. We are going about five years now trying to win a county and you can see how we got here. There are no heroes on this team. We’ve had so many disappointments before, losing semi-finals year after year but there is great credit to all the players and what they have put into it.
“The county was our goal, but deep down, we thought we had a team good enough to win the Munster. You are going into the unknown [Munster] but we knew it would take a really good team to beat us. We got the goals at vital stages — we would have been beaten by those goals in the past and today we got them.”
Youghal made a statement early on when Ollie Dempsey finished to the net in the third minute after a brilliant save by Martin McKeogh from a Brendan Ring shot. Ballina answered back with points from Michael Breen and David Hickey but Youghal managed to keep their noses in front courtesy of two fantastic points from standout forward Brendan Ring.
Wing forward Brian Stritch was causing problems at the other end which meant the Tipp side were never too far behind. And when his brother Stephen Stritch latched on to a perfect long delivery from Stephen O’Brien to fire past Richard Cunningham in the 18th minute, Ballina took the lead for the first time, 1-6 to 1-5. But Youghal moved quickly to curb their attacking play, switching Dempsey to wing back and introducing Andrew Curtin to full forward.
In fact, Curtin had the sliotar in the net soon after but it was disallowed for a square infringement. As Ballina moved ahead by a point, Damien Ring crucially found the net for Youghal after combining with Curtin and this goal gave them a timely interval advantage, 2-6 to 1-7 — but they were also turning to play with the wind.
Points were exchanged before Ballina received a major blow with corner back Brian McKeogh receiving a second yellow card six minutes after the restart, which resulted in a reshuffle with centre-forward Michael Breen (later forced off injured) switching to defence while Barry Ring was the free player for Youghal. Bill Cooper and Curtin edged Youghal four points clear but Ballina were right back in the game when Domhnall McKeogh found the net with the final quarter to play. They trailed 2-8 to 2-9.
Damien Ring struck a fine point from play before Ollie Dempsey received a straight red card with 10 minutes remaining. Crucially Brendan Ring converted a pair of frees to make it a four-point match. Barry Ring, John Grace and keeper Cunningham all made vital saves as Ballina were desperate for a goal. A Stephen O’Brien 65m cut the gap to three points but Youghal, not for the first, dug deep.
They travel to Ruislip to play St Gabriel’s of London (All Ireland finalists 2012/2013) in the All-Ireland quarter-final next month.
Scorers for Youghal: Brendan Ring (0-7, 4fs), D Ring (1-1), O Dempsey (1-0), B Cooper (0-2), J O’Mahony, L Desmond and A Curtin (0-1 each).
Scorers for Ballina: S Stritch (1-1), M Breen (0-4, 3fs, 1 65), D McKeogh (1-0), S O’Brien (0-2, 1 65), D Hickey, B Stritch and TJ O’Connell (0-1 each).
YOUGHAL: R Cunningham; B O’Sullivan, J Grace, K Walsh; M Cronin, C Spillane, Barry Ring; L Desmond, N Roche; D Ring, A Frahill-O’Connor, B Cooper; J O’Mahony, O Dempsey, Brendan Ring.
Subs: A Curtin for K Walsh (23), B Coleman for A Curtin (60).
BALLINA: M McKeogh; R Kennedy, P Cosgrove, B McKeogh; K Cosgrove, T Collins, D Kent; J O’Brien, S O’Brien; S Stritch, M Breen, B Stritch; D McKeogh, D Hickey, TJ O’Connell.
Subs: E Sheehy for R Kennedy (ht), B O’Connor for M Breen (47 inj), S McKeogh for D McKeogh (55).
Referee: Shane Hourigan (Limerick).
The key moment
After Youghal’s great start, Damien Ring’s goal moments before the break yielded a two-point lead at half-time against the wind.
First time visitors to the Mallow GAA complex were in awe of the fabulous facilities.
Haven’t seen that before
The next generation of Ballina and Youghal hurlers. The underage section provided a guard of honour.
The main man
Brendan Ring was a thorn in Ballina’s side throughout, supplying seven points.
The man in black
Shane Hourigan’s job was made easy by two sporting teams. He consulted with his umpires before disallowing Andrew Curtin’s goal in the first half.
All-Ireland club quarter-final for Youghal against London senior champions St Gabriel’s in Ruislip next month.
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