Ballyea claim All-Ireland final place despite St Thomas comeback

BALLYEA (Clare) 2-14

ST THOMAS’ (Galway) 1-19

By Michael Moynihan, Thurles

Victory went to Ballyea in this dramatic All-Ireland club semi-final in a chilly Semple Stadium, the 4,206 in attendance seeing a masterclass from the Clare champions before St Thomas’ produced a stirring comeback. Thirteen points down in the second half, the Galway men were only seen off by a Tony Kelly point in the last minute of injury time.

Gary Brennan of Ballyea and Cathal Burke of St Thomas' tussle under the dropping ball during the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Semi-Final match between St Thomas' and Ballyea at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Spectators saw Ballyea attack the town end in the first half but both sides took time to settle before two Niall Deasy frees got the Clare men on the scoreboard.

The Munster champions were sharper and more accurate, leading 0-6 to 0-2 thanks partly to two fine Gearoid O’Connell points and partly to Tony Kelly’s driving play around the middle.

Ballyea dominated the opening half - more Deasy points made it 0-9 to 0-2 with five minutes to the break, while the Galway men hit three wides in a row before Darragh Burke pointed a late 65.

However, there was time for Deasy to hit another free before the break, his seventh score of the half, making it 0-10 to 0-3 at the half.

The teams exchanged points on the resumption - a Darragh Burke free answered with a Tony Kelly point on the run. St Thomas’ were more competitive but Ballyea were slicker and kept them at bay.

Sean Skehill almost found the Ballyea net with a ground shot but St Thomas’ were already nine down when Deasy tore in from the right to goal from close range on 40 minutes: 1-14 to 0-5.

Conor Cooney found the net with a close-in free and then an improbable seven points in a row made it interesting. As time ticked away St Thomas’ sub Anthony Kelly’s late goal cut the difference to the minimum, but up popped his namesake on the Clare side to make it safe.

Scorers for Ballyea: N. Deasy (1-11, 0-8 frees); T. Kelly (0-3); G. O’Connell, PJ Connolly (0-2 each); C. Doohan (0-1).

Scores for St. Thomas: Darragh Burke (0-8, 0-2 65s, 0-5 frees); C. Cooney (free), A. Kelly (1-0 each); K. Burke (0-2); E. Burke, S. Cooney, J. Regan, D. Cooney (0-1 each).

BALLYEA: K. Sheehan, J. Neylon, J. Browne, B. Carrig, G. O’Connell, P. Flanagan, J. Murphy, T. Kelly, S. Lineen (c), N. Deasy, G. Brennan, C. Doohan, P.J. Connolly, D. Burke, P. Lillis.

Subs: M. O’Leary for D. Burke (33)

ST THOMAS’: P. Skehill (c), F. Burke, C. Burke, E. Burke, D. Cooney, S. Cooney, J. Regan, David Burke, B. Burke, C. Cooney, Darragh Burke, D. Sherry, B. Farrell, S. Skehill, K. Burke.

Subs: A. Kelly for Sherry (inj., 21); M. Caulfield for Farrell (44)

Referee: S. Cleere (Kilkenny)


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