It was Henry Shefflin’s gift that he could make hurling look so damn simple as a player and it was hard not to think that he has this management lark licked as his Ballyhale Shamrocks side claimed the club’s ninth Leinster senior title yesterday.
This 16-point margin in a wet and wild Carlow was the easiest of them all and it came on the back of a 14-point
dismissal of Wexford’s Naomh Eanna in the semi-final. Point that out to Shefflin and it marks the first time all day that he looks a tad uncomfortable.
“As I said after the county final, it is a different feeling. 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.
“Things have gelled nicely for us and it’s just been one of those years when things have just gone well. We’ve had no injuries. Robbie Lodge has done a great job on the physio. It’s unheard of, really, with all the matches and for the likes of Mick and TJ to still be fit on the 1st of December.”
Mick and TJ are, of course, Fennelly and Reid. Add in Joey Holden at full-back and Colin Fennelly on the opposite square and Shefflin is clearly working with a spine that few club managers could dream of. That and a bunch of talented youngsters to boot.
It was the capture of the county U21 title this time last year that served notice of
Ballyhale’s rebirth as a force at this level and, with the club again represented in the grade’s decider shortly, there is the promise of more good times ahead.
“They are working very hard, putting in the shift, and we are getting the bounce as a management team fresh in,” Shefflin explained. “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.
“Even in the first half when it was tight, we had 10 wides and we wouldn’t have been happy with that, a 41% 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.”
That about sums it up.
Ballyhale started ominously, Adrian Mullen’s eighth-minute goal pushing them into a four-point lead, and the omens for ’Boden were grim given the amount of ball they were conceding in the litany of aerial duels seen up to then. Mullen’s goal had come from just that route.
Give ’Boden their due, they changed tack. They had to.
Their first, carefully-crafted move ended with Colm Basquel, the Dublin footballer who hit Coolderry for 3-3 the last day, skinning Holden and posting a point. And he continued to cause problems through the next 15 minutes. This was Ballyboden’s best stretch. They managed seven points to Ballyhale’s three in the middle sector of a half played with a stiff wind at their backs, but the favourites rediscovered their equilibrium and took to the tunnel four points to the good.
Still Box Office.December 2, 2018
Nature intervened at that point. The skies darkened and then opened and the wind morphed into a storm. It was ’Boden who had to face it. The result was carnage. Ballyhale, with a point to prove after their 10 first-half wides, did as they pleased from there to the finish. The game became a mere procession.
’Boden would manage just the three points in that half, against 1-12 for Ballyhale, whose goal came seven minutes from the end. It came, like the first, courtesy of Mullen, who profited from a ball in to him by Fennelly.
Good as it was, it was mere padding.
’Boded had demonstrated their fighting spirit with epic defeats of Westmeath’s Clonkill and Coolderry of Offaly in recent weeks, but it may well be that a side that had already been put to the pin of their collar by Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin had emptied the tank.
It made for a discouraging end to a memorable season for the southside club, who have yet to taste victory in this elevated setting despite claiming their own county’s honours seven times now since a maiden title in 2007.
“I don’t think Ballyboden performed like they did [before],” said Shefflin. “We did a lot of research. In the Dublin championship they were really motoring well. In the [Leinster] club championship they haven’t been flowing as much.
“When we got the early goal it set the scene. We knew if we could get the scores on the board we’d have a good chance. The indication was that the weather might change and the wind pick up. Things have worked well for us this year. I’d love for the championship to continue.”
It will. After Christmas, at any rate, when they face Ballygunner in an All-Ireland semi-final.
Scorers for Ballyboden St Enda’s:
P Ryan (0-5 frees); C Basquel and N Ryan (both 0-2); S Durkin and N McMorrow (both 0-1).
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks:
TJ Reid (0-9, 8 frees ); A Mullen (2-1); E Reid and E Cody (both 0-3); C Fennelly (0-2); E Shefflin, M Fennelly, M Aylward (all 0-1).
BALLYBODEN ST ENDA’S:
G Maguire; J Madden, D Curran, S Durkin; S O’Connor, S Lambert, L Corcoran; D O’Connor, D Curtin; N McMorrow, C Keaney, A Mellett; P Ryan, C Dooley, C Basquel.
N Ryan for C Dooley (30 + 4); P Doherty for A Mellett (37); F McGarry for Curran (48); C McCormack for D O’Connor (49); N Travers for S O’Connor (56).
D Mason; D Mullen, J Holden, B Butler; E Shefflin, M Fennelly, C Walsh; R Corcoran, R Reid; B Cody, TJ Reid, A Mullen; E Reid, C Fennelly, E Cody.
G Butler for C Walsh (38); M Aylward for B Cody (45); J Cudihy for E Reid (54); K Mullen for Butler (56); P Mullen for Corcoran (57).
P Murphy (Carlow).