Larkin and McEvoy put on the style for Stephens

James Stephens 1-18 Ballyhale Shamrocks 2-12

They masterfully led James Stephens to a second successive county senior hurling title before a 13,000 attendance at Nowlan Park yesterday.

Larkin was immense in the heart of a resolute Stephens' defence and scarcely gave Shamrocks' key man Henry Shefflin the proverbial look-in before the All Star was switched to full-forward.

McEvoy, operating in the middle of the field, was equally influential, capping a powerhouse individual display with two sweetly struck points.

The dynamic duo have had few better days than this in the red and green of their club. In stark contrast, Shefflin's input to the Shamrocks' cause was minimal and he ended the hour scoreless from play. When he blazed wide in front of an open goal 12 minutes into the second half and with his side trailing by two points, it just about summed up his day.

Without his influential input the Shamrocks attack always found the going tough. It didn't help their cause either that out of necessity they had to switch full-forward Cha Fitzpatrick to midfield to try and curb the dominance of McEvoy and Paddy O'Brien. Well though he played, Fitzpatrick's presence in attack was sorely missed against a defence in which wing-backs Jackie Tyrrell and team captain Peter Barry together with Donnacha Cody in the corner also excelled.

The early exchanges promised much for Shamrocks with David Hoyne clipping over a brace of quality points to suggest the champions would have a titanic defence of their title on their hands. It got even better for them when TJ Reid added a third but that was as good as it was ever to get for them, and thereafter one sensed that Stephens would carry the day. Their opening point on seven minutes was the first of nine from another man-of-the-match contender, Eoin Larkin, and a minute later Shamrocks had ultra-reliable goalkeeper James Connolly to thank when he somehow managed to keep out Eoin McCormack's goal blockbuster.

They had another major let-off a minute later when Larkin rattled the net only to be called back for a free which he pointed, but more and more the signs were looking ominous for the now struggling challengers.

The goal Stephens were threatening eventually came in the 28th minute, with an important input from McEvoy and full-forward Richie Hayes who provided the final pass. That opened up a five point gap between the sides, but it was back to four at the break, 1-7 to 0-6, when Fitzpatrick, rifled over a real beauty.

With the game crying out for a Shamrocks goal it came inside 60 seconds of the restart and looked to have set up a mouthwatering second half. Eoin Reid's long delivery was broken down by Shefflin and in a flash TJ Reid had the ball nestling in the back of the net.

Champions die hard, however, and on this day Stephens proved their mettle in the grand manner. McEvoy chipped in with a brace of magnificent points to which Shefflin (free) and David Hoyne responded before Shefflin's crucial goal miss.

It was to mark the beginning of the end of Shamrocks faltering challenge and despite the defensive work of Eamonn Walsh, it was Stephens who eased to safer pasture with four unanswered points in as many minutes.

Now firmly in the driving seat, they might have put themselves virtually out of sight had full-forward Richie Hayes converted a great goal chance in the 56th minute, but clearly there was now no way back for Shamrocks.

Larkin completed his nine point haul from another free before the losers had the consolation of an injury time goal from Eoin Reid. Far too little too late with Stephens the deserving champions for an eighth time.

Their defence of provincial and All-Ireland titles will be underway soon, and the clear-cut message from this decider is that the champions and their crowns won't be easily parted.

Scorers: James Stephens: E. Larkin (0-9, 0-6 frees); E. McCormack (1-2); B. McEvoy (0-2); D. McCormack (0-2); S. Egan (0-2); P. O'Brien (0-1). Shamrocks:TJ Reid (1-2); E. Reid (1-0); D. Hoyne (0-3); H. Shefflin (0-2, frees); J. Fitzpatrick (0-2); M. Aylward (0-1); T. Coogan (0-1)

JAMES STEPHENS: F. Cantwell; D. Cody, M. Phelan, D. Grogan; J. Tyrell, P. Larkin, P. Barry; P. O'Brien, B. McEvoy; J. Murray, E. Larkin, G. Whelan; E. McCormack, R. Hayes, D. McCormack. Sub: S. Egan for Murray(38 mins).

SHAMROCKS: J. Connolly; P. Shefflin, E. Walsh, P. Holden; K. Nolan, B. Aylward, M. Fennelly; A. Cummins, TJ Reid; E. Reid, H. Shefflin, D. Hoyne; P. Reid, J. Fitzpatrick, M. Aylward. Subs: T. Coogan for P. Reid (35 mins); L. Grant for Hoyne (57mins); B. Costelloe for M. Aylward (57 mins); T. Shefflin for Fitzpatrick (inj, 62 mins).

Referee: Eddie Crowley, Mooncoin.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

GAATitleGAALogo

Sat, Nov 27

Courcey Rovers v Castlelyons

PIHC FINAL

Páirc Uí Chaoimh
5pm

Sun, Sept 26

Clyda Rovers
v
Mallow

SAFC Round 2

Glantane
2pm

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.