At Cusack Park, Ennis, yesterday the Clare county champions were never in danger of losing this provincial semi-final to their counterparts from Waterford in a hugely entertaining contest.
Delighted winning coach Jim McInerney credited the victory to a magnificent team effort: “If you had said to me at the start of the year that we would win the Clare county championship and get to a Munster Club final, I’d have said to you, ‘get off the tablets’.
“It’s fabulous for the club to be in this position and hope we can do ourselves and Clare hurling proud in the final in a fortnight’s time.”
Tulla grabbed two goals in a dramatic five minute spell midway through the second half, scores which effectively won the game.
After struggling in the opening half, Ballyduff had cut their three-point deficit to the minimum after the break; then Tulla grabbed their first goal in the 49th minute, one which had an element of luck about it.
Making ground up the left hand side of the pitch, Brian Lynch floated the sliothar into the Ballyduff goalmouth, where their ‘keeper Adrian Power only succeeded in knocking it into his own net off corner-back Patrick Molumphy.
It gave Tulla a massive lift, but there was no fluke about the second one five minutes later. In a marvellous passing movement involving Danny O’Halloran and magnificent team captain Michael Murphy, the sliotar was played into Brian Quinn, who billowed the Ballyduff net to put his side two clear goals ahead. They were never going to be caught from that position.
Home advantage was worth its weight in gold to Tulla, who responded superbly to their vociferous supporters by racing into a three points to 0-0 lead inside the opening four minutes.
With Declan Murphy completely blotting out Waterford senior Stephen Molumphy at midfield, the Tulla attack thrived on the plentiful supply of ball that came their way, and with Aidan Lynch, Danny O’Halloran and Brian Quinn knocking over the points, the Clare champions were full value for their 0-6 to 0-1 lead after 25 minutes.
An out of sorts Ballyduff attack was totally dependent on Brendan Hannon for scores and he gave his side some hope with two late points which left Tulla 0-6 to 0-3 in front at the break, and the Waterford champions were still very much in contention as they turned to play with the wind.
Ballyduff opted to play the second half with two in the full forward line after pulling Brian Kearney out as a third midfielder and it certainly improved matters around the middle for the Waterford champions.
With Tom Feeney and Seamus Hannon driving them on, only a point separated the sides after 48 minutes as Brendan Hannon continued to find the target both from frees and play.
However the game took a dramatic turn in Tulla’s favour a minute later with their opening goal and when Brian Quinn found the second for a second major a couple of minutes later, the home side were in total control.
Ballyduff battled on gamely and it took a magnificent diving save by goalkeeper Philip Brennan to deny Shane Kearney a goal which would have ensured a grandstand finish. The Waterford’s side only reward for sustained pressure were two late points by Brendan Hannon who finished the game with ten of his side’s 14 points.
Scorers for Tulla: B. Quinn 1-2; D. O’Halloran 0-4; P. Molumphy 1-0 (og); M. Murphy 0-3; A. Lynch, B. Lynch 0-2 each.
Scorers for Ballyduff Upper: B. Hannon 0-10 (0-5 frees, 0-1 65); B. Kearney 0-2; S. Kearney, J. Twomey 0-1 each.
TULLA: P. Brennan; E. Cooney, S. Torpey, C. McInerney, J. Brennan; M. Quinn, P. Lynch; B. Lynch, D. Murphy; B. Quinn, M. Murphy, C. O’Halloran; D. O’Halloran, K. Brennan, A. Lynch.
Sub: J. Littleton for K. Brennan.
BALLYDUFF UPPER: A. Power; P. Molumphy, T. Molumphy, M. Drislane; S. Hannon, T. Feeney, G. Feeney; J. Twomey, S. Molumphy; J. Kearney, S. Kearney, S. Cunningham; B. Kearney, K. Geary, B. Hannon.
Subs: S. Feeney for Cunningham; L. McNamara for Geary.
Referee: C. McAlister (Cork).