Stuff of champions as slick Duhallow deliver

“AN unbelievable bunch of players.”

The words of delighted Duhallow manager Jimmy Murphy after seeing his slick moving charges outclass Ballinhassig in the Cork U-21 HC decider at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday.

In the heavy underfoot conditions, Duhallow were always on top of their game, with splendid half-back trio Kevin Mannix, Mark Ellis and ‘man of the match’ William Egan the key formation. Mannix did a fine marking job on Ballinhassig dangerman Danny O’Callaghan, who was sent off in the 39th minute after receiving a second yellow from excellent referee Cathal McAllister.

Eleven different Duhallow players found the target – all the forwards, the entire half backline, substitute Liam Daly, as well as midfielder and captain John McLoughlin. He and his partner William Murphy were neatness personified all through, getting in an array of good work.

It was hardly a game for the purists though for Duhallow were simply different class, focused and organised, and Murphy was quick to compliment his players: “The perfect end to the season and I have no doubt the experience of last year helped us through. We had eight minors on duty when we lost to the Glen in that replay and all those players have matured into fine hurlers.

“I admit we were lucky in the quarter-final against Inniscarra, the best team we played, but I felt once we got a run going we would be hard to stop. That’s how it panned out, we got better every week and we were always in control today.

“There was no difficulty with the squad who faithfully travelled long distances from places like Limerick , Carlow and Kilkenny and never missed a training session. They got their reward out there today, we’ll celebrate now.”

And they have every reason to. Duhallow looked smooth from the off and it took Mannix just two minutes to put his side ahead with Egan converting a 65 five minute later. Further points followed from Kieran Sheahan and Benji Sheehy as the divisional side made light of the heavy ground conditions.

Ballinhassig did get a goal chance in the 12th minute when full-forward Brendan Holland was upended, only for goalkeeper Mathew Collins, who made the long trip to take the free, to see his shot rebound off the upright.

Leading 0-5 to 0-0 after the opening quarter there was no let-up by Duhallow, Ballinhassig taking 19 minutes to get on target – a free from O’Callaghan. But Duhallow often looked casual and sloppy with their shooting, Lorcan McLoughlin and Denis Roche the chief culprits. McLoughlin, doubtful from the start, later went off injured and they got a jolt in the 27th minute when keeper Kevin Roche failed to deal with O’Callaghan’s long delivery and Liam Grainger put the ball in the net.

Leading 0-8 to 1-1 at the break – it should have been much greater – Duhallow again served notice with a fine solo point from John McLoughlin from the throw-in. O’Callaghan and Donnacha O’Donovan then got Ballinhassig’s sole points from play but they were then dealt a huge blow when O’Callaghan was sent off. Leading 0-14 to 1-4 entering the final quarter Duhallow were in control. Sub Daly proved an able replacement with three points, their joint top scorer, as Duhallow just ran down the clock In fairness to Ballinhassig they should have had a second goal for they had four near misses in the space of a minute. First Mike Sheehan had a 21 blocked; Roche had to make a smart save to deny Paul Coomey; substitute Darren Delea missed a sitter and Collins had a penalty saved after Coomey was upended.

But they can have no complaints. Duhallow were the masters, winning their first title in the grade since 1982.

Scorers for Duhallow: W. Egan (0-2 65s, 0-1 free), A. Walsh, L. Daly (0-2 frees) 0-3 each, K. Sheehan 0-2, K. Mannix, B. Sheehy, L. McLoughlin (free), J. McLoughlin, M. Ellis, K. O’Sullivan, D. Roche 0-1 each.

Ballinhassig: L. Grainger 1-0, D. O’Callaghan 0-2 (0-1 free), D. O’Donovan, P. Coomey (free), S. Sheehan (65) 0-1 each.

DUHALLOW: K. Roche (Banteer); S. O’Riordan (Meelin), A. O’Connor (Kanturk), B. Withers (Banteer); K. Mannix (Banteer), M. Ellis (Millstreet), W. Egan (Kilbrin); J. McLaughlin (Kanturk), W. Murphy (Meelin); B. Sheehy (Tullylease), K. O’Sullivan (Newmarket), A. Walsh (Kanturk); K. Sheehan (Kilbrin), L. McLoughlin (Kanturk), D. Roche (Banteer).

Subs: L. Daly (Kilbrin) for L. McLoughlin (24m), J. Ryan (Newmarket) for J. McLoughlin (50), W. Corkery (Kilbrin) for O’Sullivan (57), D. Dennehy (Banteer) for Sheehan (60) C. Burke (Kanturk) for Sheehy (60).

BALLINHASSIG: M. Collins; J. Reardon, E. Finn, S. Sheehan ; M. Sheehan, M. Desmond, P. Brennan; S. McCarthy, R. McCarthy; D. O’Donovan, P. Coomey, D. O’Callaghan; E. Heffernan, B. Holland,. L. Grainger;

Subs: D. Delea for S. McCarthy (bs), J. Kiely for Heffernan (ht), D. Delea for R. McCarthy (50), K. Walsh for Grainger (54).

Referee: C. McAllister (Aghada).

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