In the end the Shamrocks won by 2-18 to 1-17 to book a place in the semi-finals next Sunday against Kilkenny and Leinster champions, O’Loughlin Gaels, but they had to bring their best game to the table to survive.
Henry Shefflin spent most of last week on a quick visit to New York, but when he touched down in Nowlan Park yesterday he just let rip. He was super during the first half, bagging 1-5, and with T.J. Reid filling the role of a strong wing man by shooting four points, they rifled Shamrocks into a 1-10 to 0-9 interval lead.
That pair weren’t as prominent afterwards, but as they dropped off the high line of performance, up stepped Michael and Colin Fennelly, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Joseph Holden and Eoin Reid t to drive on the Shamrocks cause. A couple of times the difference crept up to five points, but Carrickshock, with Richie Power, their ace attacker with 10 points, just wouldn’t concede.
Power converted a free in the 54th minute, and when his brother John landed a brilliant goal within two minutes, the contest was wide open again — 2-16 to 1-17.
Shamrocks broke upfield and Eoin Reid blasted over a point after Colin Fennelly created the opening.
A minute later sub Mark Aylward arrowed over a mighty point for Shamrocks from near midfield to round off the scoring and keep the Ballyhale boys on track for a possible league/championship double.
In the other quarter-final O’Loughlin Gaels ran hot and cold before they beat city rivals, Dicksboro by 2-11 to 1-10.
The champions hadn’t played in three weeks because their opponents had been involved in a drawn match earlier, and they looked very ring rusty during the opening half. At half-time the ‘Boro led by 0-5 to 0-4.
When O’Loughlin’s failed to score during the opening 12 minutes of the new half and the challengers slipped 0-7 to 0-4 clear, an upset looked on the cards.
The champions were thrown a rescue line in the 44th minute when Mark Bergin tapped an incoming free from midfield by Maurice Nolan to the net from the edge of the square (1-4 to 0-7).
Then there was an exchange of points but Martin Gaffney pointed in the 49th minute to put Dicksboro back in front, 0-9 to 1-5. Ten minutes from the end Conor Bergin punished an error in the ‘Boro defence when goaled to win back the lead for O’Loughlin’s.
The semi-finals will be played at Nowlan Park next Sunday with Ballyhale Shamrocks facing O’Loughlin’s and James Stephens taking on St Martin’s (Muckalee).