Brilliant Ballyhale Shamrocks turn on the style

Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) 1-18 v Kilmallock (Limerick) 1-18:

Brilliant Ballyhale Shamrocks turn on the style

The men in the white jerseys had 12 points to spare at the end of a disappointing final, showing all the clinical accuracy we’ve come to associate with Kilkenny teams in Croke Park.

In contrast their Limerick opponents never looked comfortable or settled, hitting 10 wides in the first half alone.

Kilmallock led briefly at the start of the game, when Paudie O’Brien opened the scoring with a first-minute point but then Ballyhale, as you might expect from such a vastly experienced side, took charge.

They only got three points in the first 10 minutes but they had four wides as well, and ominously for Kilmallock, Joey Holden was dominant at full-back for the Kilkenny champions.

It might have been different. On four minutes a Jake Mulcahy delivery from distance ended up in the Ballyhale net but was ruled out for square ball after referee James Owens held a lengthy consultation with his umpires.

Kilmallock had to wait until the 17th minute to get their second score, a Robbie Egan point, while Ballyhale were in their groove, with Henry Shefflin ghosting from position to position up front and TJ Reid getting on plenty of ball.

Colin Fennelly started to come into the game more for the Leinster men and pointed, and Eoin Reid and Paudie O’Brien exchanged points before the game’s first goal with three minutes to half-time.

A Ballyhale puck-out broke perfectly for Colin Fennelly, who tore through the middle before stitching the ball into the corner of the net.

TJ Reid added a point before half time, but unfortunately for the Limerick men, they hit five wides in a row in the run-in to half time.

At the break it was 1-7 to 0-4, a scoreline you’d be expecting from the football game.

The second half continued in similar fashion — Ballyhale had three points on the board before Kilmallock’s Eoin Ryan pointed a 40th-minute free, only for TJ Reid to restore Ballyhale’s advantage to nine points, 1-11 to 0-5.

After the game Kilmallock manager Ger O’Loughlin admitted that Ballyhale had begun the second half the way his side had wanted to, and the picture didn’t improve for Kilmallock as the half wore on.

TJ Reid drifted around the middle of the field picking up ball and finding men inside with ease, while his teammates kept the scoreboard ticking over with point after point — in a 10-minute spell they outscored Kilmallock seven points to one, with corner-back Alan Cuddihy ranging upfield to blast one over from halfway, emphasising their superiority.

In the closing 10 minutes Kilmallock were battling for respectability, and though they came close on a couple of occasions Holden’s marshalling of the rearguard meant there were only four minutes left when wing-forward Robbie Egan finally billowed the net for the Limerick side.

Given how one-sided the game was, it’s no surprise that there was a focus on Shefflin after the game, particularly as the win meant it was his 13th senior All-Ireland medal in hurling between county and club.

“It’s brilliant,” said Shefflin.

“I grew up in a pub in Ballyhale and the first team in 1991 were just finishing their third All-Ireland.

“I suppose it was an unbelievable achievement — I didn’t realise at that time how hard it is, so for ourselves to come along and achieve that feat as well is absolutely brilliant. It’s the end of a long campaign and things came right for us this year. The last few years, obviously, we’ve been struggling with injuries, so everything fell into place this year. We’ve a full panel to pick from and once we had that I think we showed that we were the best team in the country this year.”

On yesterday’s evidence, that was a safe assumption.

Scorers for Ballyhale: TJ Reid 0-6 (0-3 fs), C. Fennelly 1-3; E Reid 0-3; H Shefflin, M Aylward 0-2 each; A Cuddihy, B Aylward 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilmallock: R Egan 1-1; G Mulcahy (0-1 f), E Ryan (0-2 fs) 0-2 each; P O’Brien 0-1.

Subs for Ballyhale: M Aylward for P Reid, HT; T Coogan for Nolan, 57; D Hoyne for Walsh, 58; M Dermody for P Shefflin, 59.

Subs for Kilmallock: P O’Loughlin for Kenneally, 24; R Hanley for Egan, 44; C Barry for O’Sullivan, 56.

Referee: J. Owens (Wexford).

BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: R Reid; K Nolan, J Holden, A Cuddihy, P Shefflin, M Fennelly, A Cummins, B Aylward, C Walsh, J Fitzpatrick, H Shefflin, TJ Reid (c), P Reid, C Fennelly, E Reid. KILMALLOCK: B Hennessy, L Hurley, M O’Loughlin, A Costello; L Walsh, Philip O’Loughlin, K O’Donnell; P O’Brien, B O’Sullivan; J Mulcahy, G. O’Mahony, R Egan; E Ryan, K Kennelly, G Mulcahy (c).

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