Ballyhale captain praises effort

Ballyhale Shamrocks captain Eamonn Walsh strongly praised his side for their resilient display as they claimed a record fifth AIB All-Ireland Club Senior hurling title following a five-point win over Portumna yesterday at Croke Park.

Ballyhale Shamrocks captain Eamonn Walsh strongly praised his side for their resilient display as they claimed a record fifth AIB All-Ireland Club Senior hurling title following a five-point win over Portumna yesterday at Croke Park.

Walsh and his defensive colleagues gave an excellent display as they halted Portumna's goal advances throughout this game.

However the centre-half-back was keen to shower plaudits on all his colleagues from defence to attack.

"We went out to play our best game and the mistakes didn't really happen. We backed each other up and we got great work from each other," he said.

"It's not an individual unit the backs. The forwards did brilliant blocking and hooking and the midfield the same so we are happy to take the plaudits today, because we don't get them very often. It's a whole team performance that I would be happiest with."

Ballyhale were brought to earth in their last meeting against Portumna at the All-Ireland semi-final stage 13 months ago, and Walsh says that it was nice to get one over the 2009 champions.

"You are relishing the challenge really. To win this All-Ireland by beating the champions is the best way to do it really. It just shows, we are a good team and they are a good team."

He added, "It was a fantastic match - we got the start this year and held on to it, a bit like they did last year. Another day it could go any way again."

Ballyhale beat Galway side Loughrea to claim their first All-Ireland title since 1981 back in 2005, but Walsh says that it is only now they realise the importance of that victory, which has helped them in their ascension to the top of the roll of honour.

"I think we were very young in the Loughrea final. It was our first county final and every match was new to us back then. I think we thought it might come a bit easy. It was our first county final and first club All-Ireland in the same year. We thought that this might happen every year. Then things didn't pan out like that.

"We got beaten by Birr in Leinster the following year, last year to Portumna. It's just now we realise what a fantastic achievement it is to be top of the pile in Ireland. The work that went into it, we put in the work. I think we deserve it because we always knew we had the hurlers."

Indeed Ballyhale Shamrocks Leinster title aspirations could have been unhinged at the first hurdle, when the Kilkenny champions squeezed past Wexford's Oulart-the-Ballagh after extra-time.

"The Oulart match was probably the one that sticks out in the mind the most," Walsh recalls.

"Into injury time and a point down, the ref could have blown and we could have been gone. That's the way things turn though. You won't win anything without a bit of luck.

"Against Oulart we dug deep. We were a good bit behind at one stage, we kept plugging away - other teams might drop their head, but it's the sign of champions I suppose that we kept going."

And like their Kilkenny inter-county counterparts, with four Kilkenny Championship titles in succession - eventually talk moves to five-in-a-row hopes.

"We won't think about that for the moment," Walsh mused.

"We'll take a break - I suppose that's next on the cards, but you can't look past any match in Kilkenny.

"The Championship doesn't start until after the All-Ireland, but the league will be starting in around a month or a bit more than that. It's league/Championship so you can't be losing any of those matches either.

"We will be back pretty soon again, but it's the Championship in Kilkenny is our goal - it's not five-in-a-row. You can't be thinking ahead too far or anything like that."

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