Brave Ballyhale claim thrilling Leinster title

Ballyhale Shamrocks 0-21 Kilcormac-Killoughey 1-14 (AET)

Brave Ballyhale claim thrilling Leinster title

Ballyhale Shamrocks 0-21 Kilcormac-Killoughey 1-14 (AET)

TJ Reid scored 10 points, as Ballyhale Shamrocks had to dig deep to deliver their eighth AIB Leinster SHC title following a four-point win over Kilcormac Killoughey after extra-time at O’Moore Park.

The Kilkenny side captured their first provincial title since 2009 with not more than three points separating the teams in normal time, before Shamrocks kicked-on in extra-time.

Andy Maloney's side led by 0-7 to 0-6 at the interval, thanks to a Henry Shefflin, but Kilcormac-Killoughey came good on the restart.

Dan Currams netting the only goal of the game four minutes after the restart to hand the Offaly side a 1-6 to 0-8 lead.

Kilcormac-Killoughey erred in front of the posts with a number of Ciaran Slevin misses, but it was Slevin who forced extra-time with his 60th minute effort.

Shamrocks were best in extra-time, holding their opponents to a point in the first period, as they moved 0-18 to 1-12 ahead at the break, and opened up a four-point advantage by the full-time whistle.

Kilcormac-Killoughey may have been made underdogs by the bookmakers heading into this encounter, but chasing a second provincial title in three years, the Offalymen certainly were keen to make a strong start.

After just a minute Danny Owens charges held a 0-2 to 0-0 lead, with teenager Cillian Kiely and James Gorman on target, before TJ Reid opened his sides account with a pointed free in the fifth minute.

This game was tenacious throughout, and an end-to-end battle ensued, with some excellent defensive displays.

Full-back Joey Holden done well to ship some early Kilcormac-Killoughey pressure, while at the opposite end Colin Fennelly’s goal-bound run was halted with a superb Ger Healion block.

Conor Walsh produced a fine score from a tight angle to level the game in the tenth minute before Reid pushed Ballyhale ahead for the first time a minute later.

Kilcormac-Killoughey worked hard and took the lead entering the second quarter, following a brace of Ciaran Slevin pointed frees.

Reid’s third point levelled the tie soon after, but Ballyhale would fail to score between the 17th and 26th minutes, as Kilcormac Killoughey took control once more.

Scores from Conor Mahon and Damien Kilmartin ensured a 0-6 to 0-4 lead in the 24th minute, but despite heavy rain Ballyhale were strongest before the break.

A trio of unanswered scores, including two from Reid, and a first from Shefflin put them 0-7 to 0-6 ahead at the break, with the Kilkenny champions also defending well late in the half, despite strong Kilcormac-Killoughey pressure.

Ballyhale Shamrocks opted to make some switches for the second half, with Brian Cody introduced for midfielder David Hoyne and James Fitzpatrick switching to the middle for the throw-in.

On the restart, Ballyhale started brightly with Reid adding his sixth point, to take a two-point lead for the first time.

Kilcormac-Killoughey responded strongly and claimed the lead for the first time since the 24th minute, with the only goal of the game.

James Gorman’s initial powerful shot was expertly saved by Richie Reid, but the Ballyhale keeper was beaten, after Peter Geraghty flicked across the rebound to Currams who finished to the net from close range.

Despite this set-back, Shamrocks responded well with a trio of TJ Reid scores to open up an 0-11 to 1-6 lead, with Kilcormac-Killoughey wayward in front of the posts.

Ciaran Slevin fired two quick wides from placed balls, before Mark Aylward extended Ballyhale’s lead at the start of the final quarter.

Kilcormac-Killoughey hit four unanswered scores, with a close range Currams effort followed up with scores from Slevin and Kiely to level the tie for the sixth time, before James Gorman edged them ahead in the 54th minute.

This game continued to ebb and flow, with Shamrocks reclaiming the lead after points from Eoin Reid, and Henry Shefflin.

Ciaran Slevin made amends for his previous misses as his effort on the stroke of 60 minutes levelled the game for the eighth time.

Both sides had chances for a winner, but defences were on top in the closing stages.

A James Gorman effort was blocked in the first minute of injury-time, before Kiely hooked Colin Fennelly in front of the posts at the opposite end.

A late Slevin free dropped short, with referee Paud O’Dwyer blowing the full-time whistle and a 1-11 to 0-14 score-line.

Ballyhale Shamrocks made the best of the opening period of extra-time, but it took both sides a while to get on the score-board.

Thomas Geraghty fired wide inside two minutes for Kilcormac-Killoughey, and it wasn’t until the fifth minute before a score was produced, with substitute Ronan Corcoran on target to hand Shamrocks a 0-15 to 1-11 advantage.

Ciaran Slevin brought the sides level for the ninth time with his 66th minute effort from play, but Ballyhale kicked on.

Ballyhale fired five unanswered points, including three before the interval, with Aylward, Fitzpatrick and Shefflin each adding a point to ensure an 0-18 to 1-12 half-time lead, before further scores from Shefflin and Fitzpatrick on the restart.

Kilcormac Killoughey badly needed a score to bring them into contention, but Dan Currams was denied four minutes after the break.

The double K’s pressed hard, but their only return over the remainder of the tie was two Ciaran Slevin pointed frees, as Reid’s tenth point came late on to confirm a four-point win.

After the game TJ Reid received the Cup from Leinster GAA Chairman John Horan. Shamrocks will now face the winners of next Sunday’s Galway SHC Final between Portumna and Gort, in the All-Ireland semi-final on February 7th.

BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: R Reid; K Nolan, J Holden, A Cuddihy; P Shefflin, M Fennelly, B Aylward; D Hoyne, C Walsh (0-1); J Fitzpatrick (0-2); C Fennelly, TJ Reid (0-10, 7f, 1 65); E Reid (0-1), H Shefflin (0-4), M Aylward (0-2).

Subs: B Cody for Hoyne (HT); A Cummins for B Aylward (55); R Corcoran (0-1) for Walsh (57); M Dermody for P Shefflin (76); P Reid for M Aylward (78); K Mullen for Fennelly (81).

KILCORMAC-KILLOUGHEY: Conor Slevin; Con Mahon, G Healion, A McConville; K Grogan, P Healion, B Leonard; D Kilmartin (0-1), K Leonard; Ciaran Slevin (0-7, 5f), Conor Mahon (0-1), C Kiely (0-2); J Gorman (0-2), D Currams (1-1), P Geraghty.

Subs: T Geraghty for Kilmartin (46); D Murray for G Healion (ET); S Guinan for Gorman (HT ET); E Grogan for Kiely (73); J Grogan for McConville (80).

REFEREE: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).

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