A powerful display from TJ Reid helped Ballyhale Shamrocks end Dicksboro’s reign as Kilkenny senior hurling champions.
In a battle of the heavyweights, Reid helped himself to 1-15 as Henry Shefflin’s side secured their semi-final berth with a 1-24 to 1-19 win in Callan.
In a thrilling game, the Shamrocks were quickly in front as Reid (0-4) and Adrian Mullen pushed their side 0-5 to 0-2 in front but points from Martin Gaffney, Bill Sheehan and Aidan Nolan saw the champions draw level by the 10th minute.
The drama was only getting started, as Ballyhale were awarded three penalties in the first half. Reid picked off a point from the first in the 13th minute but blasted his second effort wide five minutes from half-time.
With Shane Stapleton in fine scoring form Dicksboro closed out the half to take a 0-13 to 0-10 lead. They were thankful to goalkeeper Darragh Holohan for staying there, as he denied Reid with a great save from Ballyhale’s third penalty of the half.
The Shamrocks pressed on in the second half. A batch of points from TJ and Eoin Reid and Adrian Mullen, followed by TJ Reid’s goal, saw them go 1-13 to 0-13 in front within minutes of the restart.
With Reid on song they went six points up by the three-quarter mark. Andrew Gaffney hit 1-1 late on to keep the ’Boro in the game, but Eoin Cody and TJ Reid struck late points to seal their side’s semi-final spot.
Bennettsbridge made sure of their semi-final place after they beat Mullinavat by 1-17 to 2-8.
The former junior and intermediate club All-Ireland champions had to do it the hard way, coming from four points down at half-time (2-6 to 0-8), but were sent on their way when Aidan Cleere picked off 1-1 after the restart.
Mullinavat fared well in the opening half, scoring goals through Jamie Fennelly and goalkeeper Jim Culleton (penalty). With John Walsh in point-scoring form they impressed, but could only score two points in the second half as a wind-assisted Bennettsbridge took over. Aidan (1-6) and Nicky (0-5) Cleere did most of the damage, while Robert Lennon led the way in what was a strong defensive performance from the winners.
O’Loughlin Gaels saw their championship hopes ended after Clara delivered a knockout blow in injury-time.
Substitute John Murphy struck the winning goal in stoppage time as the 2015 county senior champions bagged a 2-12 to 0-16 win.
It was a bitter blow for O’Loughlin’s, who used a strong wind to fashion an impressive first-half lead. Backed by six frees from former senior county captain Mark Bergin they were 0-10 to 0-4 in front at the interval. They stretched the lead to seven with a Shane Mahony point but Clara, helped by scorer-in-chief James Bergin, dug their way back into the game. James Nolan’s 44th minute goal helped, as Clara closed to within three (0-14 to 1-8) by the three-quarter stage.
Bergin helped relieve some of the pressure with a vital point, but the Gaels were sunk when Murphy’s injury-time goal and an even later Bergin free fired Clara into the semi-finals.
Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) kept their championship hopes alive after the beat Carrickshock by 1-13 to 0-14 in their first round replay. Declan Dunne grabbed the late goal that propelled the ’Comer men into a quarter-final clash with James Stephens.
Carrickshock looked to be on their way when former county player John Power pushed them into a late lead (0-14 to 0-13), but they were sunk when Dunne pounced on a breaking ball and raised the green flag.
It was a real blow for Carrickshock, who played well in the first half. Using the breeze they dominated the scoring in Clara. They were seven points up (0-10 to 0-3) as the break loomed, but a late brace from senior county star Conor Fogarty revived Erin’s Own’s fortunes.
Led by Michael Murphy Erin’s Own began to claw their way back into the game in the second half. Murphy helped himself to three impressive points, sparking a run that ended when Dunne levelled matters three minutes from time.
When Power scored that late point it looked like Carrickshock would prevail, but Dunne’s last-gasp goal put paid to their aspirations.
The result was something of a double-whammy for Carrickshock. The loss means they will contest the relegation final with Danesfort, with the losers dropping down to the intermediate grade for 2019.
Following yesterday’s games the semi-final draw was made. Ballyhale Shamrocks await the winners of the quarter-final between James Stephens and Erin’s Own, which will be played this weekend, while Bennettsbridge take on Clara. The semi-finals will be played as a double-header in Nowlan Park on October 14.