Colin Fennelly show fires Ballyhale Shamrocks into Leinster final

Colin Fennelly produced his best display for some time with a sparkling 4-4 in his side’s 16-point rout of first-time Wexford champions, Naomh Éanna, in this Leinster Club SHC semi-final at Innovate Wexford Park yesterday afternoon.

Colin Fennelly show fires Ballyhale Shamrocks into Leinster final

Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) 6-21 Naomh Eanna (Wexford) 4-11

By Brendan Furlong

Colin Fennelly produced his best display for some time with a sparkling 4-4 in his side’s 16-point rout of first-time Wexford champions, Naomh Éanna, in this Leinster Club SHC semi-final at Innovate Wexford Park yesterday afternoon.

With Shamrocks leading 2-9 to 2-6 at the interval, having played into the breeze, Fennelly took over on the resumption and, by the 40th minute, the result was a foregone conclusion, as the experienced attacker tore the Naomh Éanna defence to shreds with explosive finishing.

When he scored his side’s third goal just five minutes into the second half it more or less ended the Naomh Éanna challenge and the Kilkenny champions ran out hugely impressive winners in the end.

At the outset, it looked as if Naomh Éanna were in the mood to spring a shock result, with two delightful Cathal Dunbar goals inside the opening seven minutes.

TJ Reid had pointed his side in front after just one minute, but Dunbar cut through to shoot low to the corner of the net, while two minutes later he plucked a high ball from the air, to finish delightfully.

Reid pointed another free and Ballyhale gradually played their way into the game, Eoin Reid finding the net after 13 minutes to leave the minimum separating the sides, 2-2 to 1-4.

A long-range point from Jack Cullen helped the Wexford champions lift the siege, but as the game entered the second quarter it was Colin Fennelly having collected a long ball, who rounded his marker Brendan Travers to leave keeper Barry Kinsella helpless with an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net: 2-4 to 2-3.

With TJ Reid continuing to show accuracy from frees, it was Ballyhale who edged their way into a three-point lead at the half-time break.

Within one minute of the restart, Fennelly should have bagged a goal, but pulled his shot across the goal and just wide.

With Joey Holden outplaying Conor McDonald and Michael Fennelly dominant in defence, Ballyhale continually drove forward in search of scores, with Fennelly killing off the game with a two-goal burst inside two minutes.

After 35 minutes, he collected a long Darren Mullen free, shook off several markers on his way to goal, before planting the ball high in the roof of the net, while two minutes later the in-form full-forward plucked a high ball from the air, before beating keeper Kinsella with a low shot to the opposite corner of the net to leave it 4-10 to 2-7.

By now, Shamrocks had assumed total control.

While Naomh Éanna put up stiff resistance, they lacked the experience to match their opponents. Wing-back Jack Cullen stormed forward for a 42nd-minute goal to cut the deficit, but the Fennelly show continued, as he shot over two huge points to maintain his side’s dominance. In between, Adrian Mullen found the net from close range.

To their credit, Naomh Éanna continued on battling, though the final margin could have been far greater had Shamrocks pushed home their dominance during the closing 10 minutes.

It was in additional time that Naomh Éanna’s fourth goal arrived, when Conor McDonald struck a penalty after being fouled, by which time the Wexford champions had acknowledged they had came up against a far superior outfit.

Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin admitted the win came easier than expected.

“We gave away two early goals, both excellently taken by Cathal Dunbar, but the manner in which the lads responded into the breeze to lead at the interval was quite positive.”

Shefflin hailed the power of Colin Fennelly. “Colin’s plan of attack was route one and he took his four goals excellently, while also striking over some excellent points. We did not expect this second-half passage, but now we can look forward to the final.”

Naomh Éanna manager Louis Cullen had no qualms about the result.

“Look, from Joey Holden, Michael Fennelly, TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly down the centre, we could not match them. They were the crucial difference, all powerful hurlers, while Colin [Fennelly] was unmarkable. He was the story of the game, but it was new ground for us. First time county senior champions, we will learn from the experience.”

Scorers for Ballyhale: C Fennelly (4-4); TJ Reid (0-6, 1 free, 1 65); E Cody, E Reid (1-1 each); A Mullen (0-3); B Cody (0-2); E Shefflin, M Fennelly, D Mullen, R Corcoran, R Reid (0-1 each).

Scorers for Naomh Éanna: C Dunbar (2-3); P Doyle (0-6, 3 frees, 1 65); J Cullen (1-2); C McDonald (1-0 pen)

BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: D Mason; C Walsh, J Holden, B Butler; E Shefflin, M Fennelly, D Mullen; R Corcoran, R Reid; B Cody, TJ Reid, E Cody; E Reid, C Fennelly, A Mullen.

Subs: M Aylward for Walsh (50); G Butler for E Reid (50); J Cuddihy for Mullen (54); K Mullen for Butler (56); P Mullen for M Fennelly (58).

NAOMH ÉANNA: B Kinsella; T Stafford, B Travers, L Kinsella; J Cullen, S Doyle, E Conroy; A Doyle, G Molloy; C McGuckin, P Doyle, D Hughes; D O’Brien, C McDonald, C Dunbar.

Subs: J Cushe for L Kinsella (20); W Cullen for Hughes (37); C Hughes for O’Brien (44).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).

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