A superb solo individual performance from TJ Reid helped champions Ballyhale Shamrocks shake off a serious test to their Kilkenny senior hurling crown.
The Kilkenny captain helped himself to 1-14 as the 2018 champions beat Clara 1-19 to 0-17 to set up a semi-final with O’Loughlin Gaels — a repeat of the 2016 decider.
The game, delayed a week following the tragic passing of a Ballyhale panel member, looked like going Clara’s way as they held the advantage for the lion’s share of the game.
However, cometh the hour, cometh the man: Reid held his nerve to convert a mammoth free five minutes from time. That levelled the game — the Shamrocks never looked back.
Defeat was hard on a Clara team who dominated the first half. With James Bergin and Liam Ryan to the fore, they were 0-13 to 0-7 ahead at the break. The gap was still six points in the second half, David Langton and Chris Bolger on target, but with Reid in superb form, the Shamrocks refused to give in.
He scored the equaliser in the closing stages, before Colin Fennelly and Adrian Mullen hit late points to seal a battling win.
Mark Bergin made his presence felt as O’Loughlin Gaels got the better of Mullinavat at the second attempt. Nine points from the former Kilkenny captain played a huge part in his side earning a 1-14 to 0-13 replay win. Victory delivered a semi-final against the Shamrocks.
Luke Scanlon was the toast of ‘The Village’ as he helped James Stephens roar into the Kilkenny senior hurling championship final.
Scanlon’s second-half goal proved to be the key score as James Stephens booked their place in the decider after a close-fought encounter with Erin’s Own (Castlecomer). In a tight first half, the sides were locked on 0-6 apiece but Erin’s Own, who beat Dicksboro in the quarter-final, were intent on making it a double of city scalps.
The Village raced ahead thanks to points from Eoin Guilfoyle (2) and Tadgh O’Dwyer. They were reeled in when Erin’s Own dangerman Michael Murphy fired off a swift 1-1, the goal from a penalty. At 0-10 to 1-7 the stage was set for a tight finish but Scanlon’s goal — he finished well following a searing solo run — pushed the Village into a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Points from David Walton and county midfielder Conor Browne made sure of their 1-15 to 2-9 win, keeping them in the hunt for a first senior title since 2011, when they beat the Shamrocks after a replay.