All-Ireland champions Ballyhale Shamrocks had to work hard to dispose of a gutsy Clonkill side in today's Leinster Club SHC quarter-final in Mullingar.
Ballyhale raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead, but a fine goal by Brendan Murtagh levelled the contest in the sixth minute. The latter was untypically wasteful during the ensuing 15 minutes while at the other end Eoin Cody knew exactly where the target was and his two goals in the 12th and 22nd minutes put the visitors in control. TJ Reid also converted three frees and his side led by 2-9 to 1-5 at the interval.
Cody completed his hat-trick within a minute of the resumption of play to end any lingering doubts about the outcome after Colin Fennelly’s initial shot had been saved by Andrew Mitchell.
However, the Westmeath men kept battling with the evergreen Murtagh leading the way - he ended as the game’s top scorer with 2-9. He showed great skill to score his second goal in the 46th minute, but a brave Clonkill outfit could never get closer than six points with Reid converting a range of frees for Ballyhale.
Winning manager Henry Shefflin was relieved to have come away with a win. “We got the couple of goals in the first half and it gave us a bit of a cushion. Eoin (Cody) was very sharp and he got us the two goals. But to be fair to Clonkill they never gave up. Even up to the last minute, they were fighting and fighting and they got it back to six points before the end.
“From our point of view, it has been a heavy week. They were big celebrations after winning the county title last Sunday, and rightly so. We were very apprehensive coming up here, but to score 3-21 in November is a good score.
“There were passages of play that we wouldn’t be happy with, but we were out four weeks in a row and we buried a friend from the club in recent weeks, so today was never going to be a perfect performance. But we came to Mullingar to get a result and we did that.
Clonkill manager Kevin O’Brien, was asked if he was happy with his team’s performance and he replied: “If you’re happy when you lose a game, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. We’re disappointed. We feel that we didn’t perform in the first 30 minutes and that came back to haunt us.”
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: E Cody 3-4, TJ Reid 0-11 (7f), E Shefflin, R Reid, A Mullen, E Reid, M Aylward, E Kenneally 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clonkill: B Murtagh 2-9 (5f, 1‘65’), N Dowdall 0-2, L Folan, S Power, L Loughlin, Anthony Price 0-1 each.
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: Ballyhale Shamrocks: D Mason; D Corcoran, J Holden, D Mullen; E Shefflin, M Fennelly, R Reid; R Corcoran, J Cuddihy; A Mullen, TJ Reid, B Cody; E Reid, C Fennelly, E Cody. Subs: M Aylward for B Cody (h-t), E Kenneally for Cuddihy (39), C Phelan for C Fennelly (51), G Butler for M Fennelly (54), P Hearne for Corcoran (59).
CLONKILL: A Mitchell; D Egerton, Adam Price, J Kenny; K Reilly, P Dowdall, L Folan; S Power, C Austin; N Mitchell, P Scally, L Loughlin; N Dowdall, B Murtagh, J Smyth.
Subs: E Price for Kenny (23), Anthony Price for Austin (39), M Keegan for Scally (44), C Nolan for Smyth (47), E Loughlin for Mitchell (50).
Referee: J Heffernan (Wexford).