2016 finalists Ballybrown got their Limerick SHC campaign off to a winning start, powering to a 4-18 to 2-14 victory in an impressive victory over newly-promoted Blackrock.
Just the 273 days after beating Kildimo-Pallaskenry in the Premier IHC final replay last year, Blackrock’s delayed 23-year wait to play in the top grade got off to a disastrous start as they conceded a sixth-minute penalty.
Man of the match Andrew Cliffe hit the post but the sliotar rebounded off Blackrock goalkeeper Richie Murphy and went agonisingly across the line.
Despite the setback Blackrock were able to stay in touch, but trailed 1-5 to 0-5 after 10 minutes with neither side registering a wide in a blistering start to the game, played in ideal conditions in Bruff.
However, from the second quarter on, the winners took control extending the lead to 1-10 to 0-6 before adding a second goal before the short whistle.
After being played through by Aidan O’Connor, Shane Kenny supplied the finish to give his side a 10-point advantage and Blackrock were in deep trouble.
It was a baptism of fire for the Rockies who hadn’t played in the senior ranks on Shannonside since 1997 and the south Limerick men trailed 2-12 to 0-8 at the interval.
It got worse for the Premier IHC champions as Cliffe, who ended with a personal tally of 2-11, rifled home to the roof of the net just after the change of ends. After great vision from Kenny Power, Cliffe made no mistake with the finish.
Ballybrown got a fourth goal soon after as Stevie O’Reilly’s king range effort went all the way into the net.
On a tough night for Blackrock, joint captain Kevin Palmer hit two late goals as they must gather themselves for a meeting with Garryspillane next time out. Another defeat will condemn the new boys to a relegation play-off.
A Cliffe 2-11 (1-0 pen, 5fs, 1 ’65); S Kenny, S O’Reilly 1-0 each; C Coughlan 0-3; K Power 0-2; A O’Connor, B Griffin 0-1 each.
K Palmer 2-2; P Leahy 0-7 (0-5f, 1 ’65); G O’Loughlin 0-2; R McCarthy, C O’Keeffe, I O’Brien 0-1 each.
C O’Neill; M Sheahan, L Doran, M Kiely; C Coughlan, J Hall, K Power; R Griffin, S O’Reilly; A O’Connor, A Cliffe, K Gavin; S Kenny, B Griffin, J Adams.
R Kenny for O’Connor (57).
R Murphy; N Hosford, R McCarthy, B Moloney; M Farrell, D Heffernan, L Walsh; J Quilty, D Dawson; K Palmer, G O’Loughlin, P Leahy; R O’Shaughnessy, C O’Keeffe, A Cooke.
I O’Brien for Walsh (23); D Moloney for O’Keeffe (ht); L Walsh for Hosford (48); Hosford for D Heffernan (52).
M Sexton (Bruree).