Leinster club SHC: Not vintage, but Ballyhale good enough to progress

The reigning provincial and All-Ireland title holders duly held off a spirited second-half comeback from 2013 provincial winners Mount Leinster Rangers
Leinster club SHC: Not vintage, but Ballyhale good enough to progress

Mount Leinster Rangers’ Richard Kelly and Colin Fennelly of Ballyhale Shamrocks. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Ballyhale Shamrocks 0-22 Mount Leinster Rangers 0-16

Vintage hurling this wasn't from Ballyhale Shamrocks but on a bitterly cold afternoon in the AIB Leinster club championship, progression is all that really matters and they ticked that box.

The reigning provincial and All-Ireland title holders duly held off a spirited second-half comeback from 2013 provincial winners Mount Leinster Rangers to advance to a semi-final against St Rynaghs of Offaly in Tullamore in eight days.

Leading by nine points at half-time against the 11/2 outsiders, this should have been a more routine win for James O'Connor's Ballyhale but they were pegged back to three points at one stage late on.

The margin could easily have been reduced to just a point in the 53rd minute as Mount Leinster Rangers created a terrific goal chance but Dean Mason saved expertly from Jon Nolan.

Denis Murphy's 12th point of the game for Rangers got the margin down to three in the 59th minute but it was their last score as Ballyhale concluded proceedings with points from the relatively quiet TJ Reid and Joe Cuddihy to seal it.

Players tussle near the sideline. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Players tussle near the sideline. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The win stretches Ballyhale's unbeaten streak outside of Kilkenny to 14 matches since defeat in the 2012 Leinster campaign, winning three provincial and three All-Ireland titles since then.

Mount Leinster Rangers hadn't played a competitive game in almost 11 weeks since beating St Mullins by eights points in the Carlow final on September 19 so a slow start was understandable.

They did score the opening point, through Murphy, but only added one more, from Fiachra Fitzpatrick, in the opening quarter.

Ballyhale, in turn, exerted their dominance immediately and reeled off bursts of three and then six points without response to lead 0-9 to 0-3 at the water break.

Already it was looking ominous for the back-to-back Carlow title holders who came into the game as considerable longshots to score a surprise win over the four-in-a-row Kilkenny champions.

Brian Cody contributed three of those early Ballyhale scores and added a fourth just before half-time while Adrian Mullen and Cuddihy were prominent in attack too, splitting six first-half points evenly between them.

Ballyhale were clinical and efficient, Mullen punishing a stray pass in the 15th minute with a long-range point while Cuddihy capitalised in the 22nd minute after Fitzpatrick was penalised for over-carrying.

It was a display of professionalism from Ballyhale with ex-Kilkenny star Colin Fennelly their only forward who didn't score in the first-half.

They led 0-14 to 0-5 at the interval with midfielder Ronan Corcoran also getting his name on the scoresheet.

Joe Cuddihy of Shamrocks Ballyhale in action against Kevin McDonald. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Joe Cuddihy of Shamrocks Ballyhale in action against Kevin McDonald. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Mount Leinster Rangers returned for the second-half a different team and won the third quarter by 0-7 to 0-4. A stiff wind behind them helped but there was more zip and intensity to their play too as they won free after free which Murphy happily converted.

Gary Kelly and Richard Coady pointed too as the Carlow men got the margin down to just three points approaching the hour mark but they couldn't get any closer as the Shamrocks held on.

Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: TJ Reid (0-6, 3 frees, 1 65); B Cody, J Cuddihy (0-4); A Mullen, E Cody (0-3), E Shefflin, R Corcoran (0-1).

Scorers for Mount Leinster Rangers: D Murphy (0-12, 11 frees); F Fitzpatrick, T Joyce, R Coady, G Kelly (0-1).

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

Subs: E Reid for D Mullen (24); G Butler for B Butler (50); E Kenneally for Cuddihy (64).

MOUNT LEINSTER RANGERS: D Grennan; M Doyle, D Phelan, G Kelly; G Lawlor, D Byrne, R Kelly; P Coady, R Coady; F Fitzpatrick, C Nolan, K McDonald; D Murphy, E Byrne, J Nolan.

Subs: T Joyce for E Byrne (14).

Ref: R Fitzsimons (Offaly).

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