The Nire (Waterford) 1-11 Ballylanders (Limerick) 0-7
The Nire’s ambitions didn’t just peak with winning the Waterford SFC.
At Kilmallock yesterday, they booked their place in the Munster Club semi-final as they led wire-to-wire against Ballylanders.
Benji Whelan was pleased that his players had shown the desire to carry on their odyssey: “They were really focused,” he said, “even on the Thursday night after the county final I felt, ‘They’re back on the boil already’.
The narrative was ready had Ballylanders won. The semi-final opponents would be Cratloe, managed by Clare boss Colm Collins, who has appointed Ballylanders supremo Ephie Fitzgerald as his coach for next year.
The Nire were far more clinical when they got their chances and Brian Wall, Waterford hurler Jamie Barron and Shane Ryan had them three to the good by the eighth minute.
Danny Frewen did open the Ballylanders account after he won a Nire kickout but it was only a brief interruption to the flow. Diarmuid Wall rounded off a nice move involving Thomas O’Gorman and Conor Gleeson and then Gleeson struck for the goal, turning Maurice Kelly after Craig Guiry found him with a good pass.
The lead had extended to 1-6 to 0-2 with points from Guiry and Gleeson and even with two-thirds of the game left the outcome was decided.
Whelan admitted that they had targeted a strong start: “The thing about playing an ultra-defensive game is that, if you go behind, you’re under pressure straightaway,” he said.
“That’s what I said to the boys, if you can get ahead of these teams it poses a different question to them and that’s what they did.
Centre-forward Maurice O’Gorman having switched with centre-back Brian Wall and ensured that Ballylanders captain Jimmy Barry-Murphy couldn’t influence the game to his liking and at midfield Craig Guiry was putting in an all-action display. Had his partner Shane Walsh not shot straight at Ricky Slattery after another flowing move on 26, The Nire could have been well out of sight.
They weren’t as dominant in the closing stages and there was a slight note of caution sounded when Guiry was black-carded for hauling down opposite number Johnny Murphy. Frewen scored the free which resulted but, leading by 1-7 to 0-3, it was the Nire’s to lose at half-time.
Ballylanders made two substitutions at the break, bringing on Tom Fox and Kieran O’Callaghan, while they also switched to white jerseys as the teams had been too similar in the first period.
The Limerick champions got the first score of the second half through Mark O’Connell, but had his shot gone just under, rather than just over, the bar then a proper contest might have developed. Instead, the Nire kept doing what they had been doing, with Ryan, Gleeson, Barron and Michael Moore pushing them 11 points clear by the 41st minute.
Another Déise hurler, Liam Lawlor, had dropped from full-forward to midfield when Guiry had to depart and he brought considerable influence to bear. The only real goal chance Ballylanders had fell to centre-back Donal Kelly on the three-quarter mark but Tom Wall kept it out and hopes of a fightback receded thereafter, even though Maurice O’Gorman was given a black card with 11 minutes left.
Nire sub Keith Guiry should probably have to scored a second goal late on but his effort had hit the side-netting. Barry-Murphy did get two late points for Ballylanders, but by that stage it was mere window-dressing on the scoreboard.
Scorers for The Nire: C Gleeson 1-2, S Ryan (one free), J Barron 0-2 each, D Wall, B Wall, C Guiry, S Walsh, M Moore 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballylanders: J Barry-Murphy 0-4 (two frees), D Frewen 0-2 (one free), M O’Connell 0-1.
THE NIRE: T Wall; T Cooney, T O’Gorman, J Walsh; D Wall, B Wall, S Lawlor; C Guiry, S Walsh; Michael O’Gorman, Maurice O’Gorman, J Barron; S Ryan, L Lawlor, C Gleeson.
Subs: M Moore for C Guiry (29, black card), J Guiry for J Walsh (39), D Ryan for Barron (56), K Guiry for Maurice O’Gorman (49, black card).
BALLYLANDERS: R Slattery; M Kelly, S Fox, G Casey; S Walsh, D Kelly, B O’Connell; J Murphy, T Lee; J Kirby, J Barry-Murphy, M O’Connell; D Frewen, E Walsh, S Fox.
Subs: K O’Callaghan for Kirby, T Fox for Casey (both half-time), D McCarthy for Kelly (52), J Leigh for O’Connell (56).
Referee: C Lane (Cork).
There was never any real change as The Nire always led.
Talk of the town
It was expected to be about a prospective Colm Collins-Ephie Fitzgerald match-up but The Nire came with a plan and executed it near-perfectly.
Did that just happen?
Both teams started in predominantly gold shirts, The Nire with blue trim and Ballylanders with green. Nire manager Benji Whelan said they had raised the issue and were told it would be fine but Ballylanders donned white change jerseys at half-time.
Best on show
Before his black card, Craig Guiry was the heartbeat for The Nire. Liam Lawlor solid and Conor Gleeson efficient.
Black card watch
Two of Ballylanders’ top operators, Craig Guiry and Maurice O’Gorman had their games abruptly ended. .
Ballylanders played with corner-forward Steven Fox deep from the start but Tommy Cooney followed him and The Nire benefited from the extra manpower in attack.
The man in black
Conor Lane yellow-carded The Nire’s Justin Walsh and his Ballylanders namesake Eoin after a scuffle just before half-time, when order threatened to be lost. .
Clare champions Cratloe are next up for The Nire .
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