Ballyhale Shamrocks forced to dig deep

Ballyhale Shamrocks 0-19 Clara 0-16: A strong start and equally good finish saw Ballyhale Shamrocks reach the Kilkenny senior hurling county final, but they had to work hard to dethrone the defending champions Clara.

The Shamrocks exploded into action from the off. They dominated the early exchanges in Nowlan Park, taking a five-point lead inside the opening 17 minutes. T.J. Reid (0-3) and Henry Shefflin (0-2) did most of the damage for the Shamrocks, who seemed to have the game well under control. Clara found scores hard to come by, relying on free-taker Chris Bolger (0-3) for the bulk of their points but, with just minutes left in the half, they seemed to be in trouble as they trailed Ballyhale by six.

The complexion of the game changed after that, as Clara finally found room to open up. Liam Ryan got them going with a good point from play, while two more Bolger frees saw them close the gap to three by half-time (0-101 to 0-7).

Clara picked up where they had left off after the restart, shaving two more points off the deficit as Bolger converted a free and then a 65 to leave the bare minimum between the teams. Shamrocks finally got themselves going, T.J. Reid popping over two frees, but by the 45th minute Clara had hauled themselves level, Jason Byrne and Conor O’Shea grabbing the points to level matters going into the final quarter. Clara were on a roll now, and took the lead for the first time when captain Neal Prendergast broke free from defence and landed a fine score from long range with just 12 minutes left to play.

However, their advantage was short-lived. Within a matter of minutes the Shamrocks had stormed back. T.J. Reid pointed a 50th minute equaliser before Colin Fennelly took centre-stage, firing two points in quick succession to hand the advantage back to his side (0-16 to 0-14).

Clara didn’t give up without a fight. With Jack Langton and Chris Bolger fighting for scores they had the gap back to one (0-17 to 0-16) with time almost up, but the Shamrocks were determined not to let the game slip. Colin Fennelly proved as much with a hard-fought point, while Richie and Eoin Reid combined to set up brother T.J. for the insurance score in injury-time. They will now play O’Loughlin Gaels in the county final in a fortnight’s time.

SCORERS FOR BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS:

T.J. Reid (0-9, 0-4 frees); C. Fennelly (0-4); H. Shefflin (0-3, 0-1 free); R. Reid, E. Reid, R. Corcoran (0-1 each).

SCORERS FOR CLARA:

C. Bolger (0-9, 0-7 frees, 0-1 65); N. Prendergast, J. Langton, Lester Ryan, Liam Ryan, C. O’Shea, J. Byrne, C. Prendergast (0-1 each).

BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS:

J. Connolly; K. Mullen, P. Holden, D. Mullen; R. Reid, J. Holden, B. Aylward; M. Aylward, H. Shefflin; C. Fennelly, E. Reid, T.J. Reid; R. Corcoran, B. Cody, P. Mullen. Sub: J. Cuddihy for Cody.

CLARA:

K. Nolan; T. Ryan, S. O’Shea, D. Nolan; N. Prendergast, S. Prendergast, D. Langton; J. Langton, L. Ryan; L. Ryan, C. O’Shea, J. Byrne; C. Prendergast, A. Murphy, C. Bolger. Subs: J. Nolan for Murphy, C. Phelan for Liam Ryan.

REFEREE:

Raymond Byrne.



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