Another week, another huge haul from TJ Reid and, predictably, another big victory for star-studded Ballyhale Shamrocks.
The previous Sunday, Hurler of the Year nominee Reid’s 10 points secured a sixth Kilkenny county title success in nine seasons for the storied club.
Yesterday, he went one better with 1-8 at Parnell Park to book their place in the December 7 AIB Leinster club final alongside Kilcormac-Killoughey.
Aside from battling to overcome the 2012 champions next month, Ballyhale will be aiming to leapfrog another Offaly side, Birr, by winning and taking the lead at the top of Leinster’s roll of honour.
Aside from the mercurial Reid who, admittedly, delivered 1-6 of his tally from placed balls, they had star performers in fellow county players Michael Fennelly and Henry Shefflin. Shefflin contributed 1-2 and shot their first goal after five minutes to put them on the road to what was a trouble free win over Ollie Baker’s Dublin champions.
“Clara were an exceptional team in the county final, putting up big scores and had gone a number of years unbeaten but they still only hit Ballyhale for 13 points and you could see today that our lads were dying for it in front of their own goal again,” said Ballyhale coach Colm Bonnar.
“Kilmacud found it very hard to open us up. They needed a goal to get back into the game but defensively we are doing what’s expected and then with the forwards we have you would expect them to be putting up the kind of score we did.”
Ballyhale sprinted from the blocks. By the sixth minute they were 1-3 to 0-1 ahead and already in pole position.
By half-time the margin was out to nine points at 2-9 to 0-6 in Ballyhale’s favour and progression was virtually secured.
Crokes counted themselves unfortunate for both of the goals though.
Shefflin rose with Crokes goalkeeper Matt Collins for a 50-50 ball sent in by Conor Walsh and got to it first, redirecting the sliotar to the net.
Shefflin had already opened the scoring for Crokes with a point so took his tally to 1-1 in that opening period. Dublin footballer Rory O’Carroll started on Shefflin but was soon moved onto the wing before being taken off approaching half-time.
Crokes impressed in patches and county man Ryan O’Dwyer scored a neat point while captain and free-taker Seanie McGrath drilled two more.
But another 1-2 burst by Ballyhale just before the break put daylight between the sides in perfection conditions at the Donneycarney venue.
Crokes berated themselves again for the goal concession with ‘keeper Collins failing to properly gather Reid’s long free in and the ball sneaked to the net.
The 2-9 to 0-6 half-time advantage flattered Ballyhale slightly though they were clearly the better side.
Even with 34- and 36-year olds in the wing-back positions — Paul Shefflin and Bob Aylward — as well as 35-year old Henry Shefflin, they showed no sign of tired legs.
It was a mere seven-day turnaround since the Kilkenny final win over Clara while Crokes had three weeks since their extra-time win over Laois’ Rathdowney-Errill.
Ballyhale’s veterans impressed though including former All-Ireland winning Kilkenny captain James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick who scored a point and showed some touches of class in general play.
There was a brief Crokes revival early in the second-half when they shot three points in a row including two from Dublin’s Ryan O’Dwyer.
But they managed just two points from play in total in the second-half which was never going to be enough to reel in a side like Ballyhale.
In turn, the visitors picked off enough scores to keep themselves well in control and cantered over the winning line.
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: TJ Reid (1-8, 1-6 frees), H Shefflin (1-2), C Fennelly and M Aylward (0-2 each), J Fitzpatrick (0-1).
Scorers for Kilmacud Crokes: R O’Dwyer (0-5, four frees), S McGrath (two frees) and D Mulligan (0-2 each), D Kelly, C King and C Conway (0-1 each).
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: R Reid; A Cuddihy, J Holden, T Coogan; P Shefflin, M Fennelly, B Aylward; C Walsh, D Hoyne; J ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, C Fennelly, TJ Reid; E Reid, H Shefflin, M Aylward.
Subs: B Cody for Hoyne (41), K Nolan for Coogan (50), R Corcoran for M Aylward (55), A Cummins for Cuddihy (55), G Butler for Walsh (57).
KILMACUD CROKES: M Collins; N Corcoran, Rory O’Carroll, J Clinton; R O’Loughlin, J Dougan, C MacGabhann; D Mulligan, D Kelly; Ross O’Carroll, C Clinton, J Sweeney; C Conway, S McGrath, R O’Dwyer.
Subs: B O’Carroll for J Clinton (19), R Murphy for Rory O’Carroll (28), O O’Rorke for C Clinton (40), B Mulligan for MacGabhann (48), J Burke for McGrath (52).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).
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