By Brendan O’Brien, Netwatch Cullen Park
Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny)
Ballyboden St Enda’s (Dublin)
A ninth Leinster senior club hurling title for Ballyhale Shamrocks and, on paper at least, the most straightforward of them.
Though favourites for this decider in Carlow, few foresaw it being so one-sided with the Kilkenny side claiming scores almost at will in the second period. The imbalance in fortunes was enormous, the winners scoring 1-12 against 0-3 after the restart.
Ballyhale Shamrocks Adrian Mullen celebrates scoring a goal. Photo: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Ballyhale started ominously, lording the aerial duels, of which their were many, and establishing a decent cushion on the scoreboard. Central to that was Adrian Mullen’s eight-minute goal which emanated from a catch claimed by Richie Reid on the Ballyhale half-back line.
It left the Kilkenny champions 1-2 to a point to the good but the manner in which they would hamstring themselves in that half was already apparent with three of their ten wides posted in that period already come and gone.
‘Boden needed to mix it up a tad and they did. A short passing move from goalkeeper Gary Maguire ended with Colm Basquel firing over his first point and the Dublin side gradually found their feet in that middle period of the half.
Ballyboden outscored Ballyhale by seven points to three in this stitch of time but their happy streak burned out after Stephen O’Connor’s speculative shot from distance – again, on the back of a clever passing move – was batted away by goalkeeper Dean Mason.
Level at that point, Shamrocks finished the half much the stronger with four unanswered points. And matters were made more difficult for the chasers as conditions worsened during the break with a heavy downpour and ever-darkening skies.
Even worse was the fact that the wind at Boden’s backs in that opening half morphed into a raging storm. Ballyhale made the most of it with five of the next six points to double that advantage to eight with just over 15 minutes to play.
Ballyboden’s one score at that point of the half came from substitute Niall Ryan who opted for the point when the bounce of the ball had played him in behind the cover. There was the sense that the failure to go for goal was a rare opportunity all too quickly spurned.
That said, it’s importance in the overall context of the game was diluted by everything that followed, Ballyhale piling on the points and the misery even as the weather settled into a less apocalyptic drizzle and frigid breeze.
Adrian Mullen claimed his and his side’s second goal, this one with seven minutes of normal time to go. A 16-point win to add to the 14-point margin they enjoyed in seeing off Wexford’s Naomh Eanna in the semifinal.
Impressive stuff from Henry Shefflin’s men.
Next up is an All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford’s Ballygunner in the New Year.
Scorers for Ballyboden St Enda’s: P Ryan (0-5 frees); C Basquel and N Ryan (both 0-2); S Durkin and N McMorrow (both 0-1).
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: TJ Reid (0-9, 8 frees ); A Mullen (2-1); E Reid and E Cody (both 0-3); C Fennelly (0-2); E Shefflin M Fennelly M Aylward (all 0-1).
Ballyboden St Enda’s: G Maguire; J Madden, D Curran, S Durkin; S O’Connor, S Lambert, L Corcoran; D O’Connor, D Curtin; N McMorrow, C Keaney, A Mellett; P Ryan, C Dooley, C Basquel.
Subs: N Ryan for C Dooley (30 + 4); P Doherty for A Mellett (37); F McGarry for Curran (48); C McCormack for D O’Connor (49); N Travers for S O’Connor (56).
Ballyhale Shamrocks: D Mason; D Mullen, J Holden, B Butler; E Shefflin, M Fennelly, C Walsh; R Corcoran, R Reid; B Cody, TJ Reid, A Mullen; E Reid, C Fennelly, E Cody.
Subs: G Butler for C Walsh (38); M Aylward for B Cody (45); J Cudihy for E Reid (54); K Mullen for Butler (56); P Mullen for Corcoran (57).
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow).