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Ballyea edge thriller after incredible comeback to book place in Munster final

Gary Brennan’s last-gasp goal forced extra-time before the Clare champions saw off Thurles Sarsfields.

Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Ballyea 4-18
Thurles Sarsfields 2-22

SEVEN DAYS ON from a first ever Clare hurling title, Ballyea are only 60 minutes away from a provincial crown after a truly inspirational fightback in Cusack Park this afternoon.

Seven points in arrears nearing the final ten minutes, the hosts would somehow reel in the three-in-a-row Tipperary champions thanks to the leadership of Tony Kelly and a last gasp equalising goal from Gary Brennan to force extra-time.

And with momentum firmly behind them, Ballyea would complete the dramatic recovery as Damien Burke and Padraic Maher traded goals before county final hero Niall Deasy fired the last two points to maintain their historic run.

It was also a blistering start, lit up by Ballyea’s route one deliveries that yielded goals through Kelly from a penalty and Pearse Lillis by the sixth minute.

It forced Thurles Sarsfields to move Ronan Maher back to full-back to curb target man Brennan and along with the growing influence of his brother Padraic, the Tipperary champions began to settle.

Cathal Doohan and Stan Lineen celebrate at the final whistle Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

They fired two warning shots before Aidan McCormack’s delivery traveled directly to the net in the 13th minute after Lar Corbett had done enough to put off goalkeeper Kevin Sheehan at 2-2 to 1-3.

And it was the spark Sars required as led by the elusive McCormack, they would add a further six points without reply to ease four clear, a margin that they would hold until the break at 1-11 to 2-04.

The second period wasn’t as free-flowing, with a brace of placed balls for either side finally broken with three-in-a-row for the visitors, two from Pa Bourke, to extend their cushion to seven by the 49th minute.

However, Ballyea refused to yield and inevitably it was Kelly who seized control in a superb show of defiance as he raided for four points to slash the deficit to just three by the hour mark.

The best was yet to come however as a last gasp Jack Browne line ball from defence was caught by Brennan who took on Thurles’ last line before roofing to the net to ensure an additional 20 minutes of action at 1-18 to 3-12.

Gearoid O'Connell and Denis Maher Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Kelly added three points to take his tally to 1-10 while substitute Burke’s 67th minute goal handed the Clare winners a four point lead by the midway point.

And while Padraic Maher, now at wing-forward, would gain parity with a 75th minute goal, a resilient Ballyea never faltered as Deasy grabbed the last two points to rapturous celebrations from an almost incredulous home support.

Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields: Pa Bourke 0-9 (6f); Aidan McCormack 1-4; Tommy Doyle 0-3; Padraic Maher 1-0; Conor Lanigan 0-2; Ronan Maher, John Maher, Michael O’Brien, Stephen Cahill 0-1 each.

Scorers for Ballyea: Tony Kelly 1-10 (1-0 Pen, 3f, 1’65); Niall Deasy 0-5 (3f, 1’65); Pearse Lillis, Damien Burke 1-1 each; Gary Brennan 1-0; ; Pat Joe Connolly 0-1.

Thurles Sarsfields:

1. Patrick McCormack

2. Stephen Maher
5. Stephen Lillis
4. Rory Dwan

7. Denis Maher
6. Padraic Maher (Captain)
3. Ronan Maher

8. John Maher
9. Stephen Cahill

10. Billy McCarthy
11. Aidan McCormack
15. Tommy Doyle

14. Lar Corbett
12. Pa Bourke
13. Conor Lanigan

Subs:

20. Michael O’Brien for Lanigan (49)
21. Kevin Dunne for Doyle (58)
19. David Kennedy for Lillis (60 + 1)
26. Cathal Moloney for Corbett (60 + 2)
14. Corbett for Moloney (60)
5. Lillis for Dunne (60)
13. Lanigan for J. Maher (60)
8. J. Maher for Lanigan (70)
26. Moloney for Kennedy (73)
17. Michael Cahill for Corbett (75)

Pearse Lillis celebrates scoring a goal Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Ballyea:

1. Kevin Sheehan

2. Joe Neylon
3. Jack Browne
4. Brian Carrigg

5. Gearoid O’Connell
6. Paul Flanagan
7. James Murphy

8. Tony Kelly
9. Stan Lineen (captain)

10. Niall Deasy
11. Gary Brennan
12. Cathal Doohan

13. Pat Joe Connolly
14. Martin O’Leary
15. Pearse Lillis

Subs

18. Damien Burke for O’Leary (5, inj)
19. David Egan for Carrigg (11, in)
23. Aonghus Keane for Connolly (47)
22. Francie Neylon for Egan (60 + 4)

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)

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About the author:

Eoin Brennan

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