Ballyea's Peter Casey is pushed into a fence. Evan Treacy/INPHO

Brandon O'Connell emerges from shadows to become Ballyea's unlikely hero

St Finbarr’s were up against it after wing forward Conor Cahalane was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident after just nine minutes.

Ballyea 1-12
St Finbarr’s 0-14

Páraic McMahon reports from Cusack Park, Ennis

IN A FIERCELY competitive and exciting affair, Ballyea once again displayed their never-say-die attitude producing a spirited showing against an equally honest St Finbarr’s in front of an attendance of 1,891 in Ennis.

Fresh from receiving a call to join Brian Lohan’s Clare panel, it was Brandon O’Connell who hit over the match-winning score on 61 minutes. Usually deployed to curb opposing forwards, he was among the least likely of candidates to send Robbie Hogan’s side into the provincial decider.

Ben Cunningham, who had been outstanding over the hour, hitting 0-9, four of which came from play, had a chance to send the tie to extra time but his 65, the awarding of which was disputed by the Ballyea defenders, trailed to the right of the goal and ensured the result would be decided in normal time.

That St Finbarr’s were within a puck of the ball underlines their ability, given that they played the vast majority of the game with 14 players. Wing forward Conor Cahalane received a straight red card on nine minutes for an off-the-ball incident which left Jack Browne on the floor.

Cunningham pointed the way from the off and had the visitors leading by two inside the opening five minutes.

Niall Deasy opened Ballyea’s account from a free on six minutes and the resulting puck out was caught in the air by Gary Brennan, who glided his way past everyone in his midst for 40 metres, soloing at leisure before planting the sliotar past Shane Hurley for the only goal of the game.

Cahalane’s red followed prompting Ger Cunningham and the Barrs management to rearrange their plans. That they did and by the half-time whistle, they trailed by just a single point with two long range efforts from Ben O’Connor giving life to their very vocal travelling support.

tony-kelly-celebrates-after-the-game Ballyea's Tony Kelly celebrates after the game. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Three Cunningham white flags in a row put St Finbarr’s back in front with 42 minutes on the clock. Ballyea, as they generally do, responded with Tony Kelly and Aaron Griffin swinging the advantage back in their favour.

Cunningham equalised in the next attack for the Cork champions and was then denied a goal opportunity by Ballyea netminder Barry Coote.

St Finbarr’s regained the lead on 47 minutes through Brian Hayes before Tony Kelly once again converted from close to the sideline. Indeed the four time All Star hit three points in succession to give them a two point cushion with the game in the melting pot.

Marquee forwards Cunningham and Hayes levelled matters before O’Connell stepped up to send Ballyea back to a Munster final.

One point wins are nothing new for Ballyea who won both the 2021 and 2022 Clare SHC deciders by that margin and when games are in the dying moments, they always manage to dig that bit deeper.

They will now a big improvement is required if they are to obtain further silverware while their use of the extra man wasn’t as visible as it should have been. Gearoid O’Connelll, Tony Kelly, Gary Brennan, Mossy Gavin and James Murphy were most prominent for the four-time Clare champions.

They may have come out on the wrong side of this result but the standing ovation received by St Finbarr’s as they made their way to the dressing room indicated how much their 2022 journey meant.

The Togher side will be left wondering what might have been had they had their full contingent for the hour. Best for the Barrs were Ben Cunningham, Ben O’Connor, Ethan Twomey, Jamie Burns and Damien Cahalane.

Scorers Ballyea: T Kelly (0-05 2’65, 1f), M Gavin (0-03), G Brennan (1-00), G O’Connell (0-01), N Deasy (0-01 1f), A Griffin (0-01), B O’Connell (0-01).

Scorers St Finbarr’s: B Cunningham (0-09 5f), B O’Connor (0-02), B Hayes (0-02), E Twomey (0-01).


1: Barry Coote

4: Paul Flanagan
3: Peter Casey
2: Brandon O’Connell

5: Gearoid O’Connell
6: Jack Browne
7: James Murphy

14: Gary Brennan
9: Stan Lineen

10: Niall Deasy
11: Pearse Lillis
12: Cathal O’Connor

15: Aaron Griffin
8: Tony Kelly
13: Mossy Gavin

17: Cillian Brennan for Lineen (48)
18: Morgan Garry for O’Connor (53)
19: Martin O’Leary for Gavin (53)

St Finbarr’s

1: Shane Hurley

4: Cian Walsh
3: Jamie Burns
6: Damien Cahalane

17: Glenn O’Connor
2: Eoin Keane
7: Billy Hennessy

9: Ethan Twomey
5: Ben O’Connor

12: Conor Cahalane
10: Ben Cunningham
14: Padraig Buggy

8: William Buckley
13: Brian Hayes
15: Jack Cahalane

21: Sam Cunningham for Buckley (45)
19: Ciaran Doolan for G O’Connor (55)
11: Eoghan Finn for J Cahalane (59)

Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary)

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