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Ballyhale boss: 'When that ball cut inside in the goal, I was just heartbroken'

The Kilkenny champions were denied All-Ireland glory in dramatic fashion yesterday.

Ballyhale's James O'Connor.
Ballyhale's James O'Connor.
Image: Ken Sutton/INPHO

AMIDST THE HEARTBREAK after the most painful All-Ireland loss imaginable, James O’Connor hailed his Ballyhale Shamrocks players yesterday.

The Kilkenny champions were on the cusp of three-in-a-row on the national stage until Ballygunner pounced for a dramatic late goal in Croke Park.

After digging out victories themselves in the Leinster and All-Ireland semi-finals courtesy of late goals in this campaign, Ballyhale found themselves experiencing the flipside.

“Yeah, very tough (finish). Look we’ve been at the right side of these for the last two years but still when you’re in the 63rd minute and it’s the last play out there, you just think that it’s going to go your way again and when that ball cut inside in the goal, I was just heartbroken.

“When he got it and turned, he struck it, look, it could have gone an inch outside the post as inside. It gave Dean no chance inside in the goal. Look, I suppose we’ve been doing that during the year. I was delighted that the two best teams in the country were there today. I thought it was a fantastic game, even on the sideline. I’ll go home and watch it tonight, I’m sure I’ll be crying looking at it.

“That’s championship hurling. That’s All-Ireland final day. You get one crack at it, great when they go over. Devastating when they don’t. Look overall I’m very proud of the lads the way they played. They gave it everything. We said today we’d leave everything outside on the field and I think we did.”

tj-reid-dejected-at-the-end-of-the-game A dejected TJ Reid after the game. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

O’Connor is a Waterford native and a long-time friend of Ballygunner manager Darragh O’Sullivan.
“Ah listen, I was inside with the Ballygunner fellas there and look I’ve been on the wrong side of results with them for a long time. Look they’re the benchmark of Waterford hurling. At the end of the day, I’m a Waterford man. I’m delighted for Darragh, he’s a good friend of mine for, going back over 20 years now.

“When you get your club team up there winning club All-Irelands, it really drives on the county. Sure look what it has been doing for Kilkenny over the last, 10, 15 years, 20 years. I think this will be a big plus for Waterford. Just to get out there to win an All-Ireland is something we’ve been struggling with for a long, long time. If you can do it at club level, there’s no reason why you can’t do it at inter-county level.”

O’Connor has enjoyed a remarkable run at the helm of Ballyhale as they claimed two Kilkenny and one Leinster senior titles before yesterday they fell just short in their quest for glory.
He articulated what his adopted club has meant to him since taking over for the last two seasons in an outpouring of emotion.

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“I told them during the week that over the last two years I can definitely say that I have felt like a Shamrocks man.

“Look they mean a lot to me, to be honest with you…I’m sorry…the last two years have been very special for me.

“I’ve made some great friends up there and Kilkenny people in general have been great during the two years I’ve been there. So it has been an unbelievable experience for me. It’s something I won’t forget for a long, long time. Hopefully I will be a better manager/coach because of it.”

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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