Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-18
Niall Kelly reports from Croke Park
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS ARE the All-Ireland senior club hurling champions for a record sixth time — and if this is to be end, it was the perfect way for the King to bow out.
Henry Shefflin has made Croke Park his own on so many occasions and, on what could be his final appearance in HQ, he won a third club title to sit alongside his 10 inter-county medals.
Shefflin, 36, insisted on delaying his retirement decision until after today’s showdown against Munster champions Kilmallock. The next time he’s asked the question, we might well get our answer.
He has been involved in far better contests here over the years, not that it really matters. Once Colin Fennelly struck for the game’s only goal three minutes before half-time, the Limerick men were faced with a mountain they never looked likely to climb.
Fennelly’s goal left Ballyhale six points up at half-time, 1-7 to 0-4, but Kilmallock will look back and rue an opening 30 where a bit more composure would have left them with a fighting chance.
They hit 10 wides in that period, four coming from the stick of Paudie O’Brien, and dropped a half-dozen more short on top of goalkeeper Richie Reid.
The aerial approach looked to have payed immediate dividends in the fourth minute when Jake Mulcahy’s booming delivery eluded everyone, including Reid, and bounced to the net. Referee James Owens took a long time to consult with his umpires and eventually ruled that Kieran Kenneally had been too early to the square before challenging.
It looked to be the correct decision but on a different day, the break might have gone Kilmallock’s way.
Shefflin’s point in the 16th minute, the first of two he scored, made it 0-4 to 0-1 before Robbie Egan and an Eoin Ryan free reduced the margin to the minimum.
Kilmallock were never closer, held at bay by the Ballyhale defence marshalled by man of the match Joey Holden from full-back while Aidan Cummins, one of his side’s elder statesmen at the age of 36, was a disruptive presence at wing-back.
Fennelly hit his first point of the day in the 21st minute before he struck a decisive blow six minutes later, given a free run at the Kilmallock goal and finishing powerfully beyond Barry Hennessy.
As a contest, the second half was a virtual non-event. Reid picked off frees with ease and added two from play, as did substitute Mark Aylward, as Ballyhale raced off into the sunset, a sixth club championship in tow.
Robbie Hanley’s goal three minutes from time spared Kilmallock the ignominy of being beaten by more than triple scores, but little more.
It was a day for Shamrock to be worn proudly. It was a day for the King.
Scorers for Ballyhale: C Fennelly 1-3, TJ Reid (4f) 0-6, E Reid 0-3, H Shefflin, M Aylward 0-2 each, B Aylward, A Cuddihy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilmallock: R Hanley 1-0, E Ryan (3f) 0-3, P O’Brien, R Egan, G Mulcahy 0-1 each.
1. Richie Reid
2. Keith Nolan
3. Joey Holden
4. Alan Cuddihy
5. Paul Shefflin
6. Michael Fennelly
7. Aidan Cummins
8. Conor Walsh
9. Bob Aylward
10. James Fitzpatrick
11. Henry Shefflin
12. TJ Reid
13. Patrick Reid
14. Colin Fennelly
15. Eoin Reid
18. Mark Aylward for P Reid (HT)
23. Tom Coogan for Nolan (58)
28. David Hoyne for Walsh (59)
24. Michael Dermody for P Shefflin (59)
1. Barry Hennessy
2. Liam Hurley
3. Mark O’Loughlin
4. Aaron Costello
5. Liam Walsh
6. Philip O’Loughlin
7. Kevin O’Donnell
8. Bryan O’Sullivan
9. Paudie O’Brien
10. Jake Mulcahy
11. Gavin O’Mahony
12. Robbie Egan
13. Graeme Mulcahy
14. Kieran Kenneally
15. Eoin Ryan
18. Paddy O’Loughlin for Kenneally (25)
19. Robbie Hanley for Egan (45)
23. Conor Barry for O’Sullivan (56)