Ryan Byrne/INPHO

As it happened: Ballyhale Shamrocks v Slaughtneil, All-Ireland Club SHC semi-finals

A place in the All-Ireland decider was up for grabs at Páirc Esler.

What better way to blow off the cobwebs on the first Sunday of January than a high-quality hurling showdown with lots on the line? 

Ballyhale are the most successful outfit in the history of this competition. 

Their victory last year brought their tally to seven. They’ve got the likes of TJ Reid and Joey Holden on the pitch and manager Henry Shefflin on the sideline.

Derry oufit Slaughtneil have plenty of recent experience at this stage however and will be looking to shock the Kilkenny aristocrats to make that final step to the championship decider at last. 

Chrissy McKaighe was really interesting on the importance of the club, in midweek. 

Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane says his lads have trained over Christmas but admits that 5 January isn’t ideal but ‘it is what it is and we’re delighted to be here and competing today’.

‘We’re a bit more experienced and a better team now’ he adds and reminds us that the football isn’t a distraction this time around. 

Henry Shefflin says he’s watched a few videos of Slaughtneil and thinks their hurling has improved in recent times. And hough the Ulster side have more experience, they’re fully focused on the small ball more importantly, he adds. 

“I’m expecting a fine game of hurling but you just don’t know after the break what way it’s going to be like,” the Kilkenny legend says. 

Here we go… 

It’s first blood to the Derry side with dual star Chrissy McKaigue pointing.  

TJ Reid opens his account with a free after Cormac McKenna had opened his account. 

GOAL! Slaughtneil 1-2 Ballyhale 0-1 - Jerome McGuigan

Another point from a free for Slaughtneil.

This is ravenous stuff from the northerners, they’re putting huge pressure on the All-Ireland champions. 

Ronan Corcoran scores Ballyhale’s first from play as I type and there’s a score in it.

Here’s that goal from earlier:

We’re level. 

Brian Cody and then TJ with good points for the Kilkenny kingpins. 

Ballyhale have hurled themselves into this and have gone ahead. Seven scores from seven attempts by my count, the latest from Cody. 0-7 to 1-3 now. 

A free from out by the sideline sails over from Cormac O’Doherty and we’re all square. 

Point of the game so far perhaps, Brendan Rogers off his left. Great stuff. 

GOAL! Ballyhale 1-7 Slaughtneil 1-5 – Colin Fennelly 

TJ Reid drove on and hand passed to his intercounty teammate, who finished from in front of the goal. Slaughtneil respond with a point through Brian Cassidy. 

Throw ball after Colin Fennelly is blown up for over carrying I think and there’s a little bit of afters. 

Brendan Rogers scores another beautiful point in the meantime, more importantly. Level. 

Here’s that Ballyhale goal:

Chrissy McKaigue scores again to square it up after Ballyhale went ahead. 

Ronan Corcoran puts Ballyhale ahead and then Brian Cody adds another to put a couple of points behind the sides.

A let off for Slaughtneil!

Colin Fennelly opened up with a gallop and there was no catching him. He took the shot on and it could well have ended up in the top corner but it whizzed just wide! 

Cormac O’Doherty points for the Ulster side but Evan Shefflin steps forwards to send one over. 

HALF-TIME: Ballyhale 1-11 Slaughtneil 1-10 

A late free from O’Doherty, again, sends the sides in just a point apart. That was a really entertaining first period and it’s a proper contest. 

henry-shefflin Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ballyhale Shamrocks' manager Henry Shefflin. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The teams are back on the pitch and we’re about to throw in.

Ballyhale were made to wait seven minutes for the Derry side there and they look like they’ve been given a roasting from the King at the break. 

Sean Cassidy scores the first point of the first half to level things up however. 

As I type, TJ adds to his tally. 

Cormac O’Doherty brings the sides level again. Nip and tuck. 

TJ Reid does what he does with another free and then Evan Shefflin adds one to his account with a fine effort.

Cormac O’Doherty brings it back to a one-point game. 

Colin Fennelly bursts forward once again — like in the first half — and his shot hits the post this time! 

Slaughtneil clear their lines ultimately. Henry Shefflin looks really animated on the sidelines. 

TJ Reid and then Shane McGuigan exchange points in the meantime. 

Ballyhale 1-17 Slaughtneil 1-14 Eoin Cody pops one over and then TJ Reid converts a free to stretch the lead to three – their widest of the day. 

Are Ballyhale putting on the after burners here? 

Cormac O’Doherty missed a crucial free and the Derry side are clever enough to slow things right down as TJ Reid is booked for a lazy swing. That could be a turning point. 

Here’s that earlier Evan Shefflin point:

Meehaul McGrath with a much-needed point for Slaughtneil from play to bring it back to four after Patrick Mullen had earlier pounced on an error in the Ulster side’s defence. 

McGuigan is through on goal and he pops it off but its a free in. Cormac O’Doherty doesn’t make a mistake. Michael Fennelly is booked for his part in the incident. 

Two points in it and fair play to this Slaughtneil side, they’re going nowhere. 

TJ Reid and Brian Cassidy exchange points.  Two in it with five minutes left. 

GOAL! Ballyhale 1-23 Slaughtneil 2-18 – Brendan Rogers 

Amazing, with a couple of minutes left Rogers scores a brilliant goal. Ballyhale respond with a point through – two in it. 

Ballyhale 1-23 (26) Slaughtneil 2-18 (24) – We’re into the last seconds of normal time and the Kilkenny side have a free out. 

GOAL! Ballyhale 2-24 Slaughtneil 2-19 – Colin Fennely, 62 mins 

Fittingly, Colin Fennelly – the best player on the pitch today — wraps it up with a late, late goal. Brilliant stuff from him. 

Last few seconds now. 

FULL-TIME: Ballyhale 2-24 Slaughtneil 2-19 

What a great game. Ballyhale survive an almighty test and will be the better for it. 

Slaughtneil put in a brilliant performance but fall again at the semi-final stage. They can take lots from this display however. What did you make of that? 

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