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Ballyhale, Stacks and The Nire march on - 7 talking points from yesterday's GAA club action

It was a big day of action in Munster, Leinster, Ulster and on the All-Ireland ladies football scene.

Henry Shefflin and TJ Reid lift the Kilkenny senior trophy Henry Shefflin and TJ Reid lift the Kilkenny senior hurling trophy. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

1. Ballyhale return to reign supreme

When Ballyhale Shamrocks won the Kilkenny senior hurling crown in 1991, it was their ninth such success in 14 years. They would go on to endure a Noreside drought that lasted until 2006 but since then the club has produced another crop of gifted hurlers that have ensured a trophy-laden era.

Yesterday’s convincing win over Clara saw Ballyhale topple the reigning champions. It was an impressive show of strength as they landed a sixth county senior title in nine seasons. That’s a brilliant strike record and their focus will quickly shift to the next challenge. The Leinster series begins next Sunday with a trip to Dublin to take on Kilmacud Crokes. They’ve collected three Leinster and two All-Ireland titles since 2006 and will be eager to keep their run going.

The Ballyhale Shamrocks team celebrate winning The Ballyhale team celebrate their victory Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

2. Wait goes on for King Henry decision

He celebrated life as an All-Ireland senior champion with Kilkenny for the tenth time in September and since that day in Croke Park, the question has lingered over Henry Shefflin’s future career intentions. He’s ticked every hurling box to stand apart as a hurler but is there a desire to go again in 2015?

Shefflin has intimated that it’s a decision he will make when Ballyhale’s club campaign concludes and that particular journey shows no sign of halting. Their glory days continued in Nowlan Park this afternoon with a Leinster assignment up next. There’s another hurling date for Shefflin next Sunday and he’s still keeping people guessing over his inter-county future.

David Mannix celebrates Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Stacks not resting on their laurels

The dilemma after finally landing a county title that you have craved for so long is to decided whether you’re sated with that feat or have a hunger for more. Cherish and celebrate a county championship crown or park it to turn your attention to the provincial arena?

Austin Stacks, Kerry kingpins for the first time in two decades recently, and Ballincollig, Cork champions for the first time ever last month, can both relate to that conundrum. They squared off in a full-blooded battle yesterday in Tralee that indicated both had set their sights on further glory.

Extra-time was required before Austin Stacks eventually breasted the tape at the finish line first. Their manager Stephen Stack spoke amidst the post-match joy of their county final win about how he would urge his side to treat seriously the title of Kerry representatives. Judging by yesterday, his players answered his call and a first Munster final since 1976 beckons for the club.

Tom Wall and Liam Lawlor celebrate at the end of the game The Nire players Tom Wall and Liam Lawlor celebrate their victory. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

4. The Nire kill Cratloe’s double dream and strike blow for Waterford

Cratloe’s magnificent dual run has been wonderful to watch in recent weeks as they shifted seamlessly between codes. They’d stitched together 13 championship wins together in 2014 before falling at the 14th hurdle yesterday. The Fraher Field was the graveyard for their double dream but it was a desperately close defeat after extra-time by two points.

For the victors The Nire, it was a day when they struck a blow for Waterford football. No team from Waterford has ever been crowned Munster SFC club champions but they’ll have a fighting chance in a fortnight’s time.

Beating Ballylanders and Cratloe provides momentum while there are the memories of running Dr Crokes to three points in the 2006 decider to fuel their drive. They have established senior players from Waterford football in Maurice and Thomas O’Gorman while Liam Lawlor and Shane Walsh have shone for the Waterford hurlers. They also possess a brilliant teenage prospect in minor star Conor Gleeson who bagged 1-2 against Cratloe.

Kilcormac/Killoughey team Kilcormac-Killoughey triumphed yesterday in Mullingar Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. Kilcormac show their pedigree

When Kilcormac-Killoughey landed their first ever Offaly senior title in 2012 – atoning for three previous final losses – they powered forward in remarkable fashion to land Leinster and reach the 2013 St Patrick’s Day final where they were bettered by Galway’s St Thomas.

But they’ve refused to let that season of success stand alone as a solitary achievement. Last year they came back to retain their Offaly title and while they lost to Oulart in Leinster, they returned this year to complete three-in-a-row in their own county.

Yesterday they negotiated an awkward obstacle in Westmeath’s Raharney. 1-2 without reply in the last five minutes sealed the deal as they showed the wits to win that had previously served them well against Shelmaliers. A second provincial final in three years is ahead of them and the club have certainly showed their pedigree.

Conor McManus with Roana Bradley and Karl McKaigue Conor McManus in action against Slaughtneil Source: Presseye/Kelvin Boyes/INPHO

6. McKaigue wins battle against Ireland teammate McManus

Today Chrissy McKaigue and Conor McManus will board a flight together to Australia, the late arrivals for the Irish International Rules squad that take on Australia in Patersons Stadium in Perth next Saturday. Yesterday they were opponents on the Ulster club football stage, McKaigue’s Slaughtneil overturning McManus’s Clontibret. Interesting chat on the plane, we imagine.

When McKaigue returns, he’ll have the Ulster final showdown on 30 November against Omagh to look forward to. It’ll be Slaughtneil’s first appearance in this decider and it’ll be Omagh’s maiden showing as well. With Ballinderry, Crossmaglen and St Gall’s – winners of the last ten crowns between them – scrubbed out of the equation, Ulster has a novel look this year. It’s a big chance.

Ciara O'Sullivan Cork's Ciara O'Sullivan is a key player for Mourneabbey Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

7. Mourneabbey and Termon move to the brink of All-Ireland glory

That theme of novelty drifts easily over to the ladies football game. The All-Ireland senior showdown is also pencilled in for 30 November and it’ll bring together two clubs on the brink of their first taste of success at this level.

Cork’s Mourneabbey won by two points at home in their semi-final yesterday while Donegal’s won by two points away in their semi-final. Those hard-fought wins will see their spirits soaring over the next fortnight. Both are on the brink of a major achievement.

- * This article was first published on 16 November at 20.32pm

Cork and Donegal battle in store in All-Ireland senior club ladies football decider

Waterford’s The Nire end Cratloe’s double dream to book Munster football final place

Austin Stacks hold off Ballincollig in extra-time battle to reach first Munster final in 38 years

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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