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Ballyea dream, Hogan and Comerford still lead O'Loughlins — Club GAA talking points
We also discuss Tony Kelly’s outstanding five-point display, plus Oulart The Ballagh’s latest Leinster exit.

1. Ballyea are Munster champions

WHAT A MONTH it’s been for Ballyea.

Damien Burke celebrates James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

30 October, 2016: Ballyea are playing in their second ever Clare SHC final, searching for a first title.

20 November, 2016: Ballyea defeat Glen Rovers by eight points to add the Munster title to the Clare crown they lifted three weeks earlier.

The newly crowned Munster champions are heading for the All-Ireland series in the new year and on this vein of form, it will take a fine team to stop them.

It was the first game in Semple Stadium for the majority of this side but they showed maturity to hold off a Glen Rovers fightback and book their place in the All-Ireland semi-final. They’ll play Galway powerhouses St Thomas in the last four clash next February.

Tony Kelly celebrates with his father Donal James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

2. Tony Kelly is a magician

Tony Kelly and Marty Morrissey had an entertaining exchange during the post-game interview on RTÉ Radio 1.

Morrissey played minor hurling with Ballyea, his native club, many moons ago.

“Marty, stay away from the Christmas dinner over the winter and you could play in the All-Ireland semi-final yet,” remarked Kelly.

“I’ll see you at training on Tuesday night,” replied Morrissey.

It’s no wonder Kelly was in such a good mood. Revelling in the freedom of a midfield role, he clipped over five from play to take down Glen Rovers. He was flashy, but with plenty of end product too.

This point with three minutes to play pretty much wrapped up the win for Ballyea.

The only bad news is Clare’s new management will be forced to start their Division 1A campaign without the former Hurler of the Year.

3. Brian Hogan and Martin Comerford still going strong

Kilkenny champions O’Loughlin Gaels are back in their third Leinster final, having enjoyed success on their previous visits to the provincial decider in 2003 and 2010.

Former Kilkenny stars Brian Hogan, 35, and Martin Comerford, 38, are searching for a third Leinster club medal, 13 years on from their first. These days the veterans may not travel as fast, or as far, on the field, but their hurling brains remain.

Hogan won seven All-Irelands and two All-Stars with the Cats, while Comerford picked up six All-Irelands and three All-Stars. That’s a decent bit of experience to have in your side.

O’Loughlin Gaels needed their long-serving duo, plus the shooting of Mark Bergin and Mark Kelly (2-9 between them), to overcome a putrid start and defeat the Leinster champions.

Peter Murphy Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

4. Oulart The Ballagh bow out of Leinster

So long the bridesmaids in Leinster, Oulart finally broke the duck last year by beating Cuala in the final. 12 months on and they’re back on the provincial scrapheap, and no closer to glory on St Patrick’s Day.

But there was no shame in going down to O’Loughlin Gaels, a strong team who defeated hurling royalty Ballyhale Shamrocks in the Kilkenny county final.

Oulart have undoubtedly been Leinster’s most consistent team over the last six years, reaching five finals in that spell and winning one.

After losing four straight provincial deciders, Oulart were dumped out in the Wexford quarter-finals in 2014. They showed remarkable heart the following year to complete a Wexford-Leinster double and back that up with another Wexford crown this year.

Considering their domestic dominance in their own county, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be back on this stage in the near future.

Cuala fans Tommy Dickson / INPHO The 'Cuala Ultras' support their team in Carlow. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

5. Entertaining Leinster hurling final in store

A Cuala-O’Loughlin Gaels Leinster final awaits us on December 4. Both clubs have vastly contrasting experiences of provincial deciders.

O’Loughlin Gaels have been successful on their only two trips to the final, while Cuala have lost both their deciders – to Ballyhale in 1989, and Oulart The Ballagh last November.

Cuala are five-time Dublin champions, while O’Loughlin Gaels have four Kilkenny titles.

The last Dublin club to win the Leinster SHC tile was Crumlin in 1979 – the county’s only win. Meanwhile Kilkenny sides have won eight of the last 15 Leinster crowns. Those winners were Ballyhale (4 titles), O’Loughlin Gaels and James Stephens (2 each).

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