BY NIALL SHERRY
Ballyhale advance to semi-final showdown with Naas
AIB Leinster Senior Club Hurling Championship Quarter Final
UPMC Nowlan Park
Shamrocks Ballyhale 5-25 Castletown Geoghan 0-15
Croke Park will be the next stop for Shamrocks Ballyhale after they cantered to an easy win over Castletown Geoghan at UPMC Nowlan Park last Sunday. By the time the long whistle sounded the gap was 25 points, and that margin of victory was achieved without the services of TJ Reid, who missed the game with what’s believed to be a minor muscle injury.
TJ’s place was taken by Niall Shortall, who took his opportunity and finished the quarter-final with 1-2, and had good company in the forward division with Colin Fennelly notching 2-3 and county star Eoin Cody registering 2-9.
Castletown Geoghan hit the first score of the game with inter-county star Niall O’Brien opening his account from the placed ball after Shamrocks were penalised for a high challenge in the opening 40 seconds.
The current holders of the provincial crown’s response was emphatic. A lovely team move involving Adrian Mullen, Ronan Corcoran and Eoin Cody saw the ball worked to Colin Fennelly who made on mistake in raising the first green flag of the day. The south Kilkenny side hit the next two scores, with fine points from Niall Shortall and captain Ronan Corcoran. Between those two points came a fine save from Shamrocks keeper Dean Mason, who saved brilliantly from Castletown forward Peter Clarke.
Clarke was then fouled and Niall O’Brien made no mistake as he split the points to reduce the gap to 3 points. Wing-back Darragh Corcoran then played a nice pass to Kilian Corcoran out on the sideline who rifled over a super score for his sides 3rd point of the day.
The very lively Jack Gallagher then struck a point from over the shoulder before young full-forward David O’Reilly pointed to make to a 2-point game. Aaron Glennon was then adjudged to have pushed Adrian Mullen and Eoin Cody slotted over the free. Joe Cuddihy then picked up the sliotar in and around midfield before striking over a lovely point. Castletown had struck 5 wides in the opening 12 minutes, and this number would continue to rise and ensure that the Westmeath champions could never compete with this Shamrocks Ballyhale side.
Jack Gallagher then struck his second point of the day before Killian Corcoran did likewise for the Shamrocks. Adrian Mullen then claimed a Dean Mason puck-out before rifling over a lovely point. Castletown Geoghan then hit two bad puck-outs that resulted in Ballyhale points, one for Eoin Cody and for Colin Fennelly. Pat Hoban’s charges had now struck 1-9 to their opponents 0-5. Evan Shefflin was then blown-up for a push and Niall O’Brien punished the defenders indiscretion.
Castletown Geoghan’s main attacking threat from play, Jack Gallagher then struck his 3rd point of the day after taking advantage of a collision between Evan Shefflin and Richie Reid, to reduce the deficit to five points. Eoin Cody who had been placed on free taking duty following TJ Reid’s late withdrawal, then struck over a fine placed ball from his own ‘65.
Colin Fennelly then played the ball into Eoin Cody who saw his shot saved by Kieran Glennon, but the ever-alert Niall Shortall was on hand to stab in the rebound. Shamrocks now led by seven with some 24 minutes played. Adrian Mullen and the impressive Colin Fennelly then tagged on points before Peter Clarke hit a much-needed point for the Lake County side.
Eoin Cody and Niall O’Brien then swapped free’s before Carlow whistler Pat Murphy brought the first half to a close with the scoreboard reading Shamrocks Ballyhale 2-13, Castletown Geoghan 0-9.
Pat Hoban will have been happy with his team’s opening 30 minutes, Colin Fennelly was physically imposing himself on the game and was like a wrecking ball as he caused much havoc in the Castletown defence. Youngsters, Niall Shortall and Killian Corcoran were putting in mature performances, while Eoin Cody continued to display his talents. The Westmeath side were not helped by some wayward shooting in the opening period, had they have taken the chances presented to them, the deficit may only have been 3 or 4 points.
Like the first half, Niall O’Brien opened the scoring with another fine free as he got a much-needed point. The Lake County star then struck an even better point from play from way out the UPMC Nowlan Park pitch, but Alan Mangan’s team saw their lively start to the 2nd half wiped out minutes later when Eoin Kenneally found Colin Fennelly and the bustling No.14 made no mistake as he notched his 2nd major of the day.
The next score was another major from Shamrocks. Niall Shortall found Eoin Cody who showed some nifty stick-work before beating the helpless Glennon in the Castletown goal. Any doubts about the result gone in the blink of an eye. The score line now read, Shamrocks Ballyhale 4-13, Castletown Geoghan 0-11.
Cody the added another free after another foul on the unmarkable Fennelly. Ronan Corcoran then notched his second point before a seventh score of the day from Niall O’Brien and a fourth from play by Jack Gallagher gave the travelling Westmeath supporters something to cheer.
Niall Shortall then struck a lovely point before being withdrawn and being replaced by Eoin Reid. Kevin Mullan also replaced his brother Darren at the same time. Shamrocks then hit 3 points in quick succession via Killian Corcoran, Joe Cuddihy and that man Fennelly.
Jack Gallagher then registered his fifth point of the day, all from play before Evan Shefflin got in on the scoring act, hitting a nice point from distance for his sides 20th point of the game. Another foul on Fennelly, another free shot for Eoin Cody.
Pat Hoban then made more changes, The Barron’s Stephen and Liam, and Dara Mason replacing Darragh Corcoran, Joe Cuddihy and Brian Butler. The benefits of putting the opposition to the sword early in the game.
Another foul on Fennelly – and guess what? Another Eoin Cody point from the placed ball. The twice crowned young hurler of the year then picked up possession, raced forward and despite being fouled, found the net for goal number five. Shamrocks now had 5-22 on the board. Colin Fennelly then hit another point, to take his tally for the day to 2-3. Niall O’Brien then struck his eight point of the game and his 3rd from play as he completed Castletown Geoghan’s scoring.
Two further scores followed from Ballyhale, both from Eoin Cody, one from a free and one from play has he added a touch more gloss to the score board.
The referee sounded the long whistle and brought a hard day at the office for the Westmeath champions to an end. Final score, Shamrocks Ballyhale 5-25, Castletown Geoghan 0-15.
Shamrocks Ballyhale : Dean Mason; Darren Mullen, Joey Holden, Brian Butler; Evan Shefflin (0-1), Richie Reid, Darragh Corcoran; Ronan Corcoran (0-2), Killian Corcoran (0-3); Adrian Mullen (0-2), Niall Shortall (1-2), Eoin Cody (2-9, 0-7f); Eoin Kenneally (0-1), Colin Fennelly (2-3), Joey Cuddihy (0-2).
Subs: Kevin Mullen for Darren Mullen (46 mins), Eoin Reid for Niall Shortall (46 mins), Stephen Barron for Darragh Corcoran (49 mins), Liam Barron for Joe Cuddihy (52 mins), Dara Mason for Brian Butler (53 mins).
Castletown-Geoghegan: Kieran Glennon; Naoise McKenna, Brandon Carey, Aaron Glennon; Conor Kane, Liam Varley, David Lynch; Plunkett Maxwell, Joe Clarke; Peter Clarke (0-2), Aonghus Clarke, Shane Clavin; Niall O’Brien (0-8, 0-5f), David O’Reilly, Jack Gallagher (0-5).
Subs: Conor Murphy for David O’Reilly (40 mins), Mick Heeney for Joe Clarke (41 mins), Eoin Quinn for Brandon Carey (41 mins), Morgan Gavigan for Shane Clavin (50 mins), Conor Lynch for Aonghus Clarke (51 mins).
Referee- Patrick Murphy (Carlow)
>> SHERRY SAYS…
So the Leinster campaign is off and running for Shamrocks Ballyhale. I’m sure Pat Hoban and his backroom team will look back and analyze some 14-wides that the Kilkenny champions hit during their quarter-final victory over Castletown-Geoghegan at UPMC Nowlan Park.
Without wanting to sound arrogant, the result was never in doubt, before or after the throw-in.
TJ felt a twinge and Niall Shortall started the game. Shortall is really blossoming in the Shamrocks senior set-up. He hit 1-2 and looked lively throughout. Killian Corcoran started in midfield alongside captain Ronan Corcoran and hit 3 fantastic points from play.
Eoin Cody assumed free-taking duty and hit 0-7 from the placed ball, but his roaming style of play and strong running show him also notch two goals in a good display.
For me the performance of Colin Fennelly was really impressive. The full-forward’s physicality and game intelligence was a joy to watch. No Castletown defender could cope with the big man’s game on the day.
Could Fennelly still bring something to the inter-county scene? Let’s just say that there’s not a full-back that would relish battling against the Ballyhale bomber!
Naas are up next for Pat Hoban’s charges next week – at Croker. There’s no doubt that the Kildare champions will provide a sterner test of Ballyhale’s credentials, and with Kilkenny man Tom Mullally on the sideline for their next opponents, it should prove an interesting sub-plot for the last-four clash. Naas accounted for Glenmore at intermediate level last season and Shamrocks will be keen to avoid a similar fate.
Unfortunately for Kilkenny hurling, Danesfort bowed out of the provincial championship following a narrow defeat to Meath intermediate champions Trim. That will have been a blow to Niall Bergin’s men, but they will now turn their attention to next season and a return to the senior ranks.
At Junior level, Eddie Scally’s Blacks and Whites secured a semi-final berth following an exciting extra-time win over Westmeath’s Ringtown. The Kilkenny junior champions got home by 9-points after the additional periods and will now face Dublin side Commercials next weekend.
Plenty to play for still at both junior and senior levels. Ahhhh…. winter hurling!