BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX DANNY LAHART
Tom Walsh cup awaits winners
St Canice’s Credit Union (Kilkenny) Senior Hurling Championship Final
Shamrocks Ballyhale Vs O’Loughlin Gaels
SHERRY SAYS FINAL PREVIEW……
Sunday 7th November 2021 – UPMC Nowlan Park, the home of hurling, the last two teams standing, following a pulsating championship campaign.
Four –in-a-row seeking Ballyhale meet city slickers O’Loughlin Gaels. It has all the hallmarks of a potential classic. However, finals are for winning, the performance is secondary to the result.
The current All-Ireland club champions are once again knocking at the door. Some have questioned their hunger, their desire, their appetite for the battle. Well, all questions have been answered to date.
James O’Connor’s side may not have been at their scintillating best so far, but they’re in the another final, and there’s normally only one outcome when this is the case.
For me, while TJ has obviously been the Shamrocks top scorer in the campaign to date, the performances of a couple of others have been crucial in making the final. Step forward former young hurler of the year Eoin Cody & Joe Cuddihy. Eoin has continued his good inter-county form with the club, looking like the talent we know he is. Joe has been quietly impressive, especially in the earlier rounds.
Andy Comerford will no doubt have been hatching a masterplan with his backroom team over the last couple of weeks. Where the Shamrocks have TJ Reid, O’Loughlin’s have Mark Bergin. Both are deadly accurate from the placed ball, and as we’ve in in recent games, there appears to have been a rise in free’s conceded. Whether that’s down to the deteriorating conditions underfoot, player tiredness or simply a lack of discipline in the tackle, who comes out on top in converting these frees could get their side over the line.
I’ve referenced the form of Eoin Cody; well, the Gaels have their Owen – Owen Wall. A lively, nippy attacker, who can turn on a six-pence, the Shamrocks defence will need to be alert to the danger Wall brings. It ultimately would be Wall’s goal that proved the difference in his side’s semi-final clash with Tullaroan. Wall has an uncanny knack of pulling his marker out before spinning away towards goal.
One of the major questions that we await the answer to, is whether Paddy Deegan continues in his attacking role for O’Loughlin’s, or whether his manager wishes to utilise his man-marking skills against the likes of TJ. Another option for the Gaels management team would be to assign Huw Lawlor to the role of TJ’s minder. Either way it’s a fascinating prospect.
Should Deegan be deployed on the edge of the square, Shamrocks Joey Holden may be his most likely marker. In the earlier games Paddy Deegan has been hugely influential, and one would imagine that Ballyhale supremo James O’Connor will want to negate this growing influence, to ensure his side stand strong at the back. The experienced Richie Reid will have a major role in keeping his fellow defenders focused, as well as helping to dictate the tempo from the number 6 berth.
The other attacking threats for O’Loughlin’s are likely to be Conor Kelly and Eoin O’Shea. Again, expect Evan Shefflin and Darren Mullen to be up to the task of dealing with the threat.
As usual, winning the midfield battle can provide a great platform for either side to stamp their authority on the game. For Shamrocks, the form of Ronan Corcoran has been a key cog in their bid for a fourth consecutive county title. Not only has Corcoran helped dominate the middle third, but he has also chipped in with some fine points along the way. Should is partner in crime be Brian Cody, he will provide a useful foil for the classy Corcoran.
Andy Comerford will be hoping his side can at least break even in the engine room. Cian Loy and Jack Nolan will not be found wanting when the going gets tough. Like Corcoran, Cian Loy can take a good score from distance.
The Shamrocks semi-final victory over the Village saw the return of last year’s county captain Adrian Mullen to club championship action. Those will have been vital minutes in the legs of the supremely talented forward star.
Veteran forward Colin Fennelly cut a frustrated figure last time out. It appeared that he was giving a running commentary to the referee throughout the game, and no doubt the O’Loughlin’s players will be keen to test Fennelly’s temperament at every opportunity, both on and off the ball. If Fennelly plays to his strengths, he can prove an excellent focal point for the Ballyhale attack.
However, the Shamrocks looked much more dangerous when TJ was deployed on the edge of the square at times against James Stephens. Like all good teams, the players selected are very fluid in terms of positioning. Expect many changes as the game develops, with players swapping and alternating roles over the course of the 60-odd minutes.
Both Goalkeepers have acquitted themselves well in the season to date. Some great saves from the custodians have helped their sides during tricky moments in the championship. O’Loughlin’s number 1, Stephen Murphy can also step forward for long range placed balls, while Shamrocks Dean Mason may adopt an advanced starting position to help push his side up the pitch.
Some pundits expect Ballyhale to prevail, due to the strength of their bench. To be fair, they can make a change or two and the quality level remains high. Eoin Reid made a great impact last time out when introduced after 40 minutes. Likewise, Robbie Buckley looked very lively and made several telling contributions when sprung from the bench against the Sash after just 26minutes.
Goals win games, and each of the finalists have players that can raise a green flag or two.
Earlier we touched on the battle of the dead ball specialists. Going into Sunday’s final, TJ Reid has a championship tally of 1-22 to his name. Mark Bergin is only one behind with 1-21. Both will be confident of surpassing Tullaroan marksman Shane Walsh’s 31-point tally, as they are averaging 8 points per game.
It’s fantastic that Sunday’s final will be television live by TG4. This will mean many more people will get the chance to see Kilkenny hurling at its highest level.
The patrons who flock to the home of hurling on Sunday lunchtime, will be hoping for a feast of scrumptious action – let’s hope our finalists serve up an offering worthy of the occasion.
VERDICT – Let’s hope hurling is the winner!
Just the ticket!
Healthcare workers to get free admission to St Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling Final
Healthcare Workers will receive free admission to the St Canice’s Credit Union senior hurling county final in UPMC Nowlan Park this Sunday at 1.30pm
This is a joint venture between UPMC and Kilkenny GAA and is a thank you to all healthcare workers locally who served the community throughout the pandemic.
To receive free entry to the match, healthcare workers are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org with their details of where they work, their phone number. Tickets will then be issued to the healthcare workers ahead of the game.
“UPMC are delighted to support free access to the SHC County Final on Sunday for all healthcare workers,” said David Beirne, senior vice president of UPMC International and managing director of UPMC in Ireland.
“UPMC have established deep roots in Kilkenny, through UPMC Aut Even Hospital, our recently opened UPMC Global Technology Operations Centre in MacDonagh Junction and our partnership with Kilkenny GAA through UPMC Nowlan Park,” added Beirne, no stranger to the Park from his days hurling with Dicksboro and the Cats. “As an organisation with almost 900 healthcare workers, we know how hard they have worked throughout the pandemic and this initiative is a small token of our appreciation to them and our colleagues across the Irish health system.”
Jimmy Walsh, chairperson of Kilkenny GAA Co Board commented that;
“Everyone in Kilkenny GAA acknowledges the sacrifice our healthcare workers have made for the wider community over the past 20 months,” he said. “We are delighted to partner with UPMC and offer them free entry to the senior hurling county final on Sunday in UPMC Nowlan Park.
“It goes without saying that everyone in Kilkenny is excited to have live finals back in the home of hurling, and this in a large part is down to the trojan work of our healthcare workers,” he added. “To that end, and recognising their role in opening society, we look forward to seeing them there on Sunday. It is important to note that all our games take place within public health guidelines.”
The Road to The Final
Ballyhale Shamrocks, 3-23 – 2-20, Graigue-Ballycallan
Bennettsbridge, 1-15 – 0-27, Ballyhale Shamrocks
Ballyhale Shamrocks, 2-20 – 1-17, James Stephens
O’Loughlin Gaels, 3-25 – 0-21, Rower-Inistioge
Mullinavat, 0-19 – 2-19, O’Loughlin Gaels
O’Loughlin Gaels, 1-18 – 0-18, Tullaroan
And in the North……
My home club, Burren St Mary’s face Kilcoo in the final of the Down SFC on Sunday in Pairc Esler, Newry. Best of luck to Jim McCorry and the team as they seek to upset the magpies.
CLG Naomh Muire An Bhoireann abú! Ar Aghaidh le Cheile.