County men step up to secure Village semi
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
St Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling Championship 2023
UPMC Nowlan Park, Sunday October 1st
Dicksboro 0-21 Shamrocks Ballyhale 1-20
Class is permanent, form is temporary. In the buildup to this game, all the talk was that the holders were there for the taking, that this was the year they’d be caught. This may still happen in the semi-final, or possibly the decider, but for now, respect is due. Shamrocks Ballyhale put in one hell of a shift to get the better of Dicksboro and keep their dreams of a sixth consecutive county title alive after an epic encounter at UPMC Nowlan Park last Sunday. This was the last of the quarter-final ties, and fittingly the best was saved to last.
Pat Hoban’s charges had to draw on all their previous year’s experiences in seemingly unwinnable situations to get over the line in this contest and had to play the last 20-odd minutes with 14 men, having had midfielder Paddy Mullen sent off following an altercation with Boro’s Harry Shine. TJ Reid was awarded MOTM, but the south Kilkenny club had Adrian Mullen in imperious form as they reached the last four, where they will face-off against Brian Cody’s Village outfit.
While the legendary TJ finished the day with 0-10, a tally which included an absolutely stunning sideline cut, it was former county captain Adrian Mullen’s goal on the stroke of half-time that ultimately proved the biggest score of the day.
Indeed, it was Adrian that opened the scoring in the opening seconds of the game, taking a great catch from a lovely Evan Shefflin pass before swiveling to fire over. Shamrocks then almost got in for a major, but Niall Shortall saw his effort deflected behind for a ‘65, which TJ surprisingly pulled wide of the target. Shortall then saw his name go into referee Owen Beehan’s book on 3 minutes, after a bone-shuddering Adrian Mullen challenge on Boro centre-back Tom Kenny. Andy Gaffney split the posts to level matters with the first of his eleven successful placed-ball efforts.
Shamrocks edged ahead in the 6th minute when Eoin Cody took a pass, turned and rifled over for a nice score. The game was end-to-end and Michael Walsh’s team struck for their second score of the match after Tom Kenny picked out Cillian Hackett with a pinpoint pass and the Dicksboro no.9 pointed for a nice score. The Palmerstown based team took the lead for the first time in the 10th minute when Andy Gaffney pointed after his forward partner Bill Sheehan was fouled. Two yellow cards followed for Adrian Mullen and Tom Kenny after the pair tangled off the ball, the latter needing a new helmet following the wrestling.
Bill Sheehan then scored a lovely point after showing Killian Corcoran a clean pair of heels, to give his side a two-point lead with 13 minutes gone. Shamrocks wing-back Evan Shefflin then sent over a booming score from halfway to reduce the deficit to one, before two cracking points from TJ Reid and Conor Walsh saw the holders re-take the lead. Bill Sheehan, whose clever movement and running was causing Killian Corcoran problems then presented Cillian Buckley with a chance of a score, and the Kilkenny veteran made no mistake in pointing to deadlock matters again. Killian wasn’t the only Corcoran struggling to get to grips with his man, Darragh, who was again operating in the ‘Joey Holden’ position was finding it tough trying to curb Andy Gaffney’s influence close to goal and his man struck over a nice point on 16 minutes to nudge the ‘Boro ahead.
TJ Reid and Andy Gaffney swapped placed ball efforts before Harry Shine hit the point of the game to date with a long-range effort from close to the left sideline on halfway, his first real involvement in the game with 20 minutes on the clock. Paddy Mullen then battled well to emerge with the sliotar before passing to brother Adrian who fired over a tidy score to leave the Dicksboro lead at the bare minimum. There was definitely a real physical edge to this game, and you could sense that things could boil over at any stage. TJ was then halted illegally, and in the aftermath of this foul a little pushing and shoving occurred, and two players saw their names added to the referee’s book, Shamrocks Eoin Kenneally for a push, Boro’s Cillian Hackett for throwing TJ’s hurl off the pitch. When the dust settled, TJ slotted the free to draw the sides level, yet again.
Shamrocks captain Adrian Mullen then struck for another classy score. The flame-haired no.10 displayed great skill to pick up the sliotar before rifling over from way out on the left sideline. TJ then recorded a brace of placed balls to push the All-Ireland champions into a 3-point lead after 29 minutes of a pulsating, bruising half. As the opening period entered injury time, Aidan Nolan was adjudged to have been fouled and the reliable Gaffney popped over the free.
There was still time for the major score of the first half, major in more ways than one. The ball was worked back to Colin Fennelly who many thought might strike a point from his position, but the veteran who again had travelled back from Dubai for the match, showed excellent vision to send a beautifully weighted pass to Adrian Mullen who steadied himself before striking a rasping shot across the diving Darragh Holohan and into the back of the Dicksboro goal. Referee Owen Beehan sounded the short whistle and Shamrocks headed to the changing rooms with a five-point lead, despite having struck several uncharacteristic wide’s in the opening period.
The Dicksboro management team must have sent their players out with a real spring in their step, as the men in maroon had a blistering start to the second period. Andy Gaffney popped over an early free, after the unusually quiet Liam Moore was fouled and then Moore got on the scoresheet moments later, rifling over, after cutting inside his man and striking cleanly to make it a one-score game.
Adrian Mullen then fired over another lovely score before Michael Walsh’s men hit three on the bounce, two further placed balls from Gaffney and another classy score from the awakened Liam Moore. Gaffney’s second point of that burst came after Paddy Mullen was cautioned for a chop across the arm of Cillian Hackett. It was all ‘Boro in the opening ten minutes after the interval. If Harry Shine’s point was the pick of those before the short whistle, the next score would have big claims for the pick of those in the second half. Shamrocks won a sideline cut, out on the left and TJ displayed typical TJ skill to split the posts with a wonderful strike.
Dicksboro almost struck a major of their own in the 40th minute when Cillian Hackett burst through the centre of the pitch before striking a fierce shot that Shamrocks netminder did well to turn behind for a ‘65. Andy Gaffney made no mistake from the resulting ‘65 to reduce the holders lead to one point. Michael Walsh then sent on Shane Stapleton to add more of a physical presence in the middle third and Boro were level moments later, thanks to a lovely point from Aidan Nolan after the wing-forward showed great pace to blaze across the Nowlan Park turf before rifling over.
The maroon-clad men then went two clear, thanks to a couple of classy points from Andy Gaffney and Harry Shine. Shine was then heavily involved in the incident that led to Shamrocks going a man down. Following a shemozzle close to the sideline, Shine received some treatment before jogging towards Paddy Mullen. The young Boro forward appeared to charge at Mullen who reacted and after a brief consultation with his linesman, Referee Beehan showed the Shamrocks midfielder a second yellow, and then red, much to Mullen’s dismay. Gaffney struck over the free to push his side into a 3-point lead.
Shamrocks had only managed to add 2-points to their total following the interval and were now a man down. TJ Reid then sent over a monstrous effort from near-on halfway, before Andy Gaffney pointed from another placed ball.
With a 3-point lead and an extra man, Dicksboro were in a great position to push on and claim victory, but Shamrocks didn’t get a copy of that particular script. Richie Reid then struck a great effort that Boro netminder Holohan managed to bat away at full length. Pat Hoban’s men were digging deep and then reeled off the next three scores, a free from TJ, and points from play courtesy of Colin Fennelly and a beautiful effort from Eoin Cody. These two sets of warriors were level yet again.
Gaffney then split the posts with his 11th and final placed ball of the day to nudge the Boro ahead. Eoin Cody then fired over another trademark point before winning his side a much-needed free, which TJ duly converted in the 3rd minute of injury time to give his side the lead. Dicksboro went on the attack, but Dean Mason batted away Timmy Clifford’s effort and TJ Reid burst out of defence before being upended by Mark Nolan. With ice in his veins, TJ struck the free between the posts to make it a 2-point game.
Michael Walsh’s team knew a goal was needed and they launched the ball forward in search of a winning major. Liam Moore collected Evan Cody’s long delivery but was rugby-tackled to the ground by corner-back Dara Mason. Referee Beehan jogged forward and signaled penalty!!! The Shamrocks players couldn’t believe it and made their feelings clear that the challenge was outside the area. Credit to the referee, he consulted with his umpires and made the correct decision and awarded the free.
Andy Gaffney stood over it, knowing that it was the last action of the contest and that he needed to make the net bulge. He stepped up, struck his shot, but Dean Mason got a good block on it and as the sliotar broke loose, Cillian Hackett drew on it, but the Shamrocks managed to divert it away from danger. The long whistle sounded. Shamrocks quest for 6 continues. Final score at UPMC Nowlan Park, Dicksboro 0-21, Shamrocks Ballyhale 1-20.
St Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling Championship
Quarter Final Round-up
Clan Blanchfield took the bragging rights following this quarter-final clash in Clara, where the Bridge booked their spot in the last four following a 6-point win over Glenmore. They say goals win games and Tim Dooley’s side struck 3 majors over the course of the sixty-odd minutes courtesy of Liam Blanchfield, Ciaran Brennan in the opening period, and young Jack Campion early in the 2nd half.
Another of the Clan’s, the Cleere’s contributed eight points to their sides total as Bennettsbridge powered past Glenmore. On the losing side, Alan Murphy accounted for almost half of his sides scores on the day, but Bob Aylward’s charges couldn’t breach Enda Cleere’s net to really put the squeeze on the bridge.
O’Loughlin Gaels 0-18
Brian Hogan’s men have their name in the semi-final hat, but by God, Mullinavat gave O’Loughlin’s a mighty tough test in Thomastown last Saturday. At the long whistle there was only 2 points separating the sides, and while it was no consolation in the immediate aftermath of the quarter-final encounter, Colm O’Byrne and his selectors will be extremely proud of team’s efforts against the city side in testing conditions. The Vegas boys had the wind at their backs in the opening period and had a 5-point cushion at the short whistle, thanks to a goal from the talented Oisin Knox.
With the aid of an even stronger wind after the break, O’Loughlin’s reeled off eight scores on the trot to take control of proceedings. A second major of the day from Oisin Knox got the ‘Vat back into the game but the city side held on to win out by 2-points when Julian O’Dwyer blew for full-time.
James Stephens 1-18
Graigue Balycallan 0-15
The Village reached the last four of this year’s championship with a 6-ponit win over Graigue Ballycallan in UPMC Nowlan Park last Sunday. GBC, who many people had tipped to be involved in the relegation battle this season, gave their all in a humdinger of a contest at headquarters. Brian Cody’s men had to deliver a top performance after the short whistle to see off Eugene Cloonan’s brave challengers and they will need to deliver an even bigger one in the semi-final next week!
(Ties to be played October 15th @ UPMC Nowlan Park)
James Stephens Vs Shamrocks Ballyhale
O’Loughlin Gaels Vs Bennettsbridge