BY NIALL SHERRY
Final berth awaits semi winners
St Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling Championship
Shamrocks Ballyhale vs Tullaroan
League champions Tullaroan will take on the absolute might of Shamrocks Ballyhale when the two sides meet at UPMC Nowlan Park tomorrow (throw-in 3:30pm) for a place in the St Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling Championship final, where James Stephens await the winners of this intriguing tie.
I’d imagine most will see this as another run-out for Ballyhale as they seek to position themselves for a much-coveted 5-in-a-row tilt, but that would be a little disrespectful on a Tullaroan side that can mix it with the best of them.
Ken Coogan’s side will relish the opportunity of a crack at last season’s beaten All-Ireland club finalists and will know that his side possess weapons that can damage any opponent on the day.
Central to The Sash’s chances of making it to a senior championship final will be the form of Shane Walsh. Indeed, it was Walsh’s 12-point haul in their quarter-final win over Erin’s Own that ultimately proved the winning of that game and gave Tullaroan a semi-final berth.
Joey Holden and Co. will know that any ill-discipline in the Shamrocks half of the pitch could result in scores for the deadly accurate Walsh who will relish his free-taking battle with the great TJ Reid.
The youngest of the Walsh brothers, Shane has shown a temperament matched with a skill level that many club sides would give their right hand for. When the semi-finalists clashed in the final round of league games, Tullaroan produced a stunning comeback to shock Pat Hoban’s men and qualify for the league decider that they went onto win comfortably against Bennettsbridge.
While Shane Walsh clearly has a pivotal role to play tomorrow, he will have players beside him that won’t be found wanting in the heat of the battle at UPMC Nowlan Park. Another Walsh, Padraig could have key bearing on the game’s outcome. Padraig is a classy player who can operate in numerous positions across the pitch and his hunger and desire to get his beloved Sash over the line will be clear for all in attendance to see.
The Tullaroan attacking unit will be shackled by a largely experienced defence, and how the likes of Mossy Keoghan, Gearoid Dunne, John Walton and Dylan Simpson deal with this will go a long way to how credible The Sash challenge will be tomorrow. We all know Mossy has an eye for goal, and majors could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match.
During the sides last meeting, The Sash defence managed to keep Eoin Cody in check for large parts of the game, but the twice crowned Young Hurler of the Year has been going well since that outing, scoring 0-6 in his sides win over Clara last week.
Ken Coogan will no doubt try to restrict the influence the likes of Eoin Cody, TJ Reid and Adrian Mullen will have tomorrow, but to do that in championship hurling won’t be easy. Against Glenmore and Clara, you could sense that Shamrocks Ballyhale not only demand winning a 5th consecutive county title, but they feel that they have unfinished business on the All-Ireland club stage, following last year’s sickening defeat to Ballygunner in Croke Park. Before they look to that, local business needs attended to.
These days, scores come from all over the park, and the attacking capabilities of both Darragh Corcoran and Evan Shefflin could be extremely useful tools in the Ballyhale locker. Both players can strike from distance and love making their markers chase the other way.
While Shane Walsh may well be the key man for Tullaroan, the hurling of former Kilkenny captain Adrian Mullen has been instrumental in Shamrocks quest for more championship glory. His non-stop work ethic, coupled with the ability to strike points from the most ridiculous of angles means Mullen is a vital cog in the Ballyhale machine. The way Mullen, Cody and TJ dovetail, normally allows Shamrocks to thrive in the open spaces of UPMC Nowlan Park, while Colin Fennelly has looked hungry following his summer spell in the USA.
Expect a decent crowd to be in attendance tomorrow and one hopes that they will be treated to a fantastic spectacle. Tullaroan dreams…. Ballyhale expects.
>> SHERRY SAYS…
James Stephens are there. A narrow victory over Dicksboro last week saw Seamus Dwyer’s charges make their third county final in the last six years. It’s hard to believe that the city side haven’t lifted the Tom Walsh Cup since 2011 when they beat Ballyhale by eight points after a replay.
There’s no doubt that the input from a certain Mr. Brian Cody has perhaps got a little bit extra out of this talented side. Certainly, the likes Cian Kenny and Conor Browne have an extra spring in their step in recent games, while the reliable Eoin Guilfoyle and Niall Brassil have fired The Village to the county decider.
So, which team will join The Village in the showpiece later this month? Could we see a repeat of the 2011 final? Or could it be the neutrals final with Tullaroan providing the opposition to Seamus Dwyer’s side?
Should Shane Walsh be able to replicate his influence on tomorrow’s game the way he has done in the season to date, Tullaroan certainly stand a fighting chance. If The Sash can play the game and not the occasion, well, who knows?
One thing is certain, Padraig Walsh and Mossy Keoghan will want to get one over on their many county team mates at UPMC Nowlan Park tomorrow. Mossy will fancy his chances of raising a green flag at a venue that he knows well, and as we alluded to earlier, goals can make a major difference in games like this.
Shamrocks are building nicely – and in Adrian Mullen they have one of the top hurlers in the country at present. He has esteemed company in the Ballyhale attacking unit and this could prove crucial. Should Paddy Mullen miss out with what’s thought to be a hamstring injury, captain Ronan Corcoran will have a new partner in the engine room and will look to give his side the platform to go forth and do the Ballyhale thing!
Reaching a first senior county final since 1994 will be a massive carrot for Ken Coogan’s side, while Pat Hoban’s team will want to give themselves an opportunity to claim a magnificent 5th consecutive title.
This game could be good, it certainly has all the ingredients to be a classic.