Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) put in a performance full of maturity and depth to defeat Gort (Galway) and book a place in the AIB All-Ireland club senior hurling final in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
The South Kilkenny outfit will be chasing a sixth win in the national final, having last won it in 2009/10. The opposition will be provided by Kilmallock (Limerick), who defeated St Patrick’s (Portaferry) in the second semi-final today.
The Shamrocks had the first score from Conor Walsh in a fast and open semi-final in Tullamore this afternoon. After conceding an early goal to Richard Cummins it only took them until the 12th minute to regain the lead, which they did with a class goal from T.J. Reid (1-4 to 1-3).
The creation of the score was magnificent, made by a superb flick down of an high ball by Eoin Reid to put T.J. through for a 1-on-1 against goalie, Gavin Lally. Reid was never going to miss. The slick Cats led all the way home from there.
They bagged a second goal through Eoin Reid to open out a 2-5 to 1-3 lead after 15 minutes. Gort, who tried to carry the ball and run at the opposition at every opportunity, recovered some ground but they still trailed by 2-9 to 1-8 at the break.
The losers opened the new half full of business and their efforts were rewarded with fine points from Gerard O’Donoghue and Richard Cummins, the latter which might easily have been a goal after making a fine catch.
Shamrocks simply played their way out of trouble. Their strong reply came in the shape of unanswered points from Colin Fennelly, Conor Walsh, after slick movement of the ball between four players, Henry Shefflin, Walsh and Shefflin again to open out a commanding lead of 2-14 to 1-10 by the 44th minute.
Wayne Walsh hit back for a minor for Gort, but Shamrocks hit the ‘score button’ again and the next blast from Colin Fennelly, Henry and Paul Shefflin took them into their biggest lead of the match (2-17 to 1-11) by the 51st minute.
Gort were chasing from a distance after that, but the ticket into the final was always going to be Shamrocks, who had star performers in Bob Aylward, Henry Shefflin, who was chosen as the TG4 man of the match, Michael and Colin Fennelly, Alan Cuddihy, T.J. Reid and Conor Walsh.
Scorers: Ballyhale Shamrocks - H. Shefflin (0-5); T.J. Reid (1-2); E. Reid (1-0); B. Aylward, C. Walsh (0-3 each); P. Reid (0-2); P. Shefflin, C. Fennelly (0-1 each). Gort - R. Cummins (1-3); M. Mullins, G. O’Donoghue, G. Quinn, G. Lally, W. Walsh (0-2 each); J. Grealish, P. Killilea (0-1 each).