It was a case of the expected and unexpected at wind lashed and shiver-inducing Hugginstown on Sunday, as Ballyhale beat Danesfort 3-12 to 2-11.
Defending champions Ballyhale Shamrocks, although not as dominant as some expected, got the win in the senior hurling league that everyone felt they would.
Danesfort, the new kids on the senior block, had an unexpected participant in county star, Richie Hogan, who has been nursing a bad rib injury of late. He did well, prompting speculation that he might figure for Kilkenny next weekend. So too did the team, certainly well enough to suggest they have a chance of survival in the top flight.
Wind assisted Shamrocks – their puck-outs were landing on the opposing 30-metre line – threatened all sorts of mayhem early on. A neatly put away goal by Mark Aylward in the third minute, following lovely approach work by Eoin and T.J. Reid, was followed by an even better one from Colin Fennelly after picking up a ball on the ‘21’ and nearly ripping a hole in the net to leave the difference at 2-3 to 1-0 after only 12 minutes.
The Danesfort goal came from Robbie Walsh, a good score, in more or less their first real attack. The ball broke on the ‘30’ and Walsh showed good awareness of all around him to shorten the grip on the ‘stick’ before firing home.
Up to that Shamrocks, who had a much changed look to their team, had appeared capable of dominating. They proceeded to do so. By the 20th minute they were 2-7 to 1-0 clear and they looked very capble.
Richie Hogan pulled back a lovely point from a bad angle and 20-metres range for the losers within a minute before Mark Aylward and the hugely impressive Paddy Hogan traded scores. With virtually the last puck of the half Danesfort bagged a second goal via full-forward John Doheny, capitalising on a loose ball that fell near the edge of the square after Richie Hogan had an attempt blocked, apparently by a defender’s posterior.
Half-time: Shamrocks 3-7 to 2-2. The winners third goal was from a 20-metre free by T.J. Reid, who caught out the opposition by having a ‘go’ as they say.
The late Danesfort goal had to be a boost. Going in for the rest they could boast that three of their scores featured among the top four – Colin Fennelly’s goal was the other – posted during the half.
The lift for Danesfort was confirmed by their upbeat form after the turn. For 10 minutes or so they got on top, driven on from the back with massive contributions from unbeatable pair, Paddy Hogan and Paul Murphy, and with Cathal O’Neill and Robbie Walsh also looking lively.
David Forristal picked off an early point for the losers. Richie Hogan posted a wide before the same player punished a foul on Cillian Treacy by shooting a point. The same Hogan sent the white flying again (3-8 to 2-5) and for a while Shamrocks looked, if not troubled, then a mite uncomfortable because they just couldn’t get the ball up the field against the blasting wind.
Eventually, in their first raid of the half in the 41st minute, Shamrocks scored. T.J. Reid worked an opening with a cross field past for Colin Fennell to shoot a point. The Danesfort gallop wasn’t exactly arrested, but some of the threat was taken out of their drive.
No real threat
The challengers out-scored the opposition by 0-6 to 0-4 afterwards without ever threatening to land a knock-out punch. Still, for their first effort at this level, it was a good showing from Danesfort.
Shamrocks? When serious hurling was called for, they had the men of character and skill to produce it. They won’t be far off the required mark come the end of the league, which, it would appear they might use to reshape their team.
There was much to admire about the winners, especially the hurling of T.J. Reid, Colin Fennelly, Mark Aylward and Keith Nolan, but especially Sean Fennelly, Eamon Walsh and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick when sleeves had to be rolled up during the toughest of times in the second half.
Scorers: Ballyhale Shamrocks – T.J. Reid (1-6, 1-5 frees); Mark Aylward, Colin Fennelly (1-1 each); James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Patrick Reid (0-2 each). Danesfort – Richie Hogan (0-6, four frees); Robbie Walsh (1-1); Paddy Hogan (0-3, two frees); John Doheny (1-0); David Forristal (0-1).
Ballyhale Shamrocks – Richard Reid, Joseph Holden, Michael Dermody, Tom Coogan, Keith Nolan, Michael Fennelly, Aidan Cummins, Eamon Walsh, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Patrick Reid, Eoin Reid, T.J. Reid, David Hoyne (capt), Colin Fennelly, Mark Aylward. Subs – Bob Aylward for K. Nolan (inj); Enda Fitzpatrick for E. Reid; Conor Walsh for D. Hoyne.
Danesfort – Frank Manogue, Philip Walsh, Ciaran Treacy, Michael Cunningham, Paul Murphy, Paddy Hogan, Gavin O’Keeffe, Stephen Duncan, Liam Forristal, Cathal O’Neill, David Forristal, Richie Hogan (capt), Cillian Treacy, John Doheny, Robbie Walsh.
Referee – Maurice Flynn (Mooncoin).