A BIG VICTORY and the return to action of a huge part of their attacking arsenal. It was nothing short of a win-win situation for Ballyhale Shamrocks, writes Trevor Spillane.
With T.J. Reid back in their ranks the county champions wrapped up their second win of the league in a merciless manner, handing Danesfort a big beating (2-17 to 0-7) at a chilly Dunnamaggin on Saturday.
The winners purred into action from an early stage, taking control of the game in such a manner they even had the luxury of missing two penalties!
As for ’Fort, it was a frustrating evening. The bulk of their seven-point tally came in the opening half, while they did not score in the final 25 minutes of action.
They had no such problems in the early stage, opening with a swift brace from Richie (free) and Paddy Hogan but once the Shamrocks found their scoring touch they didn’t waste time getting back on level terms. Two Eoin Reid points helped to make it 0-3 apiece by the ninth minute, but Danesfort spurned a great chance to take a decisive lead soon after.
With their half-back line of Tony Woodcock, Paul Murphy and Philip Walsh keeping a firm grip on the game, Danesfort limited Ballyhale’s possession and kept driving forward at every opportunity.
One such Murphy clearance tested the Shamrocks resolve as early as the 13th minute. Driving the ball downfield, Murphy’s delivery was picked off by Richie Hogan, but his gallop was halted close to the square.
A point seemed the likely option from the free but Hogan went for goal - the Shamrocks were stunned, but mightily relieved the hear the sliotar clatter off the crossbar and bounce out.
It may have been a case of ‘ifs and buts’ but the game could have gone so differently had Danesfort raised the green flag then. Instead of opening a three-point cushion within minutes they found themselves two points down.
Having ground their way back into the middle third battle the game turned Ballyhale’s way eight minutes from half-time. In a move that started with Colin Fennelly winning possession in midfield, T.J. Reid knocked down Eoin Reid’s teasing high ball for Mark Aylward to sweep home.
The lead was stretched to three points with another Eoin Reid free, but that advantage could have been doubled through Ballyhale’s first penalty. Danesfort hung on in there, Paul Murphy doing well to stop T.J. Reid’s rasping 30th minute penalty after Eoin Reid was tripped in the square.
The Shamrocks weren’t overly flustered by that miss, however. One more Eoin Reid free gave them a little more space at the break (1-6 to 0-5).
While the first half was tough and entertaining, the second half was anything but. It was a miserable half hour for a Danesfort side who were simply shut out of the game by Ballyhale, who moved through the gears at ease. The Shamrocks were able to replace Colin and Michael Fennelly, Bob Aylward and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, the changes doing little to alter their run to the points.
Danesfort did pick off two of the first three scores in the second half thanks to Richie Hogan (free) and James Cunningham, the latter coming in the 37th minute. They didn’t trouble the scoreboard operator from there to the final whistle.
Instead, it was the Shamrocks who took over. Once T.J. Reid lashed an unstoppable shot past Frank Manogue - that came after Bob Aylward failed to convert a second Ballyhale penalty - the writing was pretty much on the wall for ’Fort.
There was an air of ruthlessness about the winners as they kept their foot on the gas, even after victory had long been assured. Eleven unanswered points in the closing 20 minutes - Eoin Reid helped himself to four (three frees) while there were braces for James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick and Conor Walsh - saw the Shamrocks cruise to an emphatic win.
SCORERS: Ballyhale Shamrocks - Eoin Reid (0-9, 0-6 frees); Mark Aylward (1-2); T.J. Reid (1-0); James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick (0-2, 0-1 65); Conor Walsh (0-2); David Hoyne, Donnacha Fitzpatrick (0-1 each). Danesfort - Richie Hogan (0-4, frees); Paddy Hogan, Robbie Walsh, James Cunningham (0-1 each).
Ballyhale Shamrocks - Richie Reid, Paul Shefflin, Michael Dermody, Alan Cuddihy, Gavin Butler, Joseph Holden, Bob Aylward, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, David Hoyne, T.J. Reid, Michael Fennelly, Brian Cody, Eoin Reid, Colin Fennelly, Mark Aylward. Subs: Conor Walsh for Cody, 31 mins; Donnacha Fitzpatrick for C. Fennelly, 46 mins; Keith Nolan for Aylward, 49 mins; Eoin Doyle for J. Fitzpatrick, 51 mins; Dylan Doran for M. Fennelly, 58 mins.
Danesfort - Frank Manogue, Gavin O’Keeffe, Liam Forristal, Michael Cunningham, Tony Woodcock, Paul Murphy, Philip Walsh, Jim Phelan, Darren Booth, Paddy Hogan, David Forristal, Cathal O’Neill, Cillian Treacy, Richie Hogan, Robbie Walsh. Subs: James Cunningham for Treacy, 31 mins; Ben O’Connor for Woodcock, 41 mins; Darragh Sheehan for Walsh, 45 mins; Paddy Hickey for Phelan, 45 mins; Oisin Daly for M. Cunningham, 50 mins.
Referee - Domo Connolly (Mooncoin).