Nothing but the very best will do Shamrocks against good opposition

Conor Walsh (Ballyhale Shamrocks) keeps his eye on the sliotar during the Senior Hurling Championship Final in Nowlan Park.  (Photo: Eoin Hennessy)
Ballyhale Shamrocks are facing deadly opposition in Sunday’s Leinster club final that has put a 36 months unbeaten run together in the Offaly championship.

Ballyhale Shamrocks are facing deadly opposition in Sunday’s Leinster club final that has put a 36 months unbeaten run together in the Offaly championship.

The Kilcormac Killoughey club is an amalgamation of two areas situated between Birr and Tullamore, and they dominated their home championship during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons.

“Tests don’t come much bigger than this,” insisted Ballyhale Shamrocks manager, Andy Moloney, when he looked ahead to Sunday’s Leinster club senior hurling final in Portlaois (2pm).

“Kilcormac Killoughey were in the All-Ireland club final two years ago and they could easily have won it. They are a serious outfit. We know we are up against it, and the lads will have to produce their best if they are to win.”

The KK club was founed in 1986 when two parish teams came together. They previously played together in the early seventies under the banner of Na Piarsaigh, apparently, but they split before joining forces again eight years ago.

Kilcormac won the Leinster club senior championship once, in the 2012/13 season, and the achievement was recorded in Nowlan Park. Now they are digging for gold again against Shamrocks, the biggest winners in Leinster with seven victories to their credit.

“We are good enough to win, but winning is another thing,” Mr Moloney added. “We have to get the best out of ourselves on the day.”

The Shamrocks team underwent major surgery this season and it is continuing to grow and prosper as a unit as it drives forward.

The repositioning of Joey Holden at full-back and Michael Fennelly at No. 6 has strengthened things.

“They are growing into the positons with every game,” Mr Moloney felt. “Joey is getting more confident and Michael Fennelly is looking very strong. He has been outstanding during the last three or four games.”

There has been a marked freshness about the Shamrocks play as a number of players took on the challenge of new positions.

“Michael is rejuvenated by the challenge, and who knows, he is doing so well he might get a run with Kilkenny at centre-back some day,” Moloney added.

Colin Fennelly is being used at centre-forward, replicating what Kilkenny do, while Henry Shefflin is at full-forwrfd and T.J. Reid is flying in his usual wing half position.

Thirteen of the squad were involved with the under-21 team that beat the Rower-Inistioge in the South championship at the weekend, and that victory added to the feel good factor in the club and at training.

“They are a hungry bunch by nature,” the manager said of the squad. “If they get a taste of victory at all they want more. They are good to train. We have had 15-a-side games at training over the past 10 weeks or so since the inter-county scene closed down.”

Shamrocks made easy work of disposing of Dublin champs, Kilmacow Crokes (2-15 to 0-12) in the semi-final. Kilcormac where shakey enough against Raharney in the other semi and needed a late goal from Dan Currams to snatch a 1-13 to 1-8 win.

“Facing a Kilkenny team, Kilcormac will be all fired up and better,” Mr Moloney said of that situation. “It will take something like out county final form to win this one.

“Winning the Leinster final is the target. Kilcormac will be inspired playing Ballyhale. No Offlay team every fears Kilkenny.

“Likewise, Kilkenny teams always give a good account of themselves against Offaly opposition. We have it all to do. If we get over Sunday, it will be a good day’s work.”

The panel

Ballyhale Shamrocks panel - Richie Reid, Alan Cuddihy, Joey Holden, Tom Coogan, Paul Shefflin, Michel Fennelly, Conor Walsh, Bob Aylward, David Hoyne, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Henry Shefflin, T.J. Reid, Eoin Reid, Colin Fennelly, Mark Aylward, Eoin Knox, Eugene Aylward, Brian Butler, Gavin Butler, Brian Cody, Ronan Corcoran, Aidan Cummins, Michael Dermody, Eoin Doyle, Patrick Doyle, Donchadh Fitzpatrick, Enda Fitzpatrick, Liam Grant, Jack Kenneally, Kevin Mullen, Patrick Mullen, Keith Nolan, Conor Phelan, Patrick Reid, Joe Cuddihy.

Management team - Tommy Phelan, Patrick O’Sullivan, Andy Moloney, John Drennan, Colm Bonnar.

Kilcormac Killoughey team and scorers in semi-final - Conor Slevin, Con Mahon, Ger Healion, Alan McConville, Kevin Grogan, Peter Healion, Brian Leonard (0-1), Damien Kilmartin, Killian Leonard, Ciarán Slevin (0-9, five frees), Conor Mahon, Cillian Kiely (0-2), James Gorman, Dan Currams (1-0), Peter Geraghty (0-1). Sub - Thomas Geraghty.

The Roll of Honours

Ballyhale Shamrocks (7) 1978/’79, 1980/’81, 1983/’84, 1989/’90, 2006/’07, 2008/’09,

2009/’10

Rathnure (6) 1971/’72, 1973/’74, 1977/’78, 1986/’87, 1987/’88, 1998/’99.

Birr (6) 1991/’92, 1994/’95, 1997/’98, 1999/’00, 2001/’02, 2007/’08

Banagher (4) 1970/’71, 1972/’73, 1982/’83, 1993/’94.

James Stephens (4) 1975/’76, 1981/’82, 2004/’05, 2005/’06

Buffers Alley (3) 1985/’86, 1988/’89, 1992/’93.

Camross (2) 1976/’77, 1996/’97.

Glenmore (2) 1990/’91, 1995/’96.

Fenians (1) 1974/’75

Crumlin (1) 1979/’80

St Martin’s, Kilkenny (1) 1984/’85

Graigue Ballycallan (1) 2000/’01

Young Irelands (1) 2002/’03

O’Loughlin Gaels (1) 2003/’04

Coolderry (1) 2011/’12

Kilcormac/Killoughey (1) 2012/’13

Mount Leinster Rangers (1) 2013/’14