Ballyhale Shamrocks 2-15
BALLYHALE Shamrocks cruised to an easy victory and were always in control against wasteful Fenians (Johnstown), who shot 14 wides, in this senior hurling league clash at cold but sunny Nowlan Park.
Encouragingly from an inter-county perspective, Henry Shefflin made his first competitive start since last August’s All-Ireland senior semi-final victory over Cork. The ‘King’ looked sharp. He displayed little sign of ring-rustiness as he scored 0-6 (0-3 frees) – 0-3 from play in the second-half – to make a pleasing return.
James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick excelled in midfield, playing his best game for over a year, and he looked like the ‘Cha’ of old controlling the game with real elegance. T.J. Reid did well also in midfield, while the highly rated Eoin Reid was always a threat at corner-forward. He scored 0-4 from play.
Aidan Cummins was rock-solid at full-back for the winners, while the hard-working James Walsh also impressed at wing-back along with substitute defender Joseph Holden, who denied Fenians a certain goal late on.
Shamrocks turned the contest into a procession from an early stage. ‘Cha’ pointed twice by the 8th minute as the former All-Ireland club champions led by 0-3 to 0-1. Within 60 seconds Fenians were in big trouble.
An excellent team movement saw a Mark Aylward attempted hand-pass missed by the Fenians defender. Colin Fennelly had a clear path to goal. Fennelly raced through at blistering speed and finished expertly (1-3 to 0-1).
Further points were added from a Henry Shefflin free, and one each from the Reid brothers, T.J. and Eoin as they extended the lead further. And it was game over in the 26th minute.
‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick won possession around midfield. He slipped the ball to T.J. Reid, whose long delivery goalwards found Mark Aylward. The latter raced through on goal, and from a narrow angle, he finishing expertly, 2-6 to 0-2.
Henry Shefflin (free) and Eoin Reid added points as Shamrocks led by 2-8 to 0-3 at the interval. Kevin Power (two frees) and Kevin Reade accounted for all the Fenians scores.
The second-half was a non-event. Shamrocks merely went through the motions. Fenians tried hard but they were out of their depth. The losers did out-score their opponents (1-6 to 0-7) - Power scored a brilliant goal - but they were always chasing respectability, nothing more.
Henry Shefflin came into the game more, and at one stage, he tracked back with real ferocity to deny a Fenians score. He is determined in the extreme. This is a part of his game that is often overlooked.
Shamrocks failed to score from the 48th minute onwards, but it didn’t matter, the damage was done. Both teams emptied the bench with Shamrocks introducing Kilkenny minor Richie Reid, Joseph Holden and Cha’s two younger brothers, Donncha and Enda.
Best for Fenians were full-back J.P. Grehan and Kevin Power while P.J. Delaney and Jason Ryan tried hard but J.J. Delaney was surprisingly anonymous as he made his return from injury.
Scorers: Ballyhale Shamrocks – Henry Shefflin (0-6, three frees); Eoin Reid (0-4); Colin Fennelly, Mark Aylward (1-0 each); T.J. Reid, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick (0-2 each); David Hoyne (0-1). Fenians - Kevin Power (1-3, 1-2 frees); Kevin Reade (0-2, one free); P.J. Delaney (0-2, one 65); John Henderson, Diarmuid Broderick (0-1 each).
Ballyhale Shamrocks – Eoin Knox, Alan Cuddihy, Aidan Cummins, Ger Fennelly, James Walsh, Paul Shefflin, Bob Aylward, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, T.J. Reid, Colin Fennelly, Henry Shefflin, David Hoyne, Eoin Reid, Patrick Reid, Mark Aylward. Subs - Joseph Holden, Richie Reid, Donncha Fitzpatrick, Enda Fitzpatrick.
Fenians – P.J. Ryan, Cathal Ryan, J.P. Grehan, Declan Garrett, Jason Ryan, P.J. Delaney, J.J. Delaney, Kevin Power, Kieran Grehan, Daragh Tobin, Conor Tobin, Owen Shiel, Diarmuid Broderick, Kevin Reade, John Broderick. Subs - John Henderson, Paul Quinlan, Declan Brennan, Willie Brennan.
Referee: Paddy Neary(James Stephens)