Supremely talented Ballyhale Shamrocks turned on the style at Nowlan Park this afternoon when claiming their sixth senior hurling championship victory in nine years, winning by 1-20 to 1-13.
Defending champions, Clara, burst out of the blocks and had 1-2 on the ’board without reply per Chris Bolger (1-1) and goalie Killian Phelan (free) within three minutes as they left the challengers for dead.
However, the Shamrocks eased their way back. They produced some brilliant play with the likes of birthday boy, T.J. Reid, Michael Fennelly, Conor Walsh, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Henry Shefflin and Colin Fennelly leading the way. They caught up at 1-6 each after 17 minutes, Eoin Reid shooting the equaliser after an assist by David Hoyne.
The winners, who won the title last in 2012, powered on and put a string of magnificent points together before the break to go in leading by 1-11 to 1-6 at half-time. The Shamrocks movement and use of the ball was absolutely wonderful as they brought about a striking 10 change in fortunes from their worst position early in the match.
Clara had been opened up too easily at times during that half, and they moved county panellist Shane Prendergast from corner to centre-back for the new half, a move which steadied them somewhat. Still, they never looked like adding to their take of two wins.
At one stage in the half, in the 48th minute, they had the deficit back to 1-16 to 1-13 after the lively Chris Bolger picked off a point. The Shamrocks hit back almost immediately for a point from a free by the elegant T.J. Reid.
The same Reid then added another minor from 55 metres, and when he completed a hat trick of scores in the 55th minute the divide was a match winning 1-19 to 1-13.
This was Shamrocks as good as they have been in their perceived prime. Their use of the ball, with constant cross field aimed deliveries opening up huge gaps in the Clara defence, was of the highest quality. They have now pieced together a magnificent run of six wins since 2006.
The newly crowned champions face Dublin champs, Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster club championship in Parnell Park next Sunday.
Scorers: Ballyhale Shamrocks - T.J. Reid (0-10); Mark Aylward (1-1); Colin Fennelly (0-3); James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Henry Shefflin, Eoin Reid (0-2 each). Clara - Chris Bolger (1-3); Keith Hogan (0-5); Conor O’Shea (0-2); Lester Ryan, Neal Prendergast, Killian Phelan (0-1 each).