THE future of hurling is alive and well in Ballyhale on the evidence of this under-16 Roinn B championship semi-final victory over Galmoy/Windgap in Callan.
This slick moving outfit were always in control against game opponents who never gave up but were always playing catch up. Foremost in the Ballyhale display were centre-forward Ronan Corcoran and full-forward Patrick Mullen. Corcoran picked off seven classy points from play against three different opponents while he also popped up in defence on occasion.
Patrick Mullen, the oldest of four Mullen brothers on the team, was always prominent. He had notched up four of his nine points by the eight minute. A big strong left handed player, he was always a thorn in the side of the opposition.
Goalkeeper Conor Reid also played an important role. He made two vital saves in the second half and Darren Mullen cleared a lot of ball.
Galmoy/Windgap kept fighting until the end but none of their players reached their true form, or perhaps weren’t allowed to. Young Niall Walsh was a perfect example of the never say die attitude. He tried his best all through while his brother Padraig also put in a big effort despite carrying a knee injury. Eoghan Vaughan hit three good first half points.
Shamrocks were flying early on. They had seven points per Corcoran and Mullen scored before Galmoy/Windgap raised a flag. The move of Jason Stanley to centre-back and William Phelan to midfield gave a better structure to the losers formation but the damage had already been done.
It was the 14th minute before Eoghan Vaughan posted a reply for the losers. Jason Stanley added one from a 65 but the Ballyhale duo replied with one each.
Galmoy/Windgap had their best period in the closing 10 minutes of the half when they hit four points. William Phelan started the flow before Peter Hennessy killed a clearance with one hand and skillfully split the posts. Eoghan Vaughan then showed both speed and accuracy to post two impressive points.
But with the half entering injury time, the Ballyhale boys had two very important scores from speedy midfielder, James Deasy. First he soloed in from midfield and stuck a rasper to the net. A minute later he took a pass from Ronan Corcoran and pointed to leave Ballyhale ahead by 1-12 to 0-6 at half time.
Galmoy/Windgap enjoyed a tonic start to the new half. Frank Phelan has been out of hurling for six weeks with a broken finger, but he signalled his return when he got on the end of a Jason Stanley delivery to pull the sliotar to the net and keep the game alive. Ballyhale’s Conor Phelan was switched across to police his namesake.
Down the other end Kevin Duggan brought off a good save from a deflected Brian Cody shot. Patrick Mullen pointed the resultant 65. Deasy and Corcoran (2) added points to stretch it to 1-16 to 1-6 before Peter Hennessy pointed a free following a foul on Frank Phelan.
In the 37th minute spectators were treated to a second Galmoy/Windgap goal. Conor Reid blocked a Daniel Cashin shot but his attempted clearance was in turn blocked by Frank Phelan. Padraig Walsh slammed the rebounding ball to the net to reduce the margin to six points.
All good teams respond quickly to a big score. Shamrocks did that. Luke Donnelly pointed. His cousin Kevin Mullen then shipped a hand injury at midfield and as a result was switched to full-forward in a swop with Patrick Mullen. The switch proved profitable and led to Shamrocks second goal.
In the 49th minute Kevin Duggan blocked a shot and cleared to his brother Martin Duggan. His attempted clearance went straight to Joey Cuddihy, who had a pot shot on goal which Kevin Duggan again blocked. Kevin Mullen was on hand to flick the ball to the net. Shamrocks led by 2-17 to 2-7 with 10 minutes remaining.
It could have been closer but for two excellent saves by Conor Reid on two Padraig Walsh shots. Those shots stayed out and Shamrocks advanced to meet Thomastown in the final.
Ballyhale Shamrocks - Conor Reid, Conor Phelan, Brian Butler, Sean Donnelly, Eugene Aylward, Darren Mullen, Patrick Malone, James Deasy (1-2), Kevin Mullen (1-0), Brian Cody, Ronan Corcoran (0-7), Joey Cuddihy, Luke Donnelly (0-1), Patrick Mullen (0-9, 0-5frees), Adrian Mullen. Subs - Patrick Doyle for S. Donnelly; Tom O’Keeffe for P. Malone; Mark Phelan for A. Mullen.
Galmoy/Windgap - Kevin Duggan, Brandon Phelan, Darragh O’Shea, David Doyle, Brendan Power, William Phelan (0-1), Martin Duggan, Niall Walsh, Jason Stanley capt (0-1, 65), Eoghan Vaughan (0-3), Padraig Walsh (1-0), Cian Hynes, Frank Phelan(1-1), Peter Hennessy (0-3, 0-2frees), Daniel Cashin.
Referee - Richard Buckley (John Lockes).