Ballyhale Shamrocks 2-15
St Martin’s 1-15
Two wonderful moments of inventiveness by Colin Fennelly, each of which realised a goal, turned out to be decisive when Ballyhale Shamrocks maintained their 100% record in the third round of the senior hurling league, Group 1.
Two teams with enormous respect for each other skated along comfortably for nearly 20 minutes, sharing parity on three occasions. Then Fennelly made a chance, and St Martin’s (Muckalee) began to slip off the pace.
An awkward high ball arrived in from midfield from T.J. Reid towards the country end goal which took a bit of winning. Win it Fennelly did against sticky full-back, Ronan Maher.
With the defender all the time on his left shoulder, the county star forced his way forward before rifling the ball into the net from 10 metres on the right. The gap opened up, 1-5 to 0-5.
On 25 minutes Fennelly turned a nothing situation into a goal. This time he raided on the left near the 20 metre line. Again he was well policed, and he was looking up to deliver the ball away and make a pass. There was no one near at hand. However, when the nearest defender slipped Fennelly thought again, drove on, and from a very tight angle drilled the ball low into the net.
Both scores were reward for persistence and creativity, Fennelly’s trademark these times. They were the difference between the teams at half-time as Shamrocks led by 2-7 to 0-8 after tame enough exchanges.
Henry Shefflin started his first game in nearly eight months, playing at wing forward with No. 25 on his back. He looked at you would expect, a little rusty, in need of action and game time to improve striking, movement and reflexes and to build up confidence.
Against fair and decent minded opponents he was allowed find his way.
There were no crashing tackles, no negativity. Shefflin finished with 0-6 to his credit, two from play, but he needs a lot of work.
With a month to go before the start of the Leinster championship, he has time to take his game to a different level. He will!
There was no cutting edge to the exchanges after the turn either. Shamrocks opened the new half with a stirring point from 80 metres by wing-back, Bob Aylward, his second of the match.
St Martin’s hit back for a minor from a free by John Maher. From there on the divide alternated between four and five points during most of the journey. County panellist, John Mulhall produced some excellent moments to try and inspire the losers, but they were always a bit behind, that bit being 0-15 to 2-14 to in the 58th minute when Shefflin signed off with his last point.
Sixty seconds from the end St Martin’s were awarded a 20-metre free just off centre. Goalie Colin McGrath made the journey up field. He smashed a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net.
For a moment there was a chance of……Colin Fennelly, the main man on the evening, tipped over a late point to finish it, this time profiting after an under pressure defender threw a stray hand-pass which was intercepted.
The same Fennelly, along with the elegant and lovely striking T.J. Reid, Eamon Walsh, Joseph Holden, Bob Aylward and Aidan Cummins did the finest work for the winner.
Good for the losers were John Mulhall, who produced a top class second half, Tomas Breen, Paddy Nolan, Ronan Maher, Brian Mulhall, when moved to full-forward for the second half, and James Dowling.
“We didn’t perform up to our normal standard last week and we said we would have a cut this time,” suggested Martin’s manager, Sean O’Neill afterwards. “We did ourselves justice. We need more work. We are trying to build on the progress made last year, and this performance would suggest we are heading in the right direction.”
Niall Moloney, who is coaching with Martin’s, suggested: “We are working towards the championship. Testing games against a team like the Shamrocks will bring us on. We are hoping to see progress in every game, and the players are working hard to achieve that.”
Like all clubs, St Martin’s will take a break now until the club action resumes after the Leinster championship. Then it will be all guns blazing again.
Scorers: Ballyhale Shamrocks – Colin Fennelly (2-1); Henry Shefflin (0-6, four frees); T.J. Reid (0-6); Bob Aylward (0-2). St Martin’s – John Maher (0-6, five frees, one 65); Colin Fennelly (1-0, free); John Mulhall (0-3); Tomas Breen, Canice Maher, Brian Mulhall (0-2 each).
Ballyhale Shamrocks – Richard Reid, Paul Shefflin, Michael Dermody, Alan Cuddihy, Aidan Cummins, Joseph Holden, Bob Aylward, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Eamon Walsh, Patrick Reid, T.J. Reid, Henry Shefflin, David Hoyne (capt), Colin Fennelly, Mark Aylward. Subs – Eoin Reid, Enda Fitzpatrick.
St Martin’s – Colin McGrath, Niall Moran, Ronan Maher, Shane Cadigan, Paul Maher, Paddy Nolan, Damien Maher (capt), Tomas Breen, James Dowling, Joe Maher, Eoin McGrath, Brian Mulhall, Canice Maher, John Maher, John Mulhall. Subs – Pauric Haughney, Ollie Walsh, Bryan Byrne.
Referee – John Walsh (Rower-Inistioge).