Ballyhale Shamrocks would appear to be still in the process of shaping their team, but yet they ended up in the senior hurling league final.
The Southerners had a bit to spare over O’Loughlin Gaels, who slumped to their second consecutive defeat in this clash in Thomastown on Saturday.
Shamrocks were easy enough winners.
But for the fact O’Loughlin’s scored a point through Danny Loughnane and had a goal from Mark Kelly in the 61st and 62nd minutes respectively they would have been well behind at the call of time.
Exchanges were even into the second quarter as the teams shared equally in 10 points.
The winners hit the front in the 21st minute when Henry Shefflin shot them 0-6 to 0-5 ahead, and there they stayed to the finish.
Eoin Reid added to the gains, but O’Loughlin’s hit back for a score from the lively and very sharp Mark Kelly.
Shamrocks found the target three more times before the break, at which stage they led by 0-10 to 0-7, although the match still looked there to be won by either side.
During the next few minutes the St John’s Park side lost a bit of ground.
They conceded early on to Henry Shefflin and Eoin Reid, although Mark Kelly posted a single reply.
Eoin Reid and Mark Bergin (free) traded minors as the game drifted towards the end of the quarter with the issue finely balanced (0-13 to 0-9).
Then Shamrocks, as has happened so often in the past, produced a little something when most needed.
Eoin Reid snatched a goal from play in the 43rd minute, but that only appeared to inspire the opposition for a while.
O’Loughlin’s bounced back in determined fashion. Mark Bergin shot a point. Then Danny Lenihan did likewise.
When Mark Kelly slipped through for a goal, the divide was nothing of consequence, 1-13 to 1-11, which was twelve minutes off the finish.
The gritty Shamrocks steadied the ship with a brace of points from county stars, T.J. Reid and Colin Fennelly (1-15 to 1-11).
O’Loughlin’s dug deep again, and they hung on to the coat tails of the opposition when Mark Bergin made space and shot a point.
Shamrocks never flinched. They tossed over a hat trick of points to jump 1-18 to 1-13 clear with a little over two minutes to play.
They weren’t going to conceded the game at that stage. O’Loughlin’s finished strongly and pulled back two scores, but it was too little too late against opposition that looked to be moving nicely again.
SCORERS: Ballyhale Shamrocks - T.J. Reid (0-7, four frees); Eoin Reid (1-1); Henry Shefflin, Patrick Mullen (0-3 each); Colin Fennelly (0-2); Ronan Corcoran (0-1). O’Loughlin Gaels - Mark Kelly (2-4); Mark Bergin (0-5, frees); Danny Loughnane (0-2); Sean Bolger, Danny Lenihan (0-1 each).
Ballyhale Shamrocks - James Connolly; Kevin Mullen, Padraig Holden, Darragh Mullen; Joey Holden, Richie Reid, Bob Aylward; Mark Aylward, Henry Shefflin; Colin Fennelly, Eoin Reid, Patrick Mullen; Joseph Cuddihy, Brian Cody, T.J. Reid. Subs: Ronan Corcoran, Keith Nolan.
O’Loughlin Gaels - Stephen Murphy; Anthony Forristal, Andy Kearns, Eddie Kearns; Shane Mahony, Brian Hogan, Paddy Deegan; Eoghan Grant, Huw Lawlor; Paddy Cantwell, Mark Kelly, Danny Loughnane; Sammy Johnson, Mark Bergin, Danny Lenihan.
Referee - Eoin Kenny (Tullogher-Rosbercon).
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