BALLYEA ARE HEADING to the Munster club senior hurling final after edging out Cork champions St Finbarr’s.
St Finbarr’s 0-15
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Prevailing by their now familiar winning margin of one point, Ballyea have sealed their place in the Munster decider for the second time in their history.
They have heroes aplenty within their ranks but it was the most unlikely of saviours on this day with wing back Brandon O’Connell hitting the winning score to send them on their way.
O’Connell who has recently been added to Brian Lohan’s was moved to wing back when Ballyea had the advantage of an extra man. He like any defender found Ben Cunningham difficult to handle and while he may have come out second best in this particular duel, it won’t be remembered as with sixty one minutes on the clock it was the Clondegad footballer who put the sliotar between the posts to secure the win.
Cunningham himself had a chance to level matters from a 65 in the last play, the awarding of which was highly criticised by the Ballyea defence. His effort tailed to the right of Barry Coote’s posts wide.
For fifty minutes plus, Ballyea played with an extra man following a straight red card for Conor Cahalane after an off the ball altercation with Jack Browne.
Playing in their first provincial clash in 29 years didn’t deter the Cork side managed by Ger Cunningham who formed part of an entertaining battle in front of 1,891 spectators in Ennis. For them, Ben Cunningham was a joy to watch up front while Ben O’Connor and Ethan Twomey proved to be a strong partnership in the middle of the field.
Ballyea’s big guns stood up when they had to. At the beginning, it was Gary Brennan who fetched a puckout from the sky, straight from Niall Deasy’s opening score, he carried the ball over 40m before gently converting it to the back of the net.
When the pressure was mounting, Tony Kelly roared to life and hit four of Ballyea’s final six scores, two of them serving as TK trademarks when he collected possession before effortlessly splitting the posts off his right side from the sideline.
Even when they fell behind for the first time in the second half with forty two minutes on the clock, their response was instant with Aaron Griffin and Kelly responding with scores.
Although they dropped Jack Browne arguably too far deep as the spare man, every question asked of Robbie Hogan’s men they find a way to answer it and most importantly didn’t allow their opponents to raid for goal, an event that arguably could have swung the tie in the way of the visitors.
Along with Kelly and Brennan, Gearoid O’Connell, Aaron Griffin and Mossy Gavin were to the fore to send the Bally boys on their way back to a Munster final.
Scorers Ballyea: T Kelly (0-05 2’65, 1f), M Gavin (0-03), G Brennan (1-00), G O’Connell (0-01), N Deasy (0-01 1f), A Griffin (0-01), B O’Connell (0-01).
Scorers St Finbarr’s: B Cunningham (0-09 5f), B O’Connor (0-02), B Hayes (0-02), E Twomey (0-01).
1: Barry Coote
4: Paul Flanagan
3: Peter Casey
2: Brandon O’Connell
5: Gearoid O’Connell
6: Jack Browne
7: James Murphy
14: Gary Brennan
9: Stan Lineen
10: Niall Deasy
11: Pearse Lillis
12: Cathal O’Connor
15: Aaron Griffin
8: Tony Kelly
13: Mossy Gavin
17: Cillian Brennan for Lineen (48)
18: Morgan Garry for O’Connor (53)
19: Martin O’Leary for Gavin (53)
1: Shane Hurley
4: Cian Walsh
3: Jamie Burns
6: Damien Cahalane
17: Glenn O’Connor
2: Eoin Keane
7: Billy Hennessy
9: Ethan Twomey
5: Ben O’Connor
12: Conor Cahalane
10: Ben Cunningham
14: Padraig Buggy
8: William Buckley
13: Brian Hayes
15: Jack Cahalane
21: Sam Cunningham for Buckley (45)
19: Ciaran Doolan for G O’Connor (55)
11: Eoghan Finn for J Cahalane (59)
Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary)