*James McGuire lays a hand on Tony Kelly. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Ballyea booked their spot in the last four of the Clare SHC following a hard-fought encounter with Kilmaley on Saturday evening.
Venue: Cusack Park
A stronger finish from Ballyea was decisive as they outscored Kilmaley 5-2 in the final ten minutes of this encounter. Apart from the conclusion to the affair, the clash was certainly one of the top games of the championship as two sides with aspirations of lifting the Canon Hamilton faced off.
Injuries to the O’Loughlin brothers in the lead up to the tie forced Kilmaley to hand Sean Ryan his senior championship debut, The return of Cian Moloney from injury was a needed boost to the current Clare Cup champions.
Indeed Moloney was the first to register a score and he would rattle off four of their first five scores with Daire Keane also raising a white flag. Ballyea for their part had Niall Deasy to thank for keeping them in contention.
A Ballyea brace whereby Tony Kelly on the double and efforts from Deasy and James Murphy saw the men in Black and Amber take the lead for the first time on twenty minutes. Tom O’Rourke replied for Kilmaley only to be outdone with Clare footballers Gary Brennan and Pearse Lillis pointing at the other end.
Superb chasing from Cian Moloney resulted in a hook on Jack Browne, his clearance was then scuppered with the resulting break scooped up by Mikey O’Neill. Quick vision from O’Neill found Daire Keane in space and the former Clare minor made no mistake in rounding Peter Casey before drilling the ball past Oisin Hennessy.
Their one point advantage was short-lived as Tony Kelly and Gary Brennan combined well to find Morgan Garry who pulled off an excellent shot from over 25m out lashing the sliotar to the bottom left corner of the net. Moloney and Deasy closed off the half with a point each to leave Ballyea ahead by two points at half-time.
Both sides added two points each before Kilmaley adding two unanswered scores via Keane and Tom O’Rourke. Ballyea responded with four points on the trot to build up a four point lead and lower the confidence of their opponents.
As the game wore on Kilmaley needed a goal and their inability to find one saw their challenge wane with the intensity of the encounter also dropping a notch. Netminder Oisin Hennessy did pull a fine save to deny Keane a second goal. It plus additional scores saw Ballyea record a six point win.
For Kevin Sheehan’s Ballyea, Paul Flanagan, Pearse Lillis and Gary Brennan stood out for the hard-working outfit. Corner-backs Kenneth Kennedy and Tommie Barry did well for an under-strength Kilmaley as did Cian Moloney.
Scorers for Ballyea: N Deasy (0-06 5f), T Kelly (0-06 2f), G Brennan (0-04), M Garry (1-00), P Lillis (0-02), J Murphy (0-01), A Griffin (0-01).
Scorers for Kilmaley: C Moloney (0-08 6f), D Keane (1-03), T O’Rourke (0-03)
1: Oisin Hennessy
3: Paul Flanagan
2: Brian Carrig
4: Peter Casey
5: Aonghus Keane
6: Jack Browne
7: Brandon O’Connell
9: Pearse Lillis
8: James Murphy
10: Gary Brennan
11: Tony Kelly
12: Cillian Brennan
15: Tadhg Lynch
14: Niall Deasy
13: Morgan Garry
18: Martin O’Leary for Lynch (HT)
20: Aaron Griffin for Garry (48)
21: Joe Neylon for Carrig (48)
16: Sean Ryan
4: Tommie Barry
3: Aidan McGuane
2: Kenneth Kennedy
7: James McGuire
6: Conor Cleary
5: Brian Cahill
22: Conor Finnucane
8: Cathal Darcy
12: Aaron Moloney
11: Michael O’Neill
10: Tom O’Rourke
15: Daire Keane
17: Cian Moloney
13: Michael O’Malley
19: Aidan Griffey for Finnucane (37)
9: Paraic McNamara for O’Malley (49)
23: Joe Carmody for O’Neill (56)
25: Sean Kennedy for Darcy (56)
Referee: Rory McGann (Newmarket-on-Fergus)