*Brandon O’Connell. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Two-time senior champions Ballyea completed the semi-final line-up for the Clare SHC after coming out on top in a hard-fought encounter with rivals Kilmaley.
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
For the second year in a row, Ballyea have eliminated Kilmaley from the Clare SHC, six points was the gap between the sides in their last eight clash in 2020 but the outcome was very close to being a different one this time round with just a puck of the ball separating the sides.
Tony Kelly was sprung from the bench to help Robbie Hogan’s side advance to the semi-finals with the All Star chipping in with 0-02 during his twenty two minute plus appearance as they once again showed their fighting spirit in abundance. Whether he would feature was a major talking point in the lead up to the game. Due to have surgery on an ankle injury which has been causing him problems for some time, he had missed the last game in the group stage at which time his club had already qualified for the knockout stages. While he didn’t see much action at first, he made his mark in the closing stages firing over two trademark points to steer his club into the last four in the race for the Canon Hamilton trophy.
When they reflect back on this loss, Kilmaley will point to their eleven first half wides and inability to register a score for the first nine minutes of the decisive final quarter. Coupled with this, the losses of injured duo Cian Moloney and Mikey O’Malley certainly hindered their chances while defender Bradley Higgins was forced off at half-time.
In a tie in which the neighbouring clubs were level on nine occasions, converting scoring chances was always going to be vital and, in this regard, Ballyea did best although they too were guilty of some bad wides.
Kilmaley will be disappointed to have recorded sixteen wides, eleven of which came in the opening half and ultimately this proved very costly. While Ballyea registered eleven wides, they made better use of the chances they created as they qualified for the last four in the championship
Missed chances were the order of the day in the opening half at the end of which the teams were locked together at 0-7 each.
Kilmaley had the opening two scores but Ballyea hit back with three in a row and from here on it was tit for tat with points exchanged regularly.
This continued to be the case in the third quarter when points were swapped four times to leave the score at 0-11 each at the second water break.
As the game moved inside the last ten minutes, Ballyea fired over three unanswered scores through Pearse Lillis, Mossy Gavin and substitute Morgan Garry and they were never headed after this.
Managed by Conor Clancy and coached by Colin Lynch, Kilmaley pulled back two but try as they did they never got back on terms and with Kelly picking off two great scores Ballyea were ahead by the minimum when referee Jarlath Donnellan sounded the long whistle after just over three minutes of added time.
Paul Flanagan, Peter Casey, Brandon O’Connell, Jack Browne, Gary Brennan and Pearse Lillis were prominent throughout for the winners.
Conor Cleary, Aidan McGuane, Martin O’Connor, and Tommy Barry did best for Kilmaley
Scorers Ballyea: Niall Deasy (0-7, 4f); Mossy Gavin, Pearce Lillis (0-3) each; Tony Kelly (0-2), Aaron Griffin, Morgan Garry (0-1) each
Scorers Kilmaley: Joe Carmody (0-4 4f), Sean O’Loughlin, (0-4 1f), Tom O’Rourke (0-3), Aidan McGuane, Gearoid O’Grady (0-2) each, Michael O’Neill (0-1)
1: Barry Coote
2: Peter Casey
3: Paul Flanagan
18: Cian Meaney
5: James Murphy
7: Brandon O’Connell
6: Jack Browne
11: Gary Brennan
9: Stan Lineen
12: Cathal O’Connor
10: Pearse Lillis
17: Cillian Brennan
15: Aaron Griffin
14: Niall Deasy
13: Mossy Gavin
8: Tony Kelly for O’Connor (38)
22: Morgan Garry for C Brennan (43)
1: Bryan O’Loughlin
3: Colin McGuane
4: Bradley Higgins
2: Martin O’Connor
34: Aidan McGuane
6: Conor Cleary
7: Tommy Barry
8: Eoin Enright
9: Brian Cahill
14: Daire Keane
13: Sean O’Loughlin
15: Tom O’Rourke
20: Gearoid O’Grady
11: Mikey O’Neill
10: Joe Carmody
17: Aidan Griffey for Higgins (HT) (inj)
12: Éanna McMahon for Keane (44)
5: Sean Kennedy for Cahill (48)
22: Peter Ronan for Carmody (53)
Referee: Jarlath Donnellan (Wolfe Tones)