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*Delight is etched on the face of Pearse Lillis as he celebrates with Gary Brennan and Mossy Gavin. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Ballyea are one step away from a third Clare senior hurling title in six years following this one point victory over Newmarket in a hard fought semi-final at Cuack Park this Sunday afternoon.

Ballyea 1-14
Newmarket-on-Fergus 1-13
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

When the need was greatest in the final quarter, their experienced players came to the fore and Paul Flanagan, Jack Browne, Pearse Lillis, Niall Deasy, and the outstanding Gary Brennan led the way.

Newmarket will reflect on a game in which they missed chances at key times and none more so that in the final minute when they were awarded a 50m free. As Colin Ryan, scorer of so many vital scores for both club and county over the last decade stood over the ball everything pointed to extra time but his effort drifted wide of Barry Coote’s left hand upright and with it went the Blues last chance of getting to this year’s final.

Newmarket looked to be heading for victory when they went three points clear a minute into the final quarter but few would have predicted that substitute Peter Power’s point in the sixteenth minute of the half would prove to be their last score of the game.

The crucial score for Ballyea came ten minutes from the end. A Niall Deasy sideline effort from 65m was superbly fielded by Gary Brennan in front of goal. He handpassed to Aaron Griffin and the Lissycasey man drilled the ball to the net to level the tie.

The winning point came four minutes later and, fittingly, it came from Deasy whose superb strike from near the sideline on the 65m line split the uprights. Newmarket piled on the pressure in the closing minutes but the Ballyea defence held firm with full back Paul Flanagan particularly prominent during this period.

At the end of the opening half in which the sides were level on five occasions, Newmarket led by the minimum margin, 0-9 to 0–8. They had swapped points in the opening minutes before Ballyea opened a two point lead and they stretched this to three, 0-5 to 0-2, by the thirteenth minute. Newmarket landed the next three and the teams went to the first waterbreak on level terms at 0-5 each.

In the second quarter points were exchanged three times before a Colin Ryan effort from a 20m free edged the Blues one clear when the half time whistle sounded after five minutes of ‘additional time’.

Ballyea, without their talisman Tony Kelly who will be out of action until next Spring following surgery on his angle had the former hurler of the year assisting them from the sideline. In the final they will take on Inagh/Kilnamona.

Scorers Ballyea: Niall Deasy (0-8, 4f, 1’65) Aaron Griffin (1-2); Mossy Gavin |(0-2); Cathal O’Connor, Pearse Lillis (0-1) each

Scorers: Newmarket; Colin Ryan (0-5, 3f, 1 ‘65); Eoin Hayes (1-0); Eoin Guilfoyle (0-3) Eanna Crimmins (0-2); Mikey McInerney, Colin Guilfoyle, Peter Power (0-1) each

1: Barry Coote

2: Peter Casey
3: Paul Flanagan
18: Cian Meaney

5: James Murphy
6: Jack Browne
7: Brandon O’Connell

8: Gary Brennan
9: Stan Lineen

12: Cathan O’Connor
11: Pearse Lillis
10: Cillian Brennan

13: Mossy Gavin
14: Niall Deasy
15: Aaron Griffin

22: Morgan Garry for C. Brennan (44)
4: Brian Murphy for Meaney (46)
20: Martin O’Leary for Lineen (57)

1: Ronan McCormack

2: Sean O’Connor
3: James McInerney
4: Paraic McMahon

11: Colin Guilfoyle
6: Enda Barrett
5: Niall O’Connor

8: John Fehilly
23: Mark Delaney

14: Mikey McInerney
17: Éanna Crimmins
12: Eoin Guilfoyle

10: Colin Ryan
21: Stehen Kelly
13: Eoin Hayes

9: Frank Melody for Delaney (HT)
15: Peter Power for Kelly (46)
7: Stephen Casey for McMahon (46)
20: Liam Clancy for Fehilly (46)
19: Jack O’Connor for Melody (52) (inj)

Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O’Briens)

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