*Ballyea’s Brandon O’Connell. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
AS FAR AS FORTNIGHTS GO, Brandon O’Connell will find it hard to surpass the last fourteen days in a hurling sense.
Not alone did he get a phonecall from Clare senior hurling manager, Brian Lohan adding him to his panel for 2023 but he stepped to get the match-winning score to send Ballyea back to their second ever Munster club final.
O’Connell’s score proved to be the difference as Ballyea defeated fourteen man St Finbarr’s to seal a provincial final date with Ballygunner in Semple Stadium on December 3rd.
“I won’t do corner forward! It’s a good opportunity and I’ll give it a lash,” he remarked of his county call. “It’s a good opportunity, I’ll knuckle down and do the best I can. We had an up and down year, it was tough going, we knuckled down with the four week break which was the longest break we had, it was to get a few weeks off and get a couple weeks hurling under the belt”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, Brandon admitted that the lack of options to offload the sliotar to prompted him to shoot for the posts on sixty one minutes. “With the extra man it was hard to know whether to go or not, having the extra man can be a good or a bad thing, it depends on what you do with it and obviously the other side picks up and try a lot harder, they are a good side, I saw an opportunity and went, I had no choice but at that stage, I looked up and saw no one so I said I might as well go for it”.
Ballyea’s supporters are used to tense finales and they certainly got that in Cusack Park on Sunday with teenager Ben Cunningham agonisingly missing a chance to equalise from a 65 with the last shot of the contest. “Yeah we do things the hard way and I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing, we eked out the win which is the main thing. We tried to play our own performance and hoped it would be enough, it was in the end but we weren’t exactly happy with it but we’ve two more weeks to knuckle down”.
They’ll renew acquaintances with Ballygunner in the Munster final, the third meeting between the sides since 2016. “In a final anyone can win, it’s unreal and some feeling to be back in a Munster final,” defender O’Connell concluded.