*Pearse Lillis raided for the first goal for Ballyea. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Ballyea flexed their muscles to compete a comfortable first round defence of the Canon Hamilton trophy as they brushed aside the disappointing challenge of O’Callaghan’s Mills in Cusack Park.

Ballyea 2-20
O’Callaghans Mills 1-14
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

The worrying sign for the rest of the perceived contenders for their crown is that Ballyea didn’t have to move out of second gear to commence the new campaign in commanding fashion as an early goal in each half through Pearse Lillis and Aaron Griffin saw them carve out a 13 point cushion by the turn of the final quarter.

The welcome return of 2016 winners Gearoid O’Connell and Cathal Doohan were excellent additions to an already competitive pack, with county seniors Paul Flanagan and Tony Kelly aided by Niall Deasy in making a strong early statement of intent.

The Mills appeared like a side that didn’t ultimately believe they could prevail as while they managed to match a wind-assisted Ballyea for the majority of the opening half, they fell away all too meekly on the turnover.

Indeed, Ballyea outscored the Mills by 1-6 to 0-1 in the third quarter so while Gary Cooney did grab a much-needed goal in the 46th minute, the East Clare side never looked like realistically mounting a substantial backlash.

Having overcome Ballyea to reach the 2020 final, the Mills have a lot of soul-searching to do to get back to that lofty stage as it was difficult to see what their gameplan was due to an inordinate amount of aimless supply.

It’s now must win territory for Donach O’Donnell side’s but an ideal settler for the champions who now prepare for a sterner East Clare challenge against Broadford next weekend.

Scorers for Ballyea: Niall Deasy 0-7 (2f, 1’65); Aaron Griffin 1-2; Tony Kelly 0-4, (1f); Pearse Lillis 1-1; Cathal O’Connor, Morgan Garry, Mossy Gavin 0-2 each

Scorers for O’Callaghan’s Mills: Gary Cooney 1-2; Jacob Loughnane 0-4, (3f, 1’65); Colin Crehan 0-3 (2f, 1’65); Cormac Murphy (s/l), Aidan Fawl, Aidan O’Gorman, Sean O’Gorman, Michael Cotter 0-1 each

Ballyea
1: Barry Coote

2: Gearoid O’Connell
4: Paul Flanagan
3: Peter Casey

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

8: Tony Kelly
9: Stan Lineen

10: Cathal O’Connor
11: Pearse Lillis
12: Cathal Doohan

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

Substitutes:
21: Morgan Garry for Browne (23, inj)
19: Martin O’Leary for Griffin (47, inj)
17: Brian Murphy for J. Murphy (60)
30: Ryan Griffin for Deasy (64)

O’Callaghan’s Mills
1: Killian Nugent

2: Gerry Cooney
3: Conor Cooney
4: Niall Donovan

5: Michael Cotter
6: Patrick Donnellan
7: Aidan Fawl

8: Sean O’Gorman
9: Aidan O’Gorman

25: Bryan Donnellan
10: Jacob Loughnane
11: Colin Crehan

12: Cormac Murphy
15: Conor Henry
23: Gary Cooney

Substitutes:
19: Kevin O’Callaghan for Loughnane (35)
20: Cathal Lenihan for Donnellan (41)
14: Sean Cotter for G. Cooney (55)
13: Colm Cleary for Henry (58)

Referee: Chris Maguire (Wolfe Tones)

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