James Stephens 0-24
Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-18
James Stephens backed up last weekend’s victory against the Rower-Inistioge with a brilliant performance and result against Ballyhale Shamrocks as the county champions suffered surprise back-to-back defeats on Saturday in UPMC Nowlan Park.
A late save from Seán Manogue as TJ Reid looked certain to find the back of the net proved crucial as James Stephens were worthy winners on a damp afternoon at Kilkenny GAA headquarters.
Ballyhale Shamrocks began the game like a team who were still wounded from their opening round defeat to Bennettsbridge as TJ Reid and Joe Cuddihy put them into an early two-point lead. James Stephens knew the importance of not letting the county champions build up a lead early on as they responded with points from Tadhg O’Dwyer and Cian Kenny.
Luke Scanlon and TJ Reid then exchanged their first scores from play before Eoin Cody pushed the Shamrocks three points ahead with the only goal of the game 10 minutes into a pulsating game, 1-03 to 0-03.
Reid and Eoin Guilfoyle frees, along with a second point from James Stephens midfielder meant the scoreboard read 1-06 to 0-06 at the first half water break.
It became a game of frees after the water break as Guilfoyle added four points and Reid got his fifth as the sides were level with 10 minutes remaining before the half time whistle. Eoin Cody and Evan Shefflin edged the Shamrocks ahead again but there was enough time for Luke Scanlon to make it a one-point game at the interval, 1-10 to 0-12.
Guilfoyle and Reid once again exchanged frees at the start of the second half before James Stephens really tightened their grip on the game.
Five consecutive points, two from Guilfoyle, who finished with an individual tally of 0-12, as well as a point each from Niall Brassil, Mikey Drennan and Cian Kenny gave them a 0-18 to 1-12 lead with 20 minutes left on the clock.
The Shamrocks responded like the champions they are with three unanswered scores, two from Reid and a point from play from centre forward Brian Cody.
However, James Stephens pressed on from the midway point of the second half William Spencer and sharpshooter Guilfoyle led the charge and despite points from Reid and Eoin Cody, who finished with 1-02, Manogue’s late save from TJ Reid’s goal effort was enough to see James Stephens over the line.
James Stephens will be going in search of a third straight win when they take on Lisdowney next weekend while Ballyhale Shamrocks will be hoping to finally get points on the board when they take on an unbeaten Tullaroan side.