Antrim’s Dunloy were already through to the All-Ireland club hurling final. after beating Galway’s St Thomas’ in their semi-final at Croke Park.
TJ Reid took first blood, much like Messi for Argentina in the World Cup final, Reid got his side off the mark with a free. Shamrocks were looking like a team possessed, earning another free which TJ . Joey Cuddihy helped destroy the Ballygunner puck out and put his side up by three. before Dessie Hutchinson went down the other end and got his first of many( some would think) to stop the ascension of the Kilkenny Champions.
Darren Mullen seemed to pull up which was a blow from Shamrocks, which made Pat Hoban to bring on Brian Butler. Conor Shehan struck the ball between the 45 and 65 yard line in his own half, taking advantage of the confusion over weather Brian Butler was indeed coming on for Mullen or not. Once everything settled though, TJ got his third of the game,again from a free. Ronan Power kept up the quality scores for Ballygunner though from open play making it a one point game. Dessie Hutchinson though was’nt long in bringing it to four points a piece.
Adrien Mullen forced a fantastic save from Stephen O’Keeffe before the ball came back to Colin Fennelly , who dived to atleast salvage a point from the play. Joey Cuddihy was the next casualty for Shamrocks having to come off, considering Shamrocks Pat Hoban made no subs in the game versus Kilmacud Crokes, this was an interesting development with Niall Shorthall replacing him. To make things worse, Pauric Mahony got Ballygunners first score from a free to draw the game.
Patrick Fitzgerald, movement upfront caused trouble to put the Munster Champions up for the first time in the game. Then , rather uncharacteristically , Dean Mason made a mistake in goal which was capitalized on with Mahony punishing Shamrocks. Adrien Mullen had a bit of sace, still had a bit to do, but was accurate and clinical putting the ball over the bar. Shamrocks at their best with Evan Shefflin getting the ball into Paddy Mullen working another point to make it all square, before Shamrocks once again took the lead with another TJ Reid free. Pauric Mahony just went the other end though and made things look simple to make it 8 points a piece.
Adren Mullen swapped with Ronan Corcoran and went into the middle of the park to stop Conor Shehan’s influence. Mahony then edged Ballygunner ahead once again before Fitzgerald make it 0-10 to 0-08. No team could really grab the game by the scruff and start storming ahead, proved by TJ standing over a 65 and put it over the bar, once again. Kevin Mahony broke the ball back to his brother Mikey and Ballygunner were back up by two.
Stephen O’Keeffe was on fire in the goal, going full length to deny Shamrocks a goal with a stunning save, before Eoin Cody smacked the ball wide, making it five wides for the Kilkenny side, with only two for Ballygunner . Ronan Corcoran made up for the miss, inches from the side line, putting Shamrocks finally into double figures before Evan Kenneally drew the game, as the ref blew the whistle for half time. The teams headed for the dressing room with a bit of the fabled “Argie Bargie” occurring on the way, we were into a cracker of a second half.
Ballyhale Shamrocks 0-11 Ballygunner 0-11
The Waterford champions had kept their opponents waiting for them to come out, with Shamrocks standing idle on the pitch for near four minutes. The extra dressing room time did not prove to be any benefit though, with neither side getting a score in the opening exchanges and both registering wides. Adrien Mullen gave away a free to allow Pauric Mahony to put over a free into the Hill 16 end after eight minutes played. Immediately Evan Shefflin found Eoin Cody to get his first score of the game, with all the six starting forwards now on the score-sheet for Shamrocks. Ballygunner got another free, however it was from distance with Mahony missing them all so far, and he struggled once again with the length.
Joey Holden’s job on Dessie Hutchinson forced a change to the Ballygunner set up to try and get Hutchinson onto the ball more. If Holden was turning on the style so was Eoin Cody, after being found by Dean Mason, he finally put Shamrocks ahead, and then from another free, TJ doubled that lead. Dessie being brought from full forward paid dividends, after getting nothing off Joey Holden in the second half, he finally got his second half score .
Stephen O’Keeffe with an eye of an eagle stopped yet another sure fire goal, with Shamrocks lamenting another chance, their fourth goal chance to be exact, gone a begging. Colin Fennalley won a penalty though soon after forcing TJ Reid to step up to test Stephen O’Keeffes mettle. A fifth goal scoring chance would surely not be saved but O’Keeffe continued to defy the odds, what a performance from the goalkeeper. He would be called into action very very soon again though, after TJ Reid was pulled down forcing yet another penalty. You really can’t give him two chances from the spot, as TJ absolutely buried it.
Dean Mason was forced to make a brilliant save of his own, which was crucial in maintaining the game at two scores. Despite points from Mahony and Hutchinson, TJ Reid kept the scoring up for Shamrocks with two of his own. It was 1-16 to 0-15 and their hero from last years final, Harry Ruddle was all ready on the pitch. There was three minutes added time and another Ballygunner point really added to the tension, one goal could drag this to extra time. However despite playing a bit over the allotted time, the referee blew the whistle, sending Shamrocks to the final and a meeting with Dunloy.
Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-16 Ballygunner 0-16