After the incredible semi-final between Bagenalstown Gaels and Mount Leinster Rangers on Sunday in Netwatch Cullen Park, few were expecting such drama to unfold again in the second semi-final.
To be fair, they would have been mostly right after St. Mullins ran riot in the first half. An early Paddy Boland goal followed a later by John Doyle grabbing the second goal looked to be the death knell in Ballinkillens final charges. Trailing at halftime by six points, something big would need to happen.
Something big did happen, a different Ballinkillen side emerged out onto the pitch. They outscored St. Mullins 1-11 to 0-07 points, even taking the lead for a brief moment after Craig Wall put the ball in the back of the onion net. it was short-lived though and St. Mullins came away on the day with their final place confirmed after a one-point victory.
Speaking after the game Ballinkillen manager and Kilkenny hurling legend Eoin Larkin was very disappointed but ultimately proud of his valiant side;
“The lads died with their boots on in the second half. The only thing I said is you cannot give St. Mullins a 30-minute head start and a six-point of lead and expect to win. if we had to hurl as we did second half in the first half we might be coming out the right side of it.”
“We got ahead of them but on the next puck out, they got back level. So we were never really able to hold it and put them under a bit of pressure. Look I take my hat off to the lads, they fought to the end. It would be easy at halftime for us to say it was not going to be our day, they just refused to give up.”
“They are a young group, with a few experienced lads there. They will learn from this and move on.”
Eoin also touched upon an issue his opposing manager on the day Maurice Alyward also brought to Scoreline. The St. Mullins manager was lamenting the fact that he was unable to prepare properly due to the apparent late scheduling of fixtures, a concern that Larkin also shares;
“It is not very easy to plan in Carlow and the county board really does not help things along. It was only a couple of weeks before the championship has started that we knew the exact dates and even at that it is only the week before that they tell you the actual day you are planning. They (Carlow GAA) do not make it easy on you.”