Graigue Ballycallan 0-21
Relegation finals are always nervy affairs and Saturday’s Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship clash between Lisdowney and Graigue Ballycallan was no different.
Not that Graigue Ballycallan will care for the manner of Saturday’s defeat of Lisdowney as they made sure that they will have at least another year in the St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny Senior Hurling League and Championship.
It was Lisdowney who started strongly with three consecutive points from distance, including a brilliant score from corner back Eoin Walsh.
Graigue Ballycallan, playing against a very heavy wind, finally got off the mark after ten minutes when Seán Ryan collected the ball following a free that fell short and slotted it over the bar.
Lisdowney maintained their control through points from half-forward Cathal Jordan and midfielder Niall Brennan, but Ryan kept the underdogs within touching distance of their opponents with his first successful free of the afternoon before he grabbed his second and third points from play to make it Lisdowney 0-06 to 0-04 Graigue Ballycallan midway through the first half.
Both sets of supporters were out in force as their sides made one last desperate attempt to maintain their senior status after disappointing seasons.
They could not be disappointed with the application and endeavor on show however, as both teams committed fully, something that is expected and required for a game of such importance.
2020 intermediate champions Lisdowney continued to keep the scoreboard ticking as half-time loomed with Eoin Walsh and Brian Kavanagh getting excellent scores from direct puckouts, while Tommy Ronan took some of the scoring pressure off talisman Seán Ryan by firing over two points of his own.
The game changed on the stroke of half-time as Vinny Fitzpatrick was given a straight red card by referee Seán Cleere for a strike on a Graigue Ballycallan player.
The game entered a lull period following the sending off but there was still enough time for Kevin Sweeney and Ryan to exchange scores which made it a three-point game at the break, Lisdowney 0-10 to 0-07 Graigue Ballycallan.
It was only in the second half that the full impact of playing with a man less for Lisdowney was visible to the packed crowd in Páirc Lachtain.
Defeated in all six games so far in both the league and championship, Ballycallan refused to accept their fate and drew level for the first time since the start of the encounter as Shane Butler, Ryan and Ronan made it 0-10 to 0-10.
Lisdowney’s Brian Kavanagh made no mistake with a free following Ballycallan’s onslaught, but they could not hold that slim advantage for long as Tom Dunphy (2) and Colum Prenderville (2) got on the scoresheet to give their side a 0-14 to 0-11 lead.
Substitute Aidan Tallis bucked the trend set by both outfits between the 40th and 50th minute of hitting needless wide balls as he expertly put his first attempt of the day straight over the black spot.
A long-range free from Lisdowney centre back Michael Kenny meant an intense encounter inevitably went down to the wire but they could never regain their lead.
Aaron Brennan, Tommy Ronan, Billy Ryan and Shane Butler restored Graigue Ballycallan’s healthy advantage as the men in sky blue ushered themselves into a deserved 0-18 to 0-13 lead.
Lisdowney could not recover despite a late goal as Ryan and Butler secured Ballycallan’s first win of the season and their senior status for 2023.
For Lisdowney, they will have to face into a winter of wondering where it all went wrong for them this year following a promising return to the senior ranks in 2021.