The question before the game was would the Laois side continue their fairytale run or could the Shamrocks cement their dominance on the club scene.
Shamrocks made hard work of St. Ryanagh’s in the semi-final needing extra time to win, while Mount Leinster Rangers gave them a second half scare.
Clough Ballacolla had a stunning victory over Kilmacud Crokes and Rapperees to become the first Laois club to reach a Leinster final since 2001.
The Laois side themselves had never won a provincial game at senior level until their current run to the decider began with a victory against the Wexford county champions.
The first point of the game came straight after Carlow referee Patrick Murphy blew his whistle to to award a free to Shamrocks. TJ Reid duly delivered, as would be expected from the living hurling legend.
Speaking of TJ Reid, Shamrocks went surprisingly with a two man full forward line in the form of TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly, so the tactical change added intrigue to the already hotly anticipated encounter.
Willie Dunphy got the Laois side on the scoreboard a minute later. A loose line ball from Paddy Mullen led to him being punished by the skillful Laois man. Dean Mason then pucked it long going route one with the ball landing on Fennelly, with Eoin Cody making a darting run on the inside. Cody then had the ball in the back of the net to stun Declan Laffan’s men.
Clough Ballacolla were competing well despite being down, hunting in packs, trying to go man to man early on. Perhaps after watching St. Ryanagh’s step off the Kilkenny team in the first half of the semi-final. With Shamrocks opting for a long ball game trying to make Clough Ballacolla’s closing down null and void.
There was a concern for Shamrocks as TJ Reid was apparently carrying a knock since going out in the county final victory over O’Loughlin’s. It seemed slightly noticeable, with him limping around on the 7th minute. On the other end Lee Cleere grabbed the second point, the no.7 always good to step up. Willie Dunphy added his second and his side’s third, making it a one-point game. It was truly a fast and furious opening exchange.
Stephen Maher, nearly had more points on the board but ended up hitting his second wide. Lee Cleere grabbed a beautiful score to draw the game at 1.01 to 0.04. A silly foul allowed TJ Reid the opportunity to put one over from just outside the 45 yard line. He drove it over with pace to give the Kilkenny side a one-point advantage.
Tj Reid grabbed another free but the two point lead was short lived when Brian Corby grabbed his first of the game. Corby quickly followed that up with another point to draw the game.
Eoin Cody grabbed another point just before the waterbreak. Ten-time Laois champions showed they were certainly up for it though which gave James O’Connor food for thought after the opening 15 minutes.
Stephen Maher sent in a monster score to make it 7 points to 1-05. Shamrocks do what they do best, and replied immediately. Right after that Colin Fennelly stuck it in the back of the net. Mullen found TJ Reid, who spotted Fennelly 30 yards away and the Kilkenny man made it five points between the two sides.
Not to be disheartened, Corby grabbed a super score just 7 yards from the sideline and just inside the 45 yards. Willie Dunphy grabbed his third of the afternoon to make it a three-point game.
Clough Ballacolla continued to cause problems for the Shamrocks full back line, and never looked out of sight. That was until a short puck out went astray and the assuredness of Shamrocks seen them grab their third goal after 23 minutes. Fennelly will take credit but it may be regarded as an own goal.
Ballyhale became relentless with points coming from Fennelly, TJ Reid and three from Ronan Corcoran. Stephen Maher was the only man to get on the scoresheet for Clough Ballacolla, putting one over from a free.
Shamrocks expertise and calmness proved pivotal, especially since the waterbreak. Ronan Corcoran in particular having a great 10 minutes before the referee blew the half time whistle. The half time score was Shamrocks 3-11 Clough Ballacolla 10 points.
Both side came back out on the pitch to the sound of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance. Clough needed to get away from the dancing and turn this into a fight, if they were to stop the ascendancy of the three-in-a-row chasing Shamrocks.
Shamrocks took first blood, with Ballacolla responding with a point of their own. However, the next two scores of the game were the knockout blow. Adrien Mullen and Brian Cody both scoring killer goals to make it 5-12 to 0-11 points.
The sting was truly taken out of the game, Shamrocks the defending All-Ireland champions never took their foot off the pedal. Eoin Cody added four points to his tally, TJ Reid grabbed two, while it was a point a piece for the Corcoran’s. Clough’s three points were nullified by Eoin Reid grabbing their sixth goal of the game.
When the final whistle went, it was Shamrocks 6-23 Clough Ballacolla 0-14, with Richie Reid being awarded the man of the match award.
Congratulations to the Kilkenny champions, who will no doubt continue to do Kilkenny proud in their march to the All-Ireland Final.