In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks at Ballybrown’s run of games in the Munster club championship.
Lovely hurling Ballybrown, was the cry as the game came to an end in Kilmallock last Saturday - the home team had just booked their place in the Munster Semi Final after they had the better of Cork champions Ballinhassig in what was a very raw day for hurling.
This young Ballybrown team may well like the top of the ground to be solid but, to their credit, they produced a mighty display to power to victory.
It took Ballybrown seven years to get out of the Intermediate grade in Limerick but, as mentioned in the past, they are now more mature and we once again saw signs of this in this contest.
It was a harsh day for hurling and huge credit to both teams for the manner in which they applied themselves for the entire game. The bad weather in the days leading up to the game was a test for any field but great credit is due to Kilmallock for the way they had the pitch looking for this encounter.
The local club had covered every angle and it proved to be an ideal venue and I am sure Ballybrown would see it as a lucky one for them.
Attitude is a vital component to winning and I like the way Ballybrown have kept their focus. It would have been easy for them to rest on the recent much needed success but instead they have taken a vital step forward against what was good opposition in Ballinhassig, who dropped back to the Intermediate grade last year, but it showed their quality to go straight back up in a year and that is never easy in a county like Cork.
Ballybrown will wonder how they did not win by much more because for long spells they owned the ball. On too many occasions they opted to go for goals when it would have been wiser to take the points but what impressed me most about them was the manner in which the team worked.
They worked as a unit and sprayed the ball around to good effect and that was a major factor in many of their scores. They have players with good engines and we saw loads of examples of this during this game. Trying underfoot conditions would present problems for Ballybrown but their battling qualities would make life difficult for many teams particularly at this time of year.
Ballybrown used the ball well for the majority of the game whereas Ballinhassig hit a total of twelve wides and with a tally like that winning was always going to be difficult. I thought the Ballybrown backs had a fine game as a unit but they will need to show more patience as they have a tendency to give away easy frees.
Ballybrown scored two goals in the opening half but they could at least have scored the same again were it not for some great saves from Martin Coleman in the Ballinhassig goal. Brian Griffin had one from play while Alan O’Connor hit a blasting shot from a penalty.
Mike Kiely was causing all sorts of trouble for Ballinhassig at corner forward and it was surprising they did little to curb his influence. Alan O’Connor played such a key role for Ballybrown and by half time he had scored 1–5, having a free taker is such a vital part of a team and in O’Connor Ballybrown have one of the best marksmen in Limerick. It was noticeable that Ballybrown are playing with great confidence and that is always a great sign of a team.
I expected a bigger challenge from Ballinhassig – yes, they did work very hard but much of their hurling was sloppy and lacked a directness which is vital against a team like Ballybrown. The play in the second half was very crowded as both teams pushed men around the middle.
Scores were hard to come by but Ballinhassig did get a break and goalkeeper Martin Coleman hit a rattling shot straight to the net from a twenty meter free.
Ballybrown were still well on top but they did panic somewhat from that goal and put themselves under pressure and as a result found it hard to score. With just twelve minutes gone in the second half Ballybrown led 2-10 to 1-6 but when Ballinhassig goaled from yet another twenty metre free four minutes later it left just three points between the sides with fourteen minutes left in the game.
From here on the battle intensified and for the first time in the game Ballybrown were under real pressure and not coping well. It wasn’t until a minute to go that they felt home and dry as the hard working Mike Kiely followed a high ball and somehow, when it broke, he pushed it over the line. Ballinhassig had no score from play in the second half but, despite that statistic, they did make life difficult for Ballybrown for a brief spell.
This latest win will set Ballybrown up for a meeting with Kerry champions Ballyduff next Saturday, again in Kilmallock, and I would expect this to be a much tougher game. Ballyduff are a decent team that pushed Effin very close last year.
Some of the Ballybrown players stood out last Saturday but others were not as prominent as in other games to date. Next Saturday Ballybrown will need everyone making a contribution and if that is the case then they will be very hard to beat. Ballybrown manager Christy Keys was put out to the stand last Saturday and I would have to say this was harsh.
I was standing very close and in all honesty, as things go, it was very tame. I do hope that common sense will prevail and that Christy will be back on the line for next week’s game.
It was a very cold day for hurling but overall we had a fine game and I thought Derry Doody from Castlemahon put it well as we walked out the game when he said, “That game would warm the cockles of your heart”. The trick for Ballybrown is to get a result next Saturday because I feel they have the quality to go a long way in this championship and let’s hope they advance to a place in the Munster Final next weekend.
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