In this week’s Limerick Leader column Martin Kiely looks back on Kilmallock’s All Ireland club final loss.
The long-running saga of Limerick teams losing in Croke Park sadly continued this week when Kilmallock lost to Ballyhale Shamrocks in the All Ireland Club final.
This was a very disappointing day for the Limerick club but they were not able to match what Ballyhale produced on this occasion. The Kilkenny champions made it look easy, they sprayed the ball into the open spaces and had the craft to convert scores without too much difficulty. Team warm-ups always give an indication of how teams might play and I noticed Kilmallock were jittery and the ball was not coming to hand easy. It was that way through the game, they were nervous on the ball and Ballyhale took full advantage of it.
They also had a man coming for the breaking ball and in most cases they won it. On the day the household names in the Ballyhale team delivered. Joey Holden saw off a few different markers while Michael Fennelly was in total control against Gavin O’Mahony. Fennelly was powerful in the air and time after time delivered good ball to the forwards. Indeed the Ballyhale backs were very solid, they worked very hard and their first touch was excellent.
Ballyhale had many leaders on the day whereas many of the Kilmallock players just could not get into the game. In the opening quarter Kilmallock won their fair share of possession but on too many occasions they either dropped it short into the goalkeepers hand or wide.
Kilmallock needed to get a good start, they needed to be controlling the game and had their goal stood, it would have given them a great boost. They never varied the type of ball into the forwards and persisted with the high ball that never worked. I thought the referee James Owens and his umpires were at sea in this decision and were far from sure in making the call. It would be wrong to say it was a game changer but it would have provided Kilmallock with a foothold in the game.
Kilmallock had the opening score from Paudie O’Brien but Ballyhale replied with four in a row before Kilmallock would score again 15 minutes later. Kilmallock were living on scraps and were losing battles all over the field.
Ballyhale were very strong on the ball, Joey Holden was lording it at full back while Bob Aylward and Conor Walsh were masters at midfield. Henry Shefflin was busy and for a man that has done so much hurling his work rate was outstanding. When Colin Fennelly scored the opening goal of the game you got the sense that it was game over. Ballyhale were six points up at half time but the ten wides Kilmallock had didn’t help their cause.
The second half saw Ballyhale express themselves a bit more, they never had to move to their highest gear but they still rattled over points and long before the final whistle they had this game in the bag.
Of the six points Kilmallock scored three of them came from frees while the goal from Robbie Hanley came much too late to have any impact on the game. The two points Kilmallock got in the second half were Eoin Ryan frees so in reality that tells the tale of just how much in control Ballyhale were.
Kilmallock are a proud club and despite this setback they will rally again. They met a team of real quality in Ballyhale Shamrocks and on the day they could not break them down. Kilmallock will be down this week, the players will be very disappointed not to have delivered the elusive title for their club and Limerick but for sure they will be back just as they have done in the past.