From the moment the final whistle blew in the semi-final against Gort, this was always going to be a very special All-Ireland final for Ballyhale Shamrocks.
Already the most successful club in the history of the All-Ireland Club Championship, with a seventh final appearance, they went in search of sixth title.
It was a historic day for Kilmallock too as they sought their first ever All-Ireland title in what was only their second ever appearance. Their first ever appearance came in 1993, in which they lost to Sarsfields of Galway 1-17 to 2-07.
The game started with a quick-fire pace. TJ Reid blocked down in the opening seconds by Lim Hurley lead to Paudie O’Brien opening the scoring for Kilmallock. Ballyhale responded instantly with a Bob Aylward point. However, this was to be the first and last time the sides would be level.
Kilmallock dropped a ball short, which found its way into the back of the net but was ultimately ruled a square ball. The free out to Ballyhale resulted in a free from which TJ Reid pointed.
Paudie O’Brien, Gavin O’Mahony and Graham Mulcahy put in strong first half performances for Kilmallock keeping them in touch at 0-03 to 0-04. However, far too many balls were dropped short or pulled wide, including a great chance for Eoin Ryan to put the sides level right in front of the posts.
Scores from Eoin Reid, Henry Shefflin, TJ Reid, and 1-01 from Colin Fennelly put the Shamrocks ahead at half time 1-06 to 0-04. Unfortunately for Killmallock, there was to be no way back from there.
It was the 41st minute of the game before Kilmallock scored in the second half, their first score in 17 minutes. It was 55 minutes in before substitute Robbie Hanley secured Kilmallock’s first score from play in the second half. A well taken goal brought their tally to 1-08 for the day.
Richie Reid who had little to do for the day but was solid when called upon will be disappointed not to have kept a clean sheet in goal for the Shamrocks. Elsewhere in the Ballyhale defence a Man of the Match performance from Joey Holden as well as strong performances from Aidan Cummins, and Bob Aylward who was formidable at midfield meant the Ballyhale were never in trouble.
Up front TJ Reid, James Cha Fitzpatrick, Henry Shefflin, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Reid, and Mark Aylward all played got on the score sheet with TJ Reid pointing four frees and two from play.
While much of the attention will now shift back to Kilkenny with important games coming up, the question of whether or not Henry Shefflin will retire remains on everybody’s mind.
Man of the Match in the semi-final, he still looked like a man who is enjoying his hurling today, scoring two points from play. No matter what his impending decision, he’ll be on a high as Ballyhale were deserved champions.
R Reid, K Nolan, J Holden, A Cuddihy (0-01), P Shefflin, M Fennelly, A Cummins, C Walsh, B Aylward (0-01), J Fitzpatrick, H Shefflin (0-02), TJ Reid (0-06, 4f), P Reid, C Fennelly (1-03), E Reid (0-03).
M Aylward (0-02) for P Reid, T Coogan for Nolan, D Hoyne for Walsh, M Dermody for P Shefflin.
B Hennessy, L Hurley, M O’Loughlin, A Costello, L Walsh, P O’Loughlin, K O’Donnell, B O’Sullivan, P O’Brien (0-01), J Mulcahy, G O’Mahony, R Egan (0-01), G Mulcahy (0-01), K Kenneally, E Ryan (0-03, 3f).
P O’Loughlin for Kenneally, R Hanley (1-00) for Egan, C Barry for O’Sullivan.
Chris Prendergast, Pundit Arena