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Ballyea players celebrate their Senior Hurling Championship Final victory in Cusack Park. Photograph by John Kelly

HURLING: Never-say-die Ballyea take third title

Clare Senior Hurling Championship Final
Ballyea 1-17 Inagh-Kilnamona 1-16

THE Canon Hamilton Cup is back in Ballyea for the third time in six seasons after a scintillating finish pipped debutants Inagh-Kilnamona to the post in dramatic fashion in Cusack Park this afternoon, reports Eoin Brennan.
Put simply, despite being without current All-Star Tony Kelly as well as remarkably firing 17 wides, Ballyea’s sheer ‘refusal to lose’ mentality was eventually rewarded coming down the final straight with a four point blitz in as many minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Being a fourth one point victory in their six championship outings that also included a group decider draw with Cratloe, it was their experience and winning know-how that ensured that Ballyea never reached for the panic button at any stage despite falling by as much as four points in arrears nearing the final water break.
The turning point of the final was undoubtedly a penalty awarded to Aaron Griffin who was hauled down by Inagh-Kilnamona’s last line following a defensive error. Up stepped the clinical Niall Deasy to finish to the net and level up the tie for only the third time at 1-12 to 1-12.
Aidan McCarthy (2) and Niall Mullins nudged Inagh-Kilnamona back in front by two entering the final minutes. However, having been buoyed by the goal, Ballyea’s big guns duly upped the ante, with captain Jack Browne, Paul Flanagan, Niall Deasy, Cathal O’Connor and Gary Brennan to the fore to turn their momentum into tangible scores at the perfect time.
A brace of Deasy frees took his placed ball tally to 1-9 as Ballyea regained party by the 58th minute before Cathal O’Connor and substitute Martin O’Leary popped up with further singles to give their side a healthy two point cushion in injury-time.
Aidan McCarthy did convert a monster free to stop the rot after an eight minute barren patch but Inagh-Kilnamona simply couldn’t find an elusive equaliser as Ballyea expertly clung on for their third ever senior crown.
It was a difficult pill for Inagh-Kilnamona to swallow who at least deserved a draw that would have ensured a second outing. However, despite leading the way for the bulk of the second period, the newcomers failed to put the game to bed and no better equipped side that Ballyea to punish and inch over the line by the minimum.
Any early first final nerves appeared to be settled when Aidan McCarthy goaled in the opening minutes after brilliantly fielding a Cian McInerney lineball. However, they failed to build upon that considerable boost and instead, five Niall Deasy placed balls put Ballyea 0-8 to 1-3 clear by the first water break.
Inagh-Kilnamona did improve as the half develop however, firing the last four points of the first half, all through McCarthy at 1-8 to 0-9 before adding four of the first six on the resumption from Jason McCarthy, David Fitzgerald, Josh Guyler and Conner Hegarty to soar 1-12 to 0-11 in front by the 43rd minute.
Niall Deasy’s 50th minute penalty would change the entire complexion of the final however as while Inagh-Kilnamona initially reacted positively, it was Ballyea who were rapidly gaining momentum when it was needed most to turn the tie on its head and complete their hardest earned title of all.

Ballyea: Barry Coote; Peter Casey, Paul Flanagan, Cian Meaney; James Murphy, Jack Browne, Brandon O’Connell; Gary Brennan, Stan Lineen; Cathal O’Connor, Pearse Lillis, Cillian Brennan; Aaron Griffin, Niall Deasy, Mossy Gavin
Subs: Morgan Garry for C. Brennan (44), Martin O’Leary for Gavin (51), Ryan Griffin for Lineen (56), Aonghus Keane for A. Griffin (57)

Scorers: Niall Deasy (1-9, 1-0 Pen, 7f, 2’65); Gary Brennan, Cathal O’Connor (0-2 each); James Murphy, Aaron Griffin, Morgan Garry, Martin O’Leary (0-1 each)

Inagh-Kilnamona: Patrick Kelly; Colin Shannon, Keith White, Cathal McConigley; Kevin Hehir, Jason McCarthy, David Fitzgerald; Darren Cullinan, Conner Hegarty; Seamus Foudy, David Mescall, Niall Mullins; Cian McInerney, Aidan McCarthy, Josh Guyler
Subs: Gerry Coote for McInerney (HT), Shane McInerney for Coote (52), Conor Tierney for Mescall (54), Evan McNamara for Guyler (58)

Scorers: Aidan McCarthy (1-7, 4f, 1’65); David Fitzgerald, Josh Guyler (0-2 each); Patrick Kelly (f), David Mescall, Jason McCarthy, Conner Hegarty, Niall Mullins (0-1 each)

Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O’Brien’s)

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