Senior Hurling Championship Final
Ballyea v Inagh-Kilnamona at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 2.30pm (Johnny Healy, Smith O’Brien’s)
IT’S that age old conundrum of experience versus momentum that in truth has no scientific formula to back either case up.
Over the years, both sides of the divide have prevailed but in more recent local case studies, it’s the freshness and unstoppable propulsion of the newcomer that have edged matters. Take Éire Óg’s football equivalent victory over a vastly experienced Kilmurry Ibrickane last Sunday or Smith O’Brien’s upset over St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield in the intermediate hurling decider a week previously.
That trend is of course good reading for Inagh-Kilnamona who instead of being caught up in the occasion, have been busy trying to patch up the likes of Aidan McCarthy and David Fitzgerald ahead of Sunday’s historic first senior final.
Ballyea obviously have had their injury woes too.
One would have to have been cocooning for the last two months not to have heard of Tony Kelly’s absence until the new year because of an ankle surgery.
Aside from his x-factor ability to win or turn a match, the bottom line is that Ballyea have only played one championship match without him since their return to prominence in the middle of the last decade.
It’s up to others to step up, something that isn’t an issue for a side packed full of leaders and title winners from 2016 and ’18.
For sheer example alone, Gary Brennan, Paul Flanagan, Jack Browne, Pearse Lillis and Niall Deasy have been repeatedly inspiring their side but their major fault-line will be scores and more significantly the spread of scorers in Kelly’s absence.
Niall Deasy aside, Ballyea will be depending on debutant finalists Aaron Griffin and Mossy Gavin to provide the bulk of the scores to assist their top-scorer, something that hasn’t been such an issue in the Inagh-Kilnamona camp.
In total, a whopping 19 different players have got on the scoresheet for Inagh-Kilnamona throughout their six match championship run, a record for any senior finalist ever.
Ballyea actually have eleven which is an improvement on previous runs to the final so it’s that more collective threat that perhaps could be troublesome for Ballyea on Sunday.
With Ballyea more accustomed to honing in on their opposition’s main marksmen, that’s a much more difficult task against Inagh-Kilnamona as with Aidan McCarthy clearly hampered by injury in last Sunday’s football final, who’s next to try and curb?
They will certainly need to take plans for Conner Hegarty at midfield and even David Fitzgerald at wing-back as both have combined for 26 points from play so far.
On the flip side, Ballyea’s spine is literally central to securing a third title in six seasons as they depend on Paul Flanagan, Jack Browne, Gary Brennan, Pearse Lillis and Niall Deasy to excel in order to make them tick.
Inagh-Kilnamona, whether by accident or design, aren’t as logically structured, with the collective emphasis on attitude and sprit rather than specific personnel. And it does give them a certain freedom on expression that has worked perfectly so far.
It’s also makes them much more unpredictable but based on the recent juggernaut trend, it’s easier to be be swayed towards momentum than the tried and trusted.
by Eoin Brennan