Mullinahone cruised into yet another South Senior Hurling Final in Cloneen on Friday evening last, accounting for a below-par Ballingarry with a devastating display, which was helped in no small way by the great scoring exploits of starman Eoin Kelly.
Ballingarry’s plight may have been hampered by injury and suspensions but they were buoyed by their victory over Killenaule in Round 5 and took the field with confidence, getting the better of the early exchanges, although without making it count on the scoreboard.
Eoin Kelly opened proceedings with a point from a free in the fourth minute, then Edwin O’Meara added a second almost immediately before his midfield partner Donal Coady got in on the act and sent over a third without reply.
Ballingarry’s Ciaran Shelley opened his side’s account in the seventh minute to narrow the gap until Eoin Kelly replied with a pointed free for Mullinahone.
Ciaran Shelley then halved the advantage with his second point of the evening, and when Seanie Cahill pointed a free on 15 minutes there was just a single score between the sides.
In the space of the next five minutes the game sprung into life.
County Minor Jack Shelly grabbed a breaking ball and fired over a great point.
Mullinahone were beginning to stretch the Ballingarry defence, with Paul Kelly creating most of the openings.
A long ball into the square saw a series of melees develop into a brief schemozzle which resulted in a yellow card to Eoin Kelly.
Kelly was not to be outdone however and literally seconds later he snatched onto a long delivery and buried low past James Logue from the narrowest of angles.
The goal, albeit still quite early in the game, proved to be the catalyst for Mullinahone’s victory as they took a firm grip on matters from there on. Wing back Philip O’Shea, who seemed to be always involved had a great score from distance to enhance Mullinahone’s lead.
Seanie Cahill and Cathal Horan had points at either end as the half wore on but Ballinagarry kept themselves in the game with two great individual scores from Adrian Cleere and the impressive Ian Ivors.
Mullinahone finished the half in total control with four points on the trot from Eoin Kelly (3) and Sean Curran.
Philip Ivors, who was quiet by his own standards had a brief respite for Ballingarry, sending over a nice point in the 25th minute from out on the sideline.
A feature of the first half and indeed the whole game was Mullinahone’s deployment of regular corner forward Kevin Walzer in the corner back position, where he excelled throughout.
Eoin Kelly and Seanie Cahill once again traded frees to greet the half-time whistle and leave the scoreboard reading 1-11 to 0-8 at the interval.
Ballingarry needed an immediate impact after half-time if they were to muster a revival, but it was Mullinahone who got the start to put the game beyond their neighbours long before the final whistle. Cathal Horan, lively throughout had the second half’s first score and a pair of Eoin Kelly frees either side of a second Edwin O’Meara point sent Mullinahone on their way. Seanie Cahill replied with a free for Ballingarry in the 40th minute but a Jack Shelley goal after a mazy Sean Curran run and clever lay-off all but sealed Ballingarry’s fate.
Mullinahone were starting to turn on the style and a huge Eoin Kelly point from the middle of the field had patrons off their feet. Then substitute Alan, who brought the Curran contingent on the field to four, chipped in with a point. With the game well beyond them Ballingarry kept battling and had four points in-a-row from Adrian Cleere (2), Ger Fennelly and Seanie Cahill, but they needed the boost of at least a goal to spark an improbable comeback.
The relentless pressure applied by Mullinahone was translated into further scores from frees by the deadly accurate Eoin Kelly.
Ballingarry in turn could not feed their inside forward line as Paul Curran and Kevin Walzer were mopping up all before them. The constant pressure on the Ballingarry defence told once again with ten minutes left. This time Paul Kelly raced through the Mullinahone defence, shaving the crossbar for his first point.
Moments later a long Eoin Kelly free went straight to his brother who atoned for his earlier near miss to crash a fierce shot to the back of the net. Ian Ivors, who was foraging more and more up field to aid his forwards, had a point with time running out only to have it cancelled out by another from Cathal Horan.
A rebounded Ciaran Shelly twenty metre free in injury time was crashed to the back of the net by Ian Ivors and was the game’s last action and served as scant consolation for Ballingarry who were soundly beaten in all sectors.
Mullinahone march on to meet Carrick Swans in the final and few would bet against them retaining their title.
Their record in South Finals is quite impressive and with a very balanced blend of youth and experience in their ranks they will be confident of winning successive championships for the first time since 2004.
Ballingarry, who fought gallantly to the end, now take their place in the County Championship qualifiers and will be hopeful of improvement, having failed to show their full potential on this occasion.
Mullinahone: Alan Walsh, Kevin Waltzer, AJ Cronin, Gary Cronin, James Connolly, Paul Curran, Philip O’Shea (0-1), Edwin O’Meara (0-2), Donal Coady (0-1), Paul Kelly (1-1), Niall Curran, Sean Curran (0-1), Cathal Horan (0-3), Eoin Kelly (1-11, including 0-9 frees) Jack Shelly (1-1). Sub - Alan Curran (0-1).
Ballingarry: James Logue, Gerry Fitzgerald, Dickie Norton, Jack Fennelly, Kevin Fitzgerald, Ian Ivors (1-2), Brian Cooney, Daniel Fennelly, Seanie Cahill (0-4 frees), Eamon Cahill, Adrian Cleere (0-4), Ciaran Shelley (0-2), Ger Fennelly (0-1), Philip Ivors (0-1), Eamon Tuohy. Sub - Sean Doheny.
Ref: Keith Delahunty (Moyle Rovers).