Ballina cruise into Munster hurling final

Munster Intermediate Hurling Semi-Final

Munster Intermediate

Hurling Semi-Final

Ballina 3-19 St Brendan’s 0-15

Brendan McKeogh’s Ballina cruised into the Munster intermediate hurling final (November 17th) thanks to a thirteen-point win over the Kerry senior champions St Brendan’s Ardfert on Sunday afternoon at MacDonagh Park, Nenagh.

In a display featuring plenty of admirable qualities Ballina raced into a 2-13 to 0-6 interval advantage and although some sloppiness crept into their play in the second half Ballina were always comfortable. Indeed, St Brendan’s found themselves well out of their depth. Once Ballina upped their performance, particularly in the second quarter, Ardfert simply could not cope.

A superb Brian Stritch point in the second minute set the tone for a dominant Ballina. Indeed, further points from Donal Kent, Stephen Stritch and Michael Breen (four frees) helped the Tipperary champions into a 0-7 to 0-2 lead inside the opening thirteen minutes. The build-up to Stephen Stritch’s point in the seventh minute was instructive. The Ballina defence turned over a blunt St Brendan’s attack before working the ball up the field to Stritch who fired over a neat point - the Ardfert lads didn’t seem capable of such quality hurling.

St Brendan’s rallied and cut the deficit to three (0-4 to 0-7) by the 18th minute when a terrific roar greeted a Tom Moloney point (his side’s first point from play). Just then, however, Ballina cut loose and hit 1-6 without reply to lead 1-13 to 0-4 by the 28th minute. Steven O’Brien converted a sideline ball to launch the onslaught in spectacular fashion, Michael Breen then fired over a free before Stephen Stritch landed two fine points from play.

Ballina’s first goal materialised in the 23rd minute - Gerry O’Brien found Brian Stritch with a searching ball and the full-forward laid off to TJ O’Connell who made no mistake from close range. Steven O’Brien and Gerry O’Brien then added to the tally and St Brendan’s trailed by twelve.

A John Egan free offered token resistance before a Michael Breen effort on the half hour mark handed Ballina a second three-pointer. Egan (free) enjoyed the final say in the opening half - half-time: Ballina 2-13 St Brendan’s 0-6.

St Brendan’s out-scored Ballina by five points to two in the opening eighteen minutes of the second half (0-11 to 2-15) as the Tipperary champions appeared a little disinterested.

Gerry O’Brien and John Egan (free) then traded points as this disappointing encounter entered the final ten minutes. The tit-for-tat nature of this game persisted with Michael Breen and Darren Dineen trading minors before Eoin Sheehy turned a similar trick with Ardfert’s David Griffin.

In the 59th minute a Stephen Stritch point, his fourth from play, forced Ballina into a 2-19 to 0-14 lead before Michael Breen cracked home a superb goal on the hour mark - second half substitute Paul Ryan picked out Breen on the edge of the square with a teasing ball which Breen won in spectacular fashion before beating Tim Hanafin with a rasping left-handed shot.

There was some consolation in the fact that Darren Dineen enjoyed the final say in this game with a point from play two minutes into injury time.

In their corresponding semi-final Whitegate (Clare) and Youghal (Cork) drew last Sunday afternoon - the replay will take place at a Cork venue on Sunday, November 10th.

Irrespective of that semi-final result Ballina look a reasonable bet to replicate the achievements of Silvermines in 2012 when Paddy Moore’s men progressed to claim the provincial title.

Ballina: Martin McKeogh, Rody Kennedy, Pat Cosgrave, Brian McKeogh, Donal Kent (0-1), Thomas Collins, Kevin Cosgrave, Gerry O’Brien (0-2), Steven O’Brien (0-2, 0-1 sideline), Stephen Stritch (0-4), Michael Breen (2-7, 0-6 frees), David Hickey, TJ O’Connell (1-0), Brian Stritch (0-1), Seán McKeogh. Subs: (33rd) Eoin Sheehy (0-2) for Brian Stritch, (44th) Conor Maguire for TJ O’Connell, (50th) Domhnall McKeogh for Seán McKeogh, (53rd) Fergal Collins for Thomas Collins, (56th) Paul Ryan for Steven O’Brien.

St Brendan’s, Ardfert: Tim Hanafin, Fionán Horgan, Conor Flaherty, Kevin Hanafin, Eamon Corrigan, Darren Dineen (0-3, 0-1 frees), Kevin Orpen, David Griffin (0-1), Denis Moriarty, Rory Horgan, Tom Moloney (0-1), Darren Wallace, Cian Hussey, Owen McCarthy (0-1), John Egan (0-9, 0-9 frees). Subs: (28th) Kieran Fitzgerald for Darren Wallace, (HT) Alan Dineen for Cian Hussey, (HT) John Galvin for Denis Moriarty, (53rd) Nicky O’Sullivan for Owen McCarthy, (53rd) John Paul Leen for Tom Moloney.

Referee: Michael Wadding (Waterford).