Showing the kind of spirit and determination which yielded divisional and county honours, Holycross Ballycahill’s Junior B hurlers rallied to force extra time in the All-Ireland club semi-final at Rathkeale on Saturday last, and then won the game in extra time.
It has been a year long campaign for the Holycross Ballycahill men and they must now do battle with the one team which has defeated them - Templeglantine of Limerick in the All-Ireland Final on Sunday next in Raheenagh. The Limerick men defeated their rivals in a close and hard fought Munster Final a few weeks ago, but the feeling is that the Tipp lads have been steeled for the final and go into it with a fantastic chance of making history.
Of course that history could not have been dreamt of had it not been for the rally which led to victory over Kilkenny champions Ballyragget on Sunday. And, for a time it looked as though victory would not be their lot. But, true to form, they came good and used all of their experience to claw their way back into the mix and eventually win out in what was a fabulous victory.
A burst of scores in the first half of extra time was the key to the win - the scores dampened the Kilkenny spirit and Holycross Ballycahill were able to see out the win much to the delight of the travelling support base.
Having trailed early on by 1-4 to 0-2 following a Conor Delaney goal for the Kilkenny champions, Holycross Ballycahill settled into the play with points from Eoghan Moloney and Paidi Comerford to trail by just a goal at half time.
However, they improved greatly in the second half and by the time the final whistle sounded, the sides were locked at 0-8 to 1-5 in what had been a very hard fought battle with points from John Fogarty, Kevin O’Dwyer and Denis McCullagh closing the gap.
Extra time was then on the cards and while both sides would probably have willingly taken a replay, the ball was readied for the extra period once the sides were lined up once more.
This time though Holycross Ballycahill took the initiative and playing with the aid of the breeze they carried the game to Ballyragget.
Three points in quick succession from John Fogarty and Jack Skehan (2) - youth and experience working in perfect harmony - gave them the edge and they were not to relinquish that advantage for the remainder of the clash.
Kevin O’Dwyer was deployed to defence as a sweeper - a move which worked very well - and Holycross Ballycahill managed to extend the lead to five points and hold onto it till the end.
This was a fine win for Holycross Ballycahill and one which will give enormous satisfaction to the players and management. However, they still have another piece in the jigsaw to complete and that comes in the form of the final against Templeglantine on Sunday next at 2:00pm.
This game will see the two sides lock horns once more and while Templetglantine probably go into the game as favourites on the basis of their win in the Munster Final, Holycross Ballycahill are well aware that they did not play up to scratch in that game. They have improved since and there is probably more improvement in them still - Sunday will be the time to produce it if they are to land national silverware.