By Brian McDonnell at Semple Stadium, Thurles
Silvermines 2-21 Ballina 0-10
Silvermines surged to an emphatic seventeen-point win over Ballina in Sunday’s intermediate hurling final at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Having been relegated from the senior ranks in 2003 the ‘Mines have been working hard in recent seasons and all that effort earned its due reward on Sunday when Paddy Moore’s men ably dispatched Ballina in an ultimately one-sided decider.
Some of Silvermines’ hurling was truly exceptional in the opening quarter of this contest with the ‘Mines, thanks to some excellent approach play, racing into a 0-9 to 0-1 lead. Ballina fought back with six successive points and trailed 0-7 to 0-11 at the break. Initially Ballina fought manfully on in the second half, but when Pat Conway was shown a straight red card for a wild pull on Orrie Quirke there was no stopping a free-scoring Silvermines side. Indeed, the ‘Mines out-scored their opponents 2-6 to 0-2 once Ballina had been reduced to fourteen men.
Dónal Keogh, Ronan Sherlock and Noel Quirke were excellent in the ‘Mines half-back line, Orrie Quirke shone at midfield while all the starting forwards scored from play. Ultimately Jason Forde was named man of the match. Forde was, indeed, excellent, but perhaps the outstanding Michael Breen was slightly more deserving of the award. The Ballina teenager was exceptional throughout and desperately tried to inspire his playing colleagues. Indeed, had more of the Ballina lads followed the tenacious example set by Michael Breen this match might have been a lot closer.
Ballina were forced to field without corner-forward and scoring threat David Hickey (injured) a predicament which forced manager Michael Murphy to realign his team. Said realignment saw county minor Michael Breen switched from wing-back to full-forward.
Initially Ballina were very unsettled and trailed 0-1 to 0-9 following a storming opening 17 minutes for Silvermines. A Jason Forde free in the third minute got Silvermines off the mark before Forde set up David Boland for a smashing right-handed point. David Keogh’s stick pass created the room for William Keogh to fire Silvermines into a three-point lead in the fifth minute and with Orrie Quirke in fine form at midfield the ‘Mines looked irresistible.
Fergal Collins did manage a fine long-range point for Ballina in the eighth minute, but Silvermines were firing the ball around and creating space for their forwards with an attractive brand of hurling.
In the tenth minute a Jason Forde free re-claimed the ‘Mines three-point lead before Forde cut over a magnificent sideline ball in the 13th. Cathal Gleeson’s diagonal ball was then won and converted by Daniel Keogh before points from Jason Forde, Daniel Keogh and Orrie Quirke (free) helped Silvermines into a 0-9 to 0-1 lead by the 17th minute.
Ballina were struggling to make any sort of impression and their difficulties were probably best illustrated in the 18th minute when a puck-out was driven straight out over the sideline. Considering the fact that Ballina were playing with a significant breeze Michael Murphy’s men needed to make some sort of stand. And, to their credit they did. The outstanding Michael Breen was relocated to the middle third of the field, a switch which paid a huge dividend. Indeed, Ballina proceeded to fire over six successive points.
A Brian Stritch free and a superb Michael Breen effort got Ballina moving in the 18th minute. In the 20th TJ O’Connell managed another while a second Brian Stritch free reduced the margin to just four points 0-5 to 0-9.
In the 24th minute Silvermines almost stole in for a goal when Daniel Keogh performed an expert hook on Jerry O’Brien and flicked the ball through to the unmarked David Boland. Unfortunately the centre-forward failed to make a telling connection and the opportunity was spurned. A Michael Breen point in the 24th minute and then another magnificent effort (the man’s third from play) four minutes later from this outstanding prospect left just two between them (0-7 to 0-9) entering the 28th minute. Silvermines steadied themselves however late in the first half when a David Keogh effort represented his side’s first score for twelve minutes. In first half injury time Seán Quirke discouraged Ballina when he drove over a fine effort from distance which helped the ‘Mines into a four-point interval lead - 0-11 to 0-7.
Two Jason Forde frees in the opening three minutes of the second half helped the ‘Mines into a six-point lead (0-13 to 0-7).
Ballina’s Michael Breen tried desperately to inspire his playing colleagues when he cut over a superb sideline ball in the 35th minute before Ballina enjoyed a goal-scoring opportunity which could have transformed this final from their point of view. Stephen O’Brien flicked the ball through to TJ O’Connell and then accepted a return pass before firing in a shot which found Cathal Sherlock’s left-hand post. Ballina subsequently missed a free and the ‘Mines had avoided shipping four points.
In the 38th minute Jason Forde cut over a ridiculously good sideline ball to help his side into a 0-14 to 0-8 lead before Ballina created another goal-scoring opportunity in the 40th minute. This time Brian Stritch’s reverse hand pass set up a chance for Pat Conway and although Conway was bottled up Stephen Stritch pulled first-time on a breaking ball, but his shot flew narrowly wide.
Following a barren six minutes a point from William Keogh in the 44th minute left seven between them (0-15 to 0-8) before the red mist descended in the 45th when Ballina’s Pat Conway pulled wildly on Orrie Quirke. Conway was rightfully shown a straight red card for such a ridiculous infraction. Jason Forde fired over the resultant free and now there was eight between them. A Pádraig Fogarty effort made it nine in the 49th minute before a Jason Forde free opened a ten-point gap with ten minutes to play.
Michael Breen sent a long-range free sailing over the bar for a disheartened-looking Ballina side in the 51st minute. Ballina’s sense of discomfort became all the more acute in the 55th minute when Silvermines struck for the opening goal of the game - David Keogh won Noel Quirke’s diagonal ball and then conjured a glorious flick to beat the advancing Martin McKeogh. A minute later Jason Forde added a free and the ‘Mines led 1-19 to 0-9. It is also worth noting that Ballina were now reduced to thirteen men following Brian O’Connor’s dismissal for a second bookable offence. In the 57th minute Silvermines plundered their second goal. Once more David Keogh had a vital part to play when winning a diagonal delivery (a key and persistent feature of the Silvermines play) before passing to the unmarked Jason Forde who rifled a rasping left-handed shot past a helpless Martin McKeogh in the Ballina goal - 2-19 to 0-9.
A Stephen O’Brien point concluded the scoring from a Ballina point of view in the 59th minute, but there was still time for William Keogh and David Boland to add minors which helped the ‘Mines toward a seventeen-point win.
Silvermines: Cathal Sherlock, Maurice Leamy, Brendan Timmons, Damien Boland, Dónal Keogh, Ronan Sherlock, Noel Quirke, Cathal Gleeson, Orrie Quirke (0-1, 0-1 free), William Keogh (0-3), David Boland (0-2), Seán Quirke (0-1), Daniel Keogh (0-2), Jason Forde (1-10, 0-7 frees, 0-2 sidelines), David Keogh (1-1). Subs: (39th) Pádraig Fogarty (0-1) for Seán Quirke, (57th) Alan Ryan for Brendan Timmons, (58th) Gary Toohey for Daniel Keogh, (59th) Paul Sherlock for Dónal Keogh.
Ballina: Martin McKeogh, Roddy Kennedy, Pat Cosgrove, Seán Collins, Brian O’Connor, Jerry O’Brien, Thomas Collins, Fergal Collins (0-1), Pat Conway, Brian Stritch (0-2, 0-2 frees), Stephen Stritch, Stephen O’Brien (0-1), TJ O’Connell (0-1), Michael Breen (0-5, 0-1 sideline, 0-1 free), Eoin Kent. Subs: (44th) Seán McKeogh for Stephen Stritch, (51st) Brian McKeogh for Fergal Collins, (51st) Paul Ryan for TJ O’Connell, (57th) Aidan Hanley for Brian Stritch.
Referee: Paddy Ivors (Ballingarry).