Ballygunner's Patrick Fitzgerald prepares to shoot on goal. Inpho/Ken Sutton.

Ballygunner canter to win in Munster, set up semi vs. Ballyhale

Ballygunner  (Waterford) 1-23; Ballyea (Clare) 0-17

With respect to their provincial opponents, the 2022 club championship for Ballygunner was not so much about retaining their Munster title as meeting Ballyhale Shamrocks in the All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday week to prove their late, late final win in February was no fluke.

And so it has come to pass. With the Deise boys cantering to a 9-point win in the south and the Kilkenny kingpins escaping to victory by three points against Kilmacud in Croke Park on Sunday, the big clash of club hurling fare is now into countdown.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

Winning their third Munster championship in five years at Semple Stadium was little more than a good training exercise for Ballygunner, but they will face an enigma in Shamrocks, who blitzed Kilmacud to lead by 14-points at one stage before relying on a flukey goal to emerge victorious in the end.

It all adds up to the intrigue that winter hurling is providing to us through the club scene, given that the intercounty scene now cuts off in high summer.

A side show in Thurles saw Pauric Mahony and Tony Kelly go head-to-head in the sharp-shooting stakes with the Waterford man ending with 0-10 while four-time All-Star Tony Kelly hit 0-11, four from play.

What will excite Gunner fans most about this contest though was the form of teenager Patrick Fitzgerald, who shot 1-4 and was a constant danger to the loser’s backline. His 19th-minute goal gave his team the upper-hand on a first-half performance that saw them lead at the interval by 1-11 to 0-11.

Without ever getting out of third gear, the reigning Munster and All Ireland champion slowly put the game to bed on the turnover as they outscored their opponents by 0-12 to 0-6 to advance without any real stress.

These are heady times for Ballygunner with a nine-in-a-row achieved on the home front, four provincial titles to their credit and now the chance to win back-to-back national titles. Of course, Ballyhale will have something to say about that, which leaves us as neutrals anticipating a great match before Christmas.

Ballygunner: S O'Keeffe; I Kenny (joint-capt.), Coughlan, T Foley; S O’Sullivan, P Mahony, R Power; C Sheahan, P Leavey; D Hutchinson (joint-capt,) (0-4), M Mahony (0-2), P Hogan (0-1), P Fitzgerald (1-4), K Mahony (0-2), P Mahony (0-10, 0-5f, 0-1 '65) Subs: H Ruddle for K Mahony (55), B O’Keeffe for Hogan (57), T O’Sullivan for Fitzgerald (59), T Gallagher for Power (63), D O’Keeffe for M Mahony (63).

Ballyea: B Coote; B O’Connell, P Casey, P Flanagan; G O’Connell, J Browne, J Murphy (capt.) (0-1); T Kelly (0-11, 0-6f, 0-1 ‘65), S Lineen; N Deasy (0-2), P Lillis (0-2), C O’Connor; M Galvin (0-1), G Brennan, A Griffin Subs: C Brennan for Flanagan (temp sub 38 – 44), M Garry for O’Connor (41), M O’Leary for Griffin (48), M O’Leary for Lineen (53), C Doohan for Gavin (55).

Ref: M Kennedy (Tipperary).

Shamrocks blow hot and

cold in Leinster win

Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) 2-2;  

Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) 2-19

Will the real Shamrocks please stand up? If it is the one which blitzed their beleaguered opponents for 35 minutes of this game, then you could confidently predict a win against Ballygunner in the upcoming All Ireland semi-final. However, if it is the team that fell apart as Crokes reduced the 14-point deficit to a single point, then it is hardly worth their while turning up.

Man of the Match Colin Fennelly said as much after the game where he hoped that the collapse in the second-half and the reliance on a goalkeeping mistake for their second-half goal had the Kilkenny men hanging on as they waited for the deliverance of the final whistle.

So while we have to acknowledge the achievement of a Leinster four-in-a-row which they attained on Sunday at Croke Park, there is no doubt that this 12th title was the least impressive of their victories to date.

Eoin Kenneally's 49th-minute goal  from a long delivery that flew all the way to the net proved the turning point of an absorbing game even though the plucky South Dublin side gave it their all right to the end in the hope of causing a major upset.

When the winners sit down to review this game, they will focus on the third quarter when their opponents scored 1-7 without reply from their own ranks.

That Kenneally goal bolstered by late TJ Reid points meant the Shamrocks had enough in reserve to get across the line.

Colin Fennelly 1-1 in the first half settled them into what looked like a routine victory with TJ playing a big part in the goal while also keeping the scoreboard ticking over by shooting 0-8 over the hour.

Their 1-15 to 1-7 interval advantage was well deserved and within five minutes of the restart they had added another six points to their advantage as they seemed set to blitz their opponents.

Once Caolan Conway  shot home in the 35th minute, things changed as both  Fergal Whitely Dara Purcell tacked on a series of white flags.

When Alex Considine produced a second Crokes goal, he cut the margin to one and an upset looked to be on the cards.

Ballyhale are made of great mettle though and once Joey Cuddihy pointed, they found their composure which was added to with the fortunate Kenneally goal that really put the game beyond a game Crokes outfit.

Ballyhale Shamrocks: D Mason; K Corcoran, J Holden, D Mullen; D Corcoran, R Reid (0-1), E Shefflin; P Mullen (0-1), A Mullen (0-4); E Kenneally (1-0), TJ Reid (0-8, 0-5f), E Cody (0-2); N Shortall (0-2), C Fennelly (1-3), J Cuddihy (0-1).

Kilmacud Crokes: E Gibbons; C MacGabhann, D Butler, B Sheehy; R O'Loughlin, M Grogan, C Ó Cathasaigh; B Hayes (0-1), D Purcell (0-5); C Conway (1-0), R Hayes (0-1), F Whitely (0-2); A Considine (1-1), M Roche (0-1), O O'Rorke (0-8, 0-6f, 0-1 65) Subs: B Scanlan for Conway 52, B O'Carroll for Grogan 54-58 blood, S Purcell for Roche 58.

Ref: P O'Dwyer (Carlow).

Dunloy Goals pave the way to glory

Dunloy (Antrim) 2-12; Slaughtneil (Derry) 0-16

Revenge was sweet and most certainly was served cold considering that it took Dunloy this fourth meeting over the years before finally overcoming the Derry holders at Armagh on Sunday.

The Antrim side made it 11 Ulster hurling final wins thanks to their ability get in for goals with this young side.

They have improved in the physicality side of their play and the two first half strikes meant Slaughtneil were striving to play catch up for most of the hour.

Slaughtneil netminder Oisín O’Doherty turned the sliotar into his own net for his opponents first goal before Nigel Elliott let rip for the second green flag on the cusp of the short whistle.

For a team who hadn’t seen championship fare for seven weeks, it was little surprise that they took time to settle on Sunday.

Slaughtneil started well with Brendan Rogers, Gerald Bradley and O’Doherty scoring points which suggested it might be a case of more of the same between these two combatants.

From the moment Dunloy half-back Aaron Crawford sent a searching ball high into the parallelogram, the complexion of the game changed as O’Doherty slipped and allowed the ball over the line.

This was the fillip the winners needed to rouse themselves into action with none more to the fore than full-forward  Conal Cunning who proceeded to slap over five points in the opening moiety.

Slaughtneil’s problems were compounded by the fact that the radar of normally reliable free-taker Cormac O’Doherty on the blink, they found it hard to get scores and turned over 2-6 to 0-7 in arrears.

The holders, you knew, would not give up without a fight but with a five-point cushion, you also knew that Dunloy would go all out to weather that storm.

And while the margin was reduced slowly, the crucial aspect of not conceding a goal meant the Antrim boys did enough to get over the line with two points to spare.

The winners now face Galway champions St Thomas’ in the All-Ireland semi-final the weekend after next.

Dunloy Cúchullains: R Elliott; P Duffin, R McGarry, O Quinn; E Smyth, K Molloy, A Crawford (0-1); C Kinsella, E McFerran; N Elliott (1-1), K Molloy, R Molloy; S Elliott, C Cunning (0-7, 0-3f ), A McGrath (0-1)

Subs: D Smith (0-1) for S Elliott (41), N McKeague (0-1) for McGrath (50), P Shiels for Kinsella (54), G McTaggart for (64)

Slaughtneil: O O'Doherty; P McNeill, K McKaigue, C McAllister; R Ó’Mianáin, C McKaigue (0-1),M McGrath; S McGuigan (0-2), C O’Doherty (0-5, 0-4f, 0-1 '65); P McCullagh, B Rogers (0-2), G Bradley (0-3); B Cassidy (0-1), J McGuigan (0-1), S Cassidy (0-1) Subs: S McGuigan for McCullagh (41),

Ref: P Owens (Liatroim).

Crokes outclass Downs

Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) 1-12; The Downs (Westmeath) 0-8

Kilmacud footballers seem intent on making up for last year’s All Ireland final loss against Kilcoo and on this evidence, they will be hard to stop.

Against a poor Westmeath outfit, they bossed the game from the off and then went down the gears to ease to an eight points win at Croke Park.

And while the loss of Dublin star Paul Mannion is huge, it is lucky for the Dublin outfit that Shane Walsh has joined their ranks from Galway for this current club season.

After being one of the stars – the other being player of the year, David Clifford – in last year’s All Ireland final between Kerry and Galway, Walsh returned to Croke Park on Sunday and was the standout player as he garnered nine points – enough to beat what the Downs amassed as a team over the hour.

Having scored the same amount for Galway, you could say that Croke Park is a venue the All-Star loves playing in at the moment.

While initially there was controversy surrounding his transfer from his native Kilkerrin-Clonberne to Crokes earlier in the year,  his displays have lit up an otherwise dull Leinster club championship and his six first-half points helped his side to an 11-point advantage at the break.

And while Crokes took their foot off the pedal on the changeover, Walsh kept the scoreboard ticking over by scoring all three of his side’s second half points.

Moycullen too strong

for Tourlestrane

Moycullen (Galway) 0-13 Tourlestrane  (Sligo) 0-6

Galway champions Moycullen  had little trouble in recording this seven-point victory simply because for all their good approach work, Tourlestrane had no finishing specialist to translate their possession into scores at Pearse Stadium on Sunday.

In a dull and one-paced first half Moycullen led by 0-4 to 0-3 at the break and with the wind advantage to follow, the writing was on the wall for the Sligo outfit.