Dunloy’s Nigel Elliott makes a break past Cathal Burke of St. Thomas. INPHO/TOM MAHER

Dunloy deserve win in semi upset

Dunloy 1-14; St Thomas’ 0-13

This was no fluke, in fact if anything, the Dunloy men’s approach work deserved a wider margin of victory over Galway’s St Thomas’ at Croke Park on Sunday.

As a curtain raiser, this storyline stole the show in terms of sporting romance as a truly wonder Keelan Molloy goal 15 minutes from time was the key moment in a match which both sides emptied their energy in pursuit of a final appearance.

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And the Antrim side, who last got to a final 18 years ago, could afford the luxury of a missed first half penalty as Gregory O’Kane’s side played with an insatiable appetite to win every ball and harry opponents into mistakes.

The aggression threw the Galway champions who could never get into their stride as they managed at home where they have won five county titles in a row.

It didn’t help the Western outfit that the influential Darragh Burke injured his knee during the warm up, forcing a change before the throw in. This necessitated a reshuffle which saw Bernard Farrell move to full forward though he was starved of possession for much of his time there.

Nigel Elliott and a classy Conal Cunning score saw the Ulster champions show their intent from the outset though both Conor Cooney and Damien McGlynn  also made inroads into the scoreboard.

It was Even-Steven through the first half as neither sides’ finishing was up to par with 15 wides between them. Dunloy were guilty for majority of those wides while the penalty miss made it look as if they would shoot themselves in the foot.

 St. Thomas’ netminder Gerald Kelly made a great save from the otherwise very impressive Cunning who used the miss to play out of his skin for the rest of the game.

With the sides level at six points a-piece at the break, it needed a moment of inspiration by one side to make a break for glory. Cunning landed a series of points bur Kenneth Burke’s charge kept in touch thanks to David Burke’s industry and Cooney’s finishing.

Then the moment arrived as Keelan Molloy embarked on a mesmerising run right into the heart of the Galway defence to despatch a great shot past the helpless Kelly.

The losers, now six in arrears, showed their mettle by responding with four points. However the goal they needed never came and when Dunloy finally got the radar working again with three points, the last of which was landed by defender Eamon Smyth, they were home and hosed and already looking forward to a New Year final date back at headquarters.

Dunloy Cúchullains: R Elliott; P Duffin, R McGarry, O Quinn; A Crawford, K Molloy, E Smyth (0-1); C Kinsella, E McFerran; N Elliott (0-2), K Molloy (1-2), R Molloy; D Smith, CCunning (0-7, 0-1 65’, 0-3f), S Elliott (0-1) Subs: A McGrath (0-1) for Smith (30), P Shield for Crawford (33), N McKeague for N Elliott (58). G McTaggart for R Molloy (62).

St Thomas’: G Kelly; C Mahony, J Headd, F Burke; E Duggan (0-1), D Burke, C Burke; C Cooney (0-6, 0-4f), B Burke; M Caulfield (0-2), D McGlynn (0-2), V Manso; O Flannery (0-1); B Farrell, É Burke (0-1) Subs: C  Headd for Farrell (ht), S Cooney for Manso (42), D Burke for Caulfield (53).

Ref: J Keenan (Wicklow).

Ballygunner’s Philip Mahony, right, in action with Niall Shortall of Ballyhale Shamrocks.  INPHO/MORGAN TREACY

Ballygunner’s Philip Mahony, right, in action with Niall Shortall of Ballyhale Shamrocks. INPHO/MORGAN TREACY

Revenge so sweet for Ballyhale Shamrocks

Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-16; Ballygunner 0-16

They made no secret of the fact that the last minute defeat through a late goal in the All Ireland final earlier this year had hurt, as had the manner of Ballygunner’s celebration in front of them.

So when Ballyhale Shamrocks took the field at Croke Park on Sunday, they had a steely focus in their play as they took revenge against their Deise neighbours by three points in a game worthy of a final setting.

This was a battle between immovable objects with both feeling they had a right to be there. However the Leinster men had the greater desire and driven on by the peerless TJ Reid, they moved ahead by inches as the game wore on deep into the second half.

Croke Park saw another penalty miss in this game midway through the second half – from Reid of all people – yet when the decisive moments came later in the that moiety after referee Liam Gordon awarded another penalty, TJ had the confidence and the skill to bury the sliotar to the back of the net and bring Ballygunner’s reign to an end.

Reid  was the man who set the tone for his side with a brace of frees  while Joey Cuddihy added a fine point from play before being forced off through injury. He quickly opened his account with two frees and Joey Cuddihy whipped over a classy score before going off through injury. Cornerback Darren Mullen would also be withdrawn in the early stages for the Kilkenny side.

Dessie Hutchinson showed his class to bring his side back into the game though they could have been rocked early if Colin Fennelly’s half chance had ended up nestling in the net.

Pauric Mahony grew in influence and young Patrick Fitzgerald’s first point showed the Kilkenny outfit that he had the accuracy to hurt them if they didn’t keep a tight rein on him. This they did while also bagging three points in a row with Adrian and Paddy Mullen among the scorers.

The Leinster kingpins would have been out of sight but for the athleticism of Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe who made three outstanding saves in the course of the hour, his save from Adrian Mullen’s shot drawing gasps of admiration.

Getting down low to deny Adrian Mullen’s stunning drive, O’Keeffe was only warming up.

It was a case of first among equals as they came out for the second half level at 0-11 each. Eoin Cody was first to make a statement with a pair of points and slowly the winners began to turn the screw.

A great save and a penalty miss made you wonder if they were looking a gift horse in the mouth but when Reid himself was then fouled, he answered emphatically by raising a green flag to give his side a five point cushion.

Ballygunner got it back to three but never had the look of a goal in them, thus allowing Shamrocks to advance to meet Northern representatives Dunloy in the New Year.

Ballyhale Shamrocks: D Mason; K Corcoran, D Mullen, J Holden; E Shefflin, R Reid, D Corcoran; R Corcoran (0-1), P Mullen (0-1); A Mullen (0-1), TJ Reid (1-8, 1-0pen, 0-7f, 0-1 65’), E Cody (0-2); E Kenneally (0-1), C Fennelly (0-1), Jo Cuddihy (0-1) Subs: B Butler for D Mullen (6), N Shortall for Cuddihy (13), C Walsh for Kenneally (63).

Ballygunner: S O'Keeffe; I Kenny, B Coughlan, T Foley; S O’Sullivan, P Mahony, R Power (0-1); C Sheahan (0-1), Pa Leavy; P Hogan, P Mahony (0-6, 0-4f), M Mahony (0-1); P Fitzgerald (0-2), D Hutchinson (0-4), K Mahony (0-1)

Subs: B O’Keeffe for M Mahony (49), H Ruddle for Fitzgerald (55).

Ref: L Gordon (Galway).