MUNSTER FINAL AWAITS AFTER HEROIC PERFORMANCE

Last Sunday in the village of Killeedy Co.Limerick, Shanballymore GAA club brought the curtain down on an historic year for the club with victory over Clare side Broadford in the Munster Junior B hurling championship semi final.

This hard fought win now places us into a Munster final against Tipperary champions Eire Og Annacarty and this game will take place in Killeedy on the 24th of January 2016 six months after we won the county in Pairc Ui Rinn. 2015 has thrown up some glorious days for our proud club with July the 24th in Pairc Ui Rinn being the highlight when we claimed the county title with victory over Bantry Blue’s.

Since then we have been on a run that has seen us win a north Cork hurling title with victory over Killavullan in September and this was followed with a county league title with victory over Ballinhassig in Mallow in November. Add to this an excellent win against Grange to claim the north Cork junior b football title making 2015 one of the most successful years in the club’s history.

Our win in the county final saw us go forward to represent Cork in a Munster championship campaign run by the Killeedy GAA club in limerick. Last Sunday week saw us take the field in the quarter final against Kerry champions Austin Stacks and we came away with an easy victory 5-29 to 1-6, which set up last Sundays showdown with Broadford and heading to Killeedy we knew this was going to be a lot tougher match then the previous Sunday.

This is exactly what the game turned out to be with the result hanging in the balance right to the end. Right on the stroke of 2pm referee Mike Sexton from the Bruree club threw the ball in and the battle was on. From the throw in Broadford set the tone when their midfielder pulled late and Haulie Burke felt the full force of the Clare man’s hurley on the shin of his left leg. Thankfully Haulie was able to continue but this wild pull affected him for the next 15 minutes as he struggled to get into the game.

From the resulting free Eoin O’Regan split the posts and we had first blood in this contest. Broadford had the next score from a good move which saw their forward get a good point to level matters. With five minutes gone we took the lead again when Jamie Sheedy pointed after some good build up play from his brother Brian and Paul Burke. We stretched our lead with a lovely point from our hard working full forward Jonathan Dennehy when he received a beautiful pass from Brian O’Reilly.

At this stage we were doing well to keep a very lively looking Broadford team at bay and there was a serious amount of one on one battles going on all over the field. They attacked with pace at every opportunity and from these chances they sensed that they might get in for some early goals but they weren’t banking on the Shanballymore backs putting their bodies on the line time and time again to keep them out.

One of these chanced fell to their full forward after 12mins when he had a chance of a goal but some how a heroic block by Richard Burke kept the ball out and it was cleared by the alert Declan Fitzgibbon in goals. They had two 65s in a short space of time and pointed them both to draw level after 15mins and over the next few minutes they kept up the pressure and took the lead with two points from play.

We then had a great chance of a goal when Brian O’Reilly gathered the ball out on the wing and cut through the Broadford defence and shot from a very tight angle but unfortunately his rasper skinned the outside of the far post and went wide. We then hit back with two of the best points scored all day when first Jerome Fitzgerald who was to have his best game in a Shanballymore jersey scored a beauty from around 50yrds after a great clearance from Alan Sheedy. Next up it was the captain himself Brian O’Reilly and when he gathered a loose ball around midfield Broadford saw no danger but Brian had other ideas and struck a monster point that sailed between the uprights to bring us level after 20 mins of end to end action.

As hard as we were trying to get on top it seemed the Clare champions were in no mood to the lay down and over the next five minutes they had three points to lead 0-8 to 0-5 with half time approaching. Jamie kept us in touch with a beuatifull free out by the side line after Haulie was fouled and Brian O’Reilly stepped up again to point from distance to bring it to a one point game again. Our backs were again called on to defend with four minutes to half time when a dangerous high ball in to the full foward was batted out by Eoin McHugh but there alert corner foward picked up the loose ball and as he was about to strike for goal he was denied by a great block from Padraig Fitzgerald and again another goal mouth scramble followed with bodies being thrown on the line in an attempt to keep our goal intact.

Thankfully the danger was cleared when Sean Lynch somehow came away with the ball and made a great clearance down field. Both sides traded frees in the 29th minute with ours coming from Jamie Sheedy after the lighting fast Colman O’Reilly was fouled going through. Broadford had the last point of the half with time up to see them hold a two point lead at the short whistle. With our men trailing by two points (0-10 to 0-8) and having the breeze at our backs for the second half we knew that it would take every bit of effort from the players to come away with victory from this enthralling contest.

Within three minutes of the restart we were level and it was just the start we needed to claw the Clare boys back. First up was a splendid point from Haulie who must have enjoyed the half time break because he was to go on and play a brilliant second half with his trade mark surging runs back again. Our next score came from a free when sharp shooter Jamie Sheedy pointed after Paul Burke was fouled on the 21 yard line and then Haulie had his second when he latched on to a great pass from Eoin O’Regan and landed the lead point 0-11 to 0-10 to us.

Broadford had the next score from a pointed free to level the game again after 40 minutes and it was now going to be who ever wanted it more as it was there for the taking. Over the next 6 to 7 minutes we hit a real purple patch and our fitness and movement began to show with three top range points scored to give us a good lead heading into the last 10 minutes. The first of these was scored by Haulie again as he had his third of the half and this was soon followed by another from Brian O’Reilly after Eoin McHughs clearance.

Richard Burke and Alan Sheedy were very alert in the next play when they combined to clear their lines and relieve some pressure and when Jerome Fitzgerald picked up the clearance he in turn found Paul Burke with a neat pass and Paul as cool as you like slotted over with the defender closing in. Three points up with ten to go and it was now going to take a massive effort to get over the line as Broadford were never going to give up. They had a few chances to close the gap when they were awarded two frees but thankfully the first one hit the post and the second from long range was gathered brilliantly by the hand of Jerome Fitzgerald and he laid a neat pass off to substitute Darren Roche who cleared his lines to relieve the pressure.

This was a let off as they had been very good from place balls all day and from the next piece of action they went for goal but it was well saved by Declan Fitzgibbon who was having a much busier day between the posts then the previous Sunday but Declan as he has been doing for years on championship day was having a fine game and was always alert to the danger. With minutes remaining they had another point from a free to come within two points and we now held a very dangerous lead as they would have to go for goal to win the match.

From the resulting puck out the ball was won by the outstanding Eoin O’Regan who had another solid performance marking their tricky wing forward, Eoin in turn found captain Brian O’Reilly who went on a run down the wing and slotted the ball over from 45 yards to give us a three point cushion again with time almost up. Brian was again on hand for our last point when he gathered a pass from his brother Colman after some good play by Brian Sheedy and this gave us a four point lead with the 60 minutes up and injury time being played.

Broadford had one last attempt to salvage something but our two rocks in defence Eoin McHugh and Sean Lynch combined to clear the ball to safety and when the long clearance found full forward Jonathan Dennehy he had only one thing on his mind and that was to billow the net and really put the final nail in the Broadford coffin and finish the tie. This goal brought wild celebrations on the line and to the large following of Shanballymore supporters who travelled in their hundreds to cheer the team to victory.

Two minutes later the final whistle was blown by referee Mike Sexton and another piece of history was achieved by this brilliant squad of players. Afterwards on the field the large following gathered to congratulate the panel, selectors and trainer for a job well done and somehow among all the celebrating trainer Jim O’Sullivan was able to give a proud congratulating speech to a very dedicated bunch of players.

Now we look forward to a Munster final on the 24th of January and even though it’s heading into the festive season these lads will leave no stone unturned as they go in search of Munster championship glory. Our opponents in the final will be Eire Og Annacarty of Tipperary who defeated Dunhill of Waterford last Sunday in what was a very good game of hurling played at a high standard. 

Team: Declan Fitzgibbon, Richard Burke, Eoin McHugh, Alan Sheedy, Padraig Fitzgerald, Sean Lynch, Eoin O’Regan (0-1), Haulie Burke(0-3), Jerome Fitzgerald(0-1), Jamie Sheedy(0-4, 0-3f), Brian Sheedy, Brian O’Reilly(0-5), Paul Burke(0-1), Jonathan Dennehy(1-1), Colman O’Reilly, Subs: Darren Roche for Padraig Fitzgerald, Kenneth Barry for Colman O’Reilly, Vincent Burke, James Hayes, Eamonn Fitzgerald, Micheal O’Donovan, Stephen Donegan, Niall Barry, Brendan Hayes, Robert McHugh, Dave Twomey, Sean Cronin, Brian O’Regan, Richard Hallinan, Jonathan Linehan, Barry Sheedy, Aidan Herbert, Jimmy Burke.
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