Shanballymore 1-12 Eire Og Annacarty 2-9.
Last Sunday week we took the field in Killeedy to play in our historic Munster Junior B hurling championship final and after a very close battle with our Tipperary opponents the game ended all square with both teams having to do battle again on the 14th of February.
The game itself was a outstanding battle all through and after playing very well for the first twenty minutes which saw us hold a four point lead 0-6 to 0-2 against the wind we looked to be in a good place for the second half. Unfortunately Eire Og who possessed some very good hurlers were able to claw their way back and in a ten minute spell they hit us for a goal and three points to hold a slender two point lead at halftime.
The second half saw us take control and eat into the two point lead and put Eire Og on the back foot, we were well on top in most sectors of the field. Leading by three points with time almost up and with Eire Og attacking our goal it was going to be a fight to the finish and take some brave defending to keep the Tipp based team at bay.
Unfortunately for us they got in for the all important goal that they needed to draw level and shortly afterwards the final whistle was blown and the crowd who had travelled up in their hundreds (1200 to be exact) will get another day out in the famed Killeedy pitch in Limerick.
Shortly after 2pm Referee John Healy got this Munster final underway and right in the first minute our veteran forward Paul Burke received a pass from Colman O’Reilly and Paul slotted over from inside the 21yrd line. This was the start we needed and minutes later we stretched our lead when James Hayes was fouled going through and sharp shooter Jamie Sheedy duly obliged with a well taken free.
Two points ahead after five minutes is the dream start for any team but Eire Og Annacarty weren’t going to let us get away and they had some very good hurlers all over the field who were quick and had a great work ethic. Eire Og had two goal chances in a short space of time but both were snuffed out by our defence with fullback Eoin McHugh making a great block on their full forward when he was in for a goal chance.
Eoin was to have one of his best games in a Shanballymore jersey and he seems to be getting better in his full back role as the games go on. Eire Og did draw level by the 12th minute with a point from play and one from a free but we were keeping them under control and winning most of the onfield battles. We took the lead when Jonathan Dennehy and Brian O’Reilly combined to set up Colman O’Reilly for a well taken point.
Two more pointed frees by Jamie stretched our lead to three points and this was really what the selectors were looking for from the boys. One of these frees was for a foul on Brian O’Reilly when he gathered a puck out from Declan Fitzgibbon in goals but Brian felt the full force of his markers hurley when he chopped down on his shoulder with a late pull, to the amazement of everybody this strike went unpunished when the player should at least have seen a yellow card.
A minute later James Hayes also felt the full force of an Eire Og player when coming away with the ball from a ruck of players he received a dangerous shoulder to the face which saw him needing immediate attention, again the referee was happy enough to award a free and let the Eire Og player go unpunished. Thankfully our boys kept their cool and kept to the task in hand and motored on and also had the next score when Colman O’Reilly slotted over his second of the day to see us lead by four points with ten minutes to go to half time.
Haulie Burke and Darren Roche were doing very well around midfield and these two lads cover a savage amount of ground in a game. Our back line in the first twenty minutes were outstanding with Alan Sheedy and Richard Burke our corner backs clearing any danger that came their way. Outside them was our best line on the field with Sean Lynch and Jerome Fitzgerald winning a fierce amount a ball and making some outstanding clearances into our foward line.
We were missing our star wing back Eoin O’Regan for this game with an ankle injury and it was going to be a big job for any player to step in and hurl as good as Eoin has been all year but credit must go to James Hayes who played some outstanding hurling and to come in and make your debut in a Munster championship final and play that well is a great sign of a player who takes his chance when he gets it and he no doubt gave the selectors a nice headache for the replay.
Eire Og had the next point of the game from a free and then with 7 minutes to go to half time they got in for a very soft goal when their corner forward gathered possession on the 13 yrd line and shot low into the net to give Declan Fitzgibbon no chance. All of a sudden Eire Og were level and they started to build up a head of steam and shortly afterwards they pointed from close range to give them a lead.
They closed out the first half scoring when they pointed from a free and heading into half time we found ourselves two points down when in fact we should have been leading. Like the semifinal against Broadford we were behind at half time but would have the wind at our backs for the second half.
We got an ideal start when Haulie Burke pointed inside a minute but the Eire Og full forward had them two ahead again when he got a rare bit of space from full back Eoin McHugh to slot over. With ten minutes gone in the second half we got the score we needed when Haulie and Darren placed Brian O’Reilly through on goal and he shot to the net to give us a one point lead and it was game on.
Brian followed this goal with an excellent point when he was set up by outstanding center back Sean lynch. Again Eire Og answered with a point to keep in touch but we were making it very hard for them to create much. With fifteen minutes to go some quick thinking by Jamie saw him pick out Haulie with a free and Haulie split the posts with his effort to see us lead by two points again.
The next score was the best of the day when a high ball was gathered by Jerome Fitzgerald and he let rip with a monster puck and too a massive cheer the ball sailed over to stretch our lead. Eire Og closed the lead to two points again but with three minutes remaining. Brian Sheedy and Jonathan Dennehy found Jamie in space and he found the target from way out on the wing to give us a three point cushion.
All we had to do now was hold out and not let Eire Og in for their second goal which would see them draw level. Unfortunately for us lady luck wasn’t to be on our side and when they forced a 65 it was obvious they were going to launch the ball into the square and hope for the best. When their free taker went to rise the ball for the 65 he somehow missed the pick up and on the second attempt struck the ball wide, this is where the mystery started and for some reason referee John Healy consulted his lines man and they came to the conclusion that the 65 be retaken.
From the resulting retake and after a goal mouth scramble their corner forward some how got in for his second goal which saw them draw level with time almost up. It still remains a pure mystery as to why the ball wasn’t thrown in and even the neutrals among the crowd were baffled by this afterwards.
It was now heading towards a replay but we had one last chance for a point when Colman O’Reilly won possession on the 21yrd line and fed a pass to Kenneth Barry but unfortunately his effort sailed to the left of the post and wide and from the puck out the final whistle doused and the teams will have to do it all over again in two weeks time on Sunday the 14th of February in Killeedy at 2pm.
It’ll be a great way to celebrate Valentines day if the lads can go on and do the business this time. It promises to be another ferocious battle with the boys from Tipperary but if our lads can up their game and take the chances when they come we will have a great chance of claiming the Munster crown.
Again last Sunday it was fantastic to see so many Shanballymore supporters travel to Killeedy to support the team and hopefully on the 14th it will be the same again.