Ballyhale Shamrocks 5-25 Castletown-Geoghegan 0-15
Robert Cribbin reports from UPMC Nowlan Park
Ballyhale Shamrocks made the ideal start to the defence of their Leinster Senior Hurling Championship title when running out convincing winners over Castletown-Geoghegan at UPMC Nowlan Park.
Ballyhale came into the provincial clash on the back of winning a fifth consecutive Kilkenny SHC crown last month and five was the magic number once again as Eoin Cody and Colin Fennelly hit a brace of goals each while youngster Niall Shortall also found the net in a dazzling display.
Key attacker TJ Reid missed out through injury and Patrick Mullen was suspended as a result of his dismissal in the county final against James Stephens but Ballyhale showed no ill-effects of their absence as all six forwards and the two midfielders got on the scoresheet.
A Colin Fennelly goal in the 2nd minute got Shamrocks going early on but Castletown-Geoghegan who were managed by former Leinster Football Championship winner with Westmeath, Alan Mangan stayed the course in the opening quarter.
Westmeath star Niall O’Brien led the charge and with Jack Gallagher also scoring five points from play in total, only three points seperated the sides by the halfway mark of the opening half.
Ballyhale soon went up a few gears though with Killian Corcoran, Adrian Mullen, Eoin Cody and Colin Fennelly all scoring in a four point spell that quickly moved the Kilkenny side’s lead out to seven (1-9 to 0-5).
O’Brien and Gallagher replied almost instantly but it was essentially game over when Niall Shortall goaled in the 24th minute on the back of Eoin Cody having a shot saved by Kieran Glennon.
That led to Ballyhale taking a 2-13 to 0-9 point lead into the break and it looked an uphill task for Castletown-Geoghegan from there.
To their credit the Westmeath side were back to within eight points when Niall O’Brien knocked over the first two points of the second half but again it was Shamrocks goal getting ability that set them clear as they found the net twice in the space of 60 seconds.
Colin Fennelly first found the top corner when bearing down on goal before Eoin Cody got in on the act with a wonderful individual effort that saw him run past a trio of Castletown-Geoghegan defenders.
That severely punctured the challengers effort and it was attack after attack for Ballyhale from that point on and Eoin Cody made the scoreboard look even more menacing when getting his second goal late on.
Ballyhale can now look ahead to a Leinster semi-final meeting with Naas in two weeks time.
Ballyhale Shamrocks: Dean Mason; Darren Mullen, Joey Holden, Brian Butler; Evan Shefflin (0-1), Richie Reid, Darragh Corcoran; Ronan Corcoran (0-2), Killian Corcoran (0-3); Adrian Mullen (0-2), Niall Shortall (1-2), Eoin Cody (2-9, 0-7f); Eoin Kenneally (0-1), Colin Fennelly (2-3), Joey Cuddihy (0-2). Subs:Kevin Mullen for D.Mullen (46 mins), Eoin Reid for Shortall (46 mins), Stephen Barron for D.Corcoran (49 mins), Liam Barron for Cuddihy (52 mins), Dara Mason for Butler (53 mins).
Castletown-Geoghegan: Kieran Glennon; Naoise McKenna, Brandon Carey, Aaron Glennon; Conor Kane, Liam Varley, David Lynch; Plunkett Maxwell, Joe Clarke; Peter Clarke (0-2), Aonghus Clarke, Shane Clavin; Niall O’Brien (0-8, 0-5f), David O’Reilly, Jack Gallagher (0-5).
Subs: Conor Murphy for O’Reilly (40 mins), Mick Heeney for J.Clarke (41 mins), Eoin Quinn for Carey (41 mins), Morgan Gavigan for Clavin (50 mins), Conor Lynch for A.Clarke (51 mins).
Referee- Patrick Murphy (Carlow)