By Michael O Connor.
Two under 21 crowns in twelve months for Ballyea. A follows B to the club that less than fifteen years ago was Junior A. Since then they have won Jun A, Intermediate and contested a senior final. They have won under 21B and Minor B. They have won under 12, 14 and 16 honours and have became one of the more consistent clubs in the county leading to this prize The title is primarily in Ballyea because Kilmaley played second fiddle for all bar ten minutes to the premier under 21 club side in the county for 2012.
Following the drawn game there was much debate as to when the replay would occur due to myriad of reasons, club games, county games, exams and summer emigration pattern. Thankfully a date appeared and agreement was sought and confirmed and Cusack Park was nailed down as venue.
In a hard hitting affair that was marshalled tightly by intercounty referee Rory Hickey the Ballyea men led by two points, (0-8) to (0-6) at the break Whilst the Ballyea men would have been satisfied at the break to be ahead they would have been worried that Kilmaley had played within themselves for the opening 15 minutes, missed a number of scorablefrees and were still only a puck away from the prize.
Ballyea started the game in a whirlwind with star player Tony Kelly dominating the opening scores with the first three scores (2 frees). Niall Deasy added a fourth before Kelly once again made it five points to no score for his side. John Cabey after 10 minutes got Kilmaley on the scoreboard from a free as they were unable to impinge on the Ballyea full back line any form of sustained challenge. Interestingly with such pressure on both team managements and players to deliver a result and the closeness of exchanges there was 32 mentors, medical, waterboys and children on the field for the vast majority of the game. That was not counting those who were in the dugout and the general tunnel area. John Cabey from a free left Kilmaley three points in arrears before two well taken scores from Kelly, one from play and a second from a 65 restored a five point lead for the Donal Kelly managed side that had former Feakle and Clare star Michael Guilfoyle as coach amongst others.
Just when Kilmaley appeared to be floundering they rallied considerably and were most unlucky not to have the first goal when a searing run by Keane ended with his shot saved by Harkin the rebound cleared by Lineen. Kilmaley finished off the half with the last three scores of the half in what was their only consistent form over the hour. John Cabey, Michael O Neill and a great score from Aidan McGuane were the Kilmaley scorers as Ballyea and Kilmaley both realised that the first goal for either side would be a mortal blow to the other in the second period.
The Ballyea half back line was the platform for the Ballyea success as they allowed no access to the last third of the field for the Kilmaley team especially in the second half as Daire Keane was a virtual spectator at the Ballyea goal and whenever the ball did arrive Paul Flanagan was there to marshall the square. John Cabey showed that Kilmaley meant business with an early converted free but a brace of scores from Kelly including one from play suggested that Kilmaley were now going to need that goal very quickly as Ballyea once again had hit the ground running.
Two scores from Kilmaley’s Paul Kennedy and Michael O Neill gave hope for their supporters as they cut the Ballyea lead to the minimum after 36 minutes and that was as good as it got for the Blue and white hurlers. Five minutes of pressure from Ballyea softened up Kilmaley even though they did not concede a goal they were stretched to the upper limits and soon Ballyea got in for the scores. Between the 39th and 46th minutes Ballyea broke Kilmaley’s spirit in all aspects bar a killer goal. They hit three points courtesy of Niall Deasy, James Murphy and Gearoid O Connell as Ballyea went (0-13) to (0-9) ahead.
The winning score even if it was really needed such was the ease that Ballyea were dealing with the Kilmaley forwards came from a Niall Deasy goal who caught the ball on the edge of the square and finished well past Bryan O Loughlin. Kelly added a free before sub Eanna McInerney got the ball past the line after a high ball from Deasy came off the post for the games second goal as the Ballyea club began celebrations in earnest wishing for the full time whistle as were Kilmaley to end the torture after such effort throughout the season to get silverware.
Kilmaley sub Cian Moloney and Eoin Enright scored consolation points before Martin O Leary who had just returned in recent times from injury rounded off the scoring as Rory Hickey sounded the long whistle before a mass invasion of headquarters by Ballyea men women and children to acclaim their heroes as the upward spiral of Ballyea continues. Under 21B in 2011 and now the ultimate with most that all underage for two more years.
The champions had solid displays from Paul Flanagan, Jack Browne, Cathal Doohan, David Sheehan, Gearoid O Connell, Tony Kelly, Niall Deasy, Martin O Leary and James Murphy. Kilmaley deserve a title for effort alone but sentiment is absent in sport despite the honest efforts of Michael O Neill, John Cabey, Martin O Connor, Kevin McNamara and Enda Finnucane.
BALLYEA: Shane Harkin, Cormac Ryan, Paul Flanagan, Declan Keane, Jack Browne, Cathal Doohan, David Sheehan, Gearoid O Connell (0-2), Tony Kelly (0-9), Stan Lineen, Niall Deasy (1-2), Martin O Leary (0-1), James Murphy (0-1), Mark Couglan. Subs: Eanna McInerney (1-0) for Neylon, Tadgh Lynch for Deasy, Eoin Donnellan for Ryan(inj),
KILMALEY: Bryan O Loughlin, Stephen Griffey, Martin O Connor, Niall McGuane, Kevin McNamara, Colin McGuane, Enda Finnucane, Eoin Enright (0-1), Conor Cleary, Daniel Clohessy, John Cabey (0-4), Aidan McGuane (0-1), Daire Keane, Paul Kennedy (0-1), Michael O Neill(0-3). Subs: Cillian McNamara for Clohessy, Cian Moloney (0-1) for Kennedy
REFEREE: Rory Hickey (Eire-og)
After the game the chairman of the Co Board and one of the best known Ballyea men Michael O Neill, took a time out from his annual 250 mile cycle to present the Under 21A Trophy to Ballyea captain Cathal Doohan as celebrations, bonfires were commenced all over Ballyea, Ballynacally, Kilmihil and aptly a place called Paradise in Ballyea.