Jack Shelly was absolutely terrific as Mullinahone surged to a ten-point win over Ballina at The Ragg on Sunday evening in the opening round of the Tipperary Water-sponsored Séamus Ó Riain Cup. Mullinahone were certainly worthy winners, but perhaps a ten-point differential was a little harsh on a Ballina team who really gave this contest their all.
Tipperary Water County Senior Hurling
Championship - Séamus Ó Riain Cup (Roinn II)
Mullinahone 2-19 Ballina 1-12
Brendan McKeogh’s men had faced the breeze in the opening half and when they trailed by just a single point at the break (1-7 to 0-11) it appeared as if Ballina had completed a significant body of work. Mullinahone, however, made little of the elements thereafter and throughout this contest mustered the much slicker approach play. Indeed, it was significant to note that Mullinahone notched 2-19 even though talisman Seán Curran only contributed a single point.
Steven O’Brien tried hard for Ballina and Conor Maguire also appeared a really capable operator, but Mullinahone trumped their efforts with terrific performances from Eoin Fennelly, Paul Curran, Michael O’Shea and the absolutely immense Jack Shelly who drilled over five shots from the middle of the field - three off the right and two off the left.
Mullinahone took off like a rocket in this contest and thanks to points from Michael O’Shea, Kevin Walzer (free), Michael Dunne and Jack Shelly the side managed by Seán O’Meara led 0-4 to 0-1 after eleven minutes.
Ballina clung on against the breeze when efforts from Michael Breen (two - one free, one ’65), Steven O’Brien and Conor Maguire (a superb effort) kept Brendan McKeogh’s men in touch as Jack Shelly wreaked havoc in the middle of the field. Indeed, Shelly also sparked a move in the 22nd minute which culminated in Michael O’Shea’s cross and Martin Keogh’s rasping shot from close range; Ballina ‘keeper Martin McKeogh did especially well to save.
Soon after Enda Keane (sideline) and Jack Shelly added points which forced Mullinahone four clear (0-9 to 0-5) with twenty-three minutes played. Ballina, however, were battling gamely for every ball and that genuine effort earned a dividend late in the opening half. Two Michael Breen points (one free) were cancelled out by Graham Horan (sideline) and Kevin Walzer, but in the 32nd minute Conor Maguire raced through, shortened smartly and fired home off his right to leave one between the sides at the break (0-11 to 1-7).
RESPONDED TO THE CHALLENGE
Mullinahone responded to the challenge posed in terrific fashion. Indeed, in the first minute of the second half Enda Keane enjoyed a terrific goal chance, but corner-back Thomas Collins recovered in the nick of time to hook the raiding wing-forward and Michael O’Shea’s follow-up found the Ballina side netting.
Two minutes later, however, Mullinahone did manage a goal - when Kevin Walzer’s long-range free dropped short Michael Dunne got on the break and delivered the finish. A minute later Seán Curran drilled over a point and Mullinahone led by a significant five (1-12 to 1-7).
Ballina rallied when efforts from Eoghan Power and Michael Breen (two frees) worked to reel Mullinahone in a little, but a brilliant Michael Dunne effort was soon followed by two Kevin Walzer converted frees and a point from Jack Shelly (his fifth from play).
So, entering the final quarter Ballina trailed by six (1-10 to 1-16), but considering the breeze there was still a semblance of hope. That is until the 53rd minute when Mullinahone pieced together the move of the game: an inch-perfect Alan Walsh puck-out found Graham Horan at left wing-forward. Horgan fed Michael O’Shea and the corner-forward worked the ball into the path of Martin Keogh who finished smartly and duly ended this game as a contest (2-16 to 1-11).
Ballina managed a couple of late flurries inside the Mullinahone 21-yard line - most notably in the 56th minute when an Eoin Sheehy flick demanded a reaction save from ‘keeper Alan Walsh - but, generally, the closing ten minutes lacked the ferocity of the opening fifty.
Mullinahone: Alan Walsh, Gary Cronin, Paul Curran, Colin Shelly, Luke Mullally, Eoin Fennelly (0-1, 0-1 free), Alan Curran, Jack Shelly (0-5), Kevin Walzer (0-5, 0-5 frees), Seán Curran (0-1), Graham Horan (0-1, 0-1 sideline), Enda Keane (0-2, 0-1 sideline), Michael Dunne (1-2), Martin Keogh (1-0), Michael O’Shea (0-2).
Ballina: Martin McKeogh, David Kelly, Aidan Hanly, Thomas Collins (0-1), Kevin Cosgrove, Ronan Bourke, Conor Bourke, Eoghan Power (0-2), Michael Breen (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ’65), Eoin Slattery, Conor Maguire (1-2), Steven O’Brien (0-1), Paddy O’Donovan, Jerry O’Brien, Pat Cosgrove. Subs: (HT) Eoin Sheehy for Eoin Slattery, (40th) Mike Grace for Pat Cosgrove, (40th) Brian Connolly for Conor Bourke, (62nd) Conor Bourke for David Kelly.
Referee: Seán Bradshaw (Knockavillla-Donaskeigh Kickhams).
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