A resilient Burgess team booked their place in the semi-finals of the Hibernian Inn North Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship at MacDonagh Park in Nenagh on Saturday following a real battle with Ballina.
Hibernian Inn North Tipperary Senior
Hurling Championship Quarter-Final
Burgess 2-14 Ballina 2-12
Ballina gave this contest everything they had, but, ultimately, Burgess deserved to edge this contest with both Donagh Maher and Stephen Kirwan playing starring roles for Paul Keane’s men.
Burgess started well and raced into a seven-point lead (1-4 to 0-1), but Ballina re-grouped and trailed by four entering the final quarter of this contest when the side managed by Brendan McKeogh had significant grounds for complaint: Burgess’ Tony Dunne was on a yellow card when the wing-forward caught a Ballina defender with a high challenge. In response referee Philip Kelly spoke to Dunne, but elected not to issue a second yellow.
To be fair this battle between these North Tipperary neighbours was played in good spirits for the most part and a dismissal would not have been in keeping with the spirit of the contest.
Points from Stephen Murray (two, one free), Tadhg O’Halloran and Stephen Kirwan propelled Burgess into a substantial early lead and although Michael Breen responded for Ballina Bill O’Flaherty plundered a goal for his side following Ronan Tucker’s re-start and a delivery which arrived courtesy of Jack O’Flaherty (1-4 to 0-1).
Within seconds Ballina hit back when Steven O’Brien and Conor Maguire combined to set up Eoghan Power and although the corner-forward’s initial effort was saved O’Brien was on hand to bury the rebound.
Stephen Murray (two, one free) added to the Burgess tally and although Steven O’Brien responded for Ballina an excellent Bill O’Flaherty point in the 15th minute left five between them (1-7 to 1-2).
Steven O’Brien notched the score of the game in the 19th minute - Eoin Slattery’s pin-point sideline ball found the enterprising run of the inter-county football star and O’Brien applied the finish.
A ’65 (converted by Stephen Murray) re-opened the five-point gap, but Ballina rallied when Conor Maguire, Steven O’Brien (free) and Eoghan Slattery landed successive efforts. The sides traded points late in the half and Burgess led by two at the break (1-9 to 1-7).
Ballina were now operating with the wind at their backs and out-scored their opponents 0-2 to 0-1 during the opening five minutes of the second half, but were very grateful to Jerry O’Brien who bravely blocked a Stephen Kirwan shot in the 36th minute.
The sides traded frees thereafter before another Stephen Kirwan point left four between them entering the final quarter (1-13 to 1-9).
The decision not to present Tony Dunne with a second yellow card appeared to spur Ballina on to even greater efforts and between the 46th and 57th minutes Brendan McKeogh’s men - with Steven O’Brien and Conor Maguire in outstanding form - hit three points without reply. Conor Maguire, Michael Breen (’65) and Steven O’Brien (sideline) were responsible for the efforts which dragged Ballina to within one of their opponents (1-13 to 1-12).
Burgess had been held scoreless for sixteen minutes and now needed leaders, badly.
Donagh Maher was certainly doing his utmost at centre-back and up front it was one of the younger Burgess men, Stephen Kirwan, who grabbed a hanging delivery in the 58th minute and landed a critical point.
And, there were sighs of relief all around from a Burgess perspective in the 62nd minute when the Ballina defence coughed up possession deep inside their own 21-yard line and Conor Gill set up a second Bill O’Flaherty goal.
Conor Maguire hit back with an absolute bullet for Ballina, but that strike arrived far too late to rescue the situation.
Burgess: Ronan Tucker, Pat Woods, Shane Maher, Kieran Ryan, Johnny Mulqueen, Donagh Maher, Tadhg O’Halloran (0-1), Stephen Murray (0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ‘65s), Willie Ryan, Tony Dunne (0-1), Danny Ryan, Jack O’Flaherty, Eoin Hogan, Bill O’Flaherty (2-1), Stephen Kirwan (0-3). Subs: (5th) Keith Nealon for Danny Ryan (blood sub - reversed in the sixth minute), (55th) Keith Nealon for Eoin Hogan, (59th) Conor Gill for Danny Ryan.
Ballina: Martin McKeogh, James Hanley, Aidan Hanley, Jerry O’Brien, Conor Bourke, Tom Collins, Ronan Bourke, Michael Breen (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ‘65s), Steven O’Brien (1-4, 0-1 frees, 0-1 sideline), Michael Grace, Kevin Cosgrove, Conor Maguire (1-3), Eoghan Power, Brian Hurley, Eoin Slattery (0-1). Subs: (28th) Corey Ryan for Eoin Slattery, (46th) Ben King for Brian Hurley, (56th) Eoin Sheehy for Kevin Cosgrove.
Referee: Philip Kelly (Ballinahinch).
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