Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final – Ballyhale Shamrocks V O’Loughlin Gaels
There is bound to be a huge crowd in Nowlan Park on Sunday when the All-Ireland club champions of 2010 take on the runners-up of 2011 when Ballyhale Shamrocks take on O’Loughlin Gaels in an appetising semi-final.
Since their disappointing loss to Clarenbridge in the All-Ireland club final on St Patrick’s Day, O’Loughlin Gaels have looked in the mood to return there and make amends.
In the group stages of the championship, the city side sae off Dicksboro, Tullaroan, Erin’s Own and Carrickshock. These wins were good enough to see them through to the quarter-final where they ironically came up against a team they had already beaten in Dicksboro.
On the day, O’Loughlins proved a little too strong for their near neighbours, running out winners on a scoreline of 2-11 to 1-10.
In that game, goals from Conor and Mark Bergin proved to be the winning of the game. If O’Loughlin Gaels are to see off the men of Ballyhale, they will need to Bergins, Brian Hogan and Martin Comerford firing on all cylinders.
After slipping up last year, Ballyhale Shamrocks are determined to regain a title that they see as their own and are bound to see last year’s Kilkenny and Leinster champions as just another obstacle along the way.
So far this year, they have looked in tip-top condition. Having Henry Shefflin back from injury has been a huge benefit to the Ballyhale men as he proved in the quarter-final victory over Carrickshock, scoring a great goal as they hung on for a four point victory.
Shamrocks were made to work hard for their victory and were probably a little fortunate to get a draw the first day. However, with Shefflin in splendid form, they made no mistake second time around to see off the men from the other end of the parish and book a place in the semi-final.
Shamrocks are going to be a tough nut for O’Loughlins to crack with such hurling illuminaries as Shefflin, TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick and not forgetting Michael Fennelly who is probably only weeks away from being crowned as this year’s hurler of the year.
This could well be the best game played anywhere this weekend but if I had to pick a winner, I would have to go for Ballyhale.
Verdict: Ballyhale Shamrocks