Ballyhale Shamrocks too good for Naomh Éanna
AIB Leinster Club SHC semi-final
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS 6-21 NAOMH ÉANNA 4-11
by Ronan Fagan at Innovate Wexford Park
Powered by 4-4 from the experienced Colin Fennelly, six-time All-Ireland Club champions Ballyhale Shamrocks are through to their first Leinster Club SHC decider since 2014 after withstanding a promising opening by first-time Wexford winners Naomh Éanna at Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
TJ Reid pointed Ballyhale in front before Gorey responded with real venom as Cathal Dunbar grabbed two rapid goals to carve open a 2-1 to 0-1 lead after eight minutes.
The number 15 got on the end of a delivery from Conor McDonald to whip a ground-shot to the net on five minutes when sending a daisy-cutter to the net, before latching onto a poor Ballyhale puck-out in the eighth-minute to find the net once more and give Gorey connections a sense of elation.
But when Eoin Reid capitalised upon a defensive lapse at the other end to find the net in the 14th-minute, Ballyhale were gaining in confidence as they cut the margin to 2-2 to 1-4.
Wing-back Jack Cullen attempted to steady Gorey with a majestic point in response. But Colin Fennelly used all his experience to fashion his first goal and turn the tables by 2-4 to 2-3 after 18 minutes.
The underdogs kept battling, but Ballyhale extended clear by 2-9 to 2-6 at half-time with the aid of late braces from both TJ Reid and Brian Cody.
Gorey had a let off on the resumption when Colin Fennelly angled wide with a goaling chance.
But Fennelly returned with a vengeance when slotting a superb point from the right wing before netting twice within the space of 60 seconds to bed Ballyhale into a comfortable 4-10 to 2-7 advantage afer 36 minutes.
Eoin Cody got amongst the goals on 42 minutes to blow open a decisive 5-13 to 2-7 lead, before inspired Gorey defender Jack Cullen swept in to peg back a goal moments later.
Ballyhale Shamrocks were out of sight though, and when TJ Reid fed Colin Fennelly from a free for the full-forward to stitch his fourth personal goal on 58 minutes, the Shamrocks were well and truly planning for the provincial final.
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: Colin Fennelly 4-4, TJ Reid 0-6 (1 '65, 1'f), Eoin Cody 1-1, Eoin Reid 1-0, Adrian Mullen 0-3, Brian Cody 0-2, Evan Shefflin 0-1, Darren Mullen 0-1, Ronan Corocran 0-1, Richie Reid 0-1, Joey Cuddihy 0-1
Scorers for Naomh Eanna: Cathal Dunbar 2-3, Padraig Doyle 0-6 (3f, 1 '65), Jack Cullen 1-2, Conor McDonald 1-0 (pen),
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: Dean Mason, Conor Walsh, Joey Holden, Brian Butler, Evan Shefflin, Michael Fennelly (capt.), Darren Mullen, Ronan Corcoran, Richie Reid, Adrian Mullen, TJ Reid, Brian Cody, Eoin Reid, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Cody. Subs: Gavin Butler for Walsh (50); Mark Aylward for E Reid (50); Joey Cuddihy for Mullen (54); Kevin Mullen for Butler (57); Paddy Mullen for M Fennelly (58).
NAOMH ÉANNA: Barry Kinsella, Tom Stafford, Brendan Travers (capt.), Lee Kinsella, Jack Cullen, Seán Doyle, Eoin Conroy, Aodhán Doyle, Gary Molloy, Charlie McGuckin, Pádraig Doyle, Darragh Hughes, David O'Brien, Conor McDonald, Cathal Dunbar. Subs: Jack Cushe for L Kinsella (21); William Cullen for Hughes (38); Conor Hughes for O'Brien (45).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).