Brilliant Ballyhale Shamrocks reclaim Leinster crown
AIB Leinster Club Senior Hurling Championship Final
By Paul Keane at Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS (KILKENNY) 2-21 BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S (DUBLIN) 0-11
Adrian Mullen's two-goal blast at Netwatch Cullen Park helped propel Ballyhale Shamrocks to a record ninth AIB Leinster club hurling title.
The former county minor star netted in both halves as the Henry Shefflin managed Kilkenny kingpins cruised through to a February 9 All-Ireland semi-final clash with Munster champions Ballygunner.
The sides were level with 27 minutes played and Ballyhale were just four points clear at half-time but turned in a storming second-half to win with a massive 16 points to spare.
They outscored south-Dubliners Ballyboden by 1-16 to 0-3 from late in the first-half to send out an ominous statement of their All-Ireland intentions.
TJ Reid was terrific too and helped himself to nine points while ex-Kilkenny star Michael Fennelly captained the team and lifted the trophy afterwards, declaring 'We're back' after four years without a title.
Ballyhale coped best with a downpour of gargantuan proportions at the beginning of the second-half that left the players drenched.
It was tough on Ballyboden who'd required a replay to win the Dublin final and then battled through extra-time epics in their provincial wins over Clonkill and Coolderry.
The talk all year in Kilkenny is that Ballyhale are a team in transition as they attempt to blood a new generation of stars under Shefflin's guidance.
Goalkeeper Dean Mason, goal hero Mullen and Eoin Cody were all minors for Kilkenny in 2017 when they lost an All-Ireland semi-final to Galway by a point.
They'd never experienced Leinster or All-Ireland club success and looked determined to make their mark as seniors.
Cody opened the scoring for Ballyhale in the fourth minute before Mullen went one better with an eighth minute goal after taking on Eoin Cody's pass from the left and blasting home.
That score put Ballyhale 1-2 to 0-1 ahead though the game opened out into an intriguing back and forth for the next 20 minutes.
Colm Basquel, fresh from hitting 3-3 on his full debut against Coolderry, burst into the game with back to back points before helping to create scores for Shane Durkin and Paul Ryan.
Ballyboden drew level on two occasions though Ballyhale closed out the half with four unanswered points - two apiece from TJ Reid and Eoin Reid - to take a deserved 1-9 to 0-8 half-time lead.
Ballyboden, in truth, were fortunate not to be further behind as Ballyhale blasted 10 wides in the opening half, five of those coming from TJ Reid.
It was all Ballyhale in the second-half as they took the wretched conditions in their stride and strode to yet another provincial win.
They hit 1-8 without reply at one stage and set the seal on victory when Mullen strolled through on the left for his second goal in the 53rd minute.
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: TJ Reid 0-9 (8fs), Adrian Mullen 2-1, Eoin Reid 0-3, Eoin Cody 0-3, Colin Fennelly 0-2, Evan Shefflin 0-1, Michael Fennelly 0-1, Mark Aylward 0-1.
Scorers for Ballyboden St Enda's: Paul Ryan 0-5 (5fs), Colm Basquel 0-2, Niall Ryan 0-2, Shane Durkin 0-1, Niall McMorrow 0-1.
BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS: Dean Mason; Brian Butler, Joey Holden, Darren Mullen; Evan Shefflin, Michael Fennelly, Richie Reid; Conor Walsh, Ronan Corcoran; Adrian Mullen, TJ Reid, Brian Cody; Eoin Reid, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Cody.
Subs: Gavin Butler for Walsh (39), Mark Aylward for Brian Cody (45), Joey Cuddihy for Eoin Reid (54), Paddy Mullen for Corcoran (57), Kevin Mullen for Butler (57).
BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S: Gary Maguire; David O'Connor, Luke Corcoran, James Madden; Simon Lambert, David Curtin, Dean Curran; Shane Durkin, Stephen O'Connor; Conal Keaney, Conor Dooley, Niall McMorrow; Aidan Mellett, Colm Basquel, Paul Ryan.
Subs: Niall Ryan for Dooley (30+2), Paul Doherty for Mellett (38), Finn McGarry for Curran (47), Conor McCormack for David O'Connor (49), Malachy Travers for Stephen O'Connor (56).
REFEREE: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).