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Ballyhale has its pocket picked

by Jimmy Rhatigan

LADY LUCK can be a great friend.

But when she looks the other way, she can be a lethal foe.

Ballyhale Shamrocks know what it’s like to experience the joy of being a late, late pickpocket.

The elation that TJ Reid brought when he crashed an injury time free to the net to see off St Thomas’s of Galway in the semi-final of the senior club hurling championship will forever and a day be remembered in South Kilkenny.

Little did the hurling pride of Kilkenny realize that its turn to be the victim of a last gasp injury time smash and grab was just around the corner.

It was heartbreaking.

With seconds only to go in injury time in their Croker final against Ballygunner of Waterford, Shamrocks led by two points.

Then, out of the blue, in a sensational finale, the Gunner grabbed a goal that must have sent a dagger through the hearts of Ballyhale players and supporters of the beautiful game.

It looked all set to be a wonderful world for the kings of the local game.

Another famous victory to add to the club’s impressive CV.


But, for once, the backside fell out of the club’s hurling crusade, a mere puck of a sliotar before the Fat Lady was due to sing.

For many reasons it was a pity that Shamrocks didn’t complete a hat-trick of All-Ireland club wins.

Success would have been particularly relevant in the 50th anniversary year of the club’s founding.

The tears of joy shed by Ballygunner players and supporters told a tale of how much the win meant to their small ball game community.

It was the Decies club’s first time to play in Croke Park and perhaps more importantly, Gunner is the first Waterford outfit to win the coveted club trophy.

As ambassadors for Kilkenny, Ballyhale hurlers have been impeccable for half a century.

The club is a credit to a close-knit community that gobbles up hurling for breakfast, dinner and tea.

A gentleman of the game, TJ Reid, along with his fellow warriors, will not begrudge Ballygunner its day in the sun.

Yes, there may be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


But there will be admiration too for Gunner as all involved with Ballyhale will know well about the blood, sweat and tears, with parish participation, that goes into reaching the top of a hurling ladder that can have some very greasy rungs.

The Saturday final was a cracker, a nip and tuck affair that ebbed and flowed.

The well-oiled hurling machine seemed to be headed for another national crown when a lightning strike that followed a thunderous match sparked Gunner celebrations and left the Shamrocks pondering on what might have been.

On the positive side, Kilkenny hurling supporters will cherish the magnificent point that TJ scored from way out on the left of the Croker billiard table, his first point of the second half.

Fans won’t forget to remember the super strike by a star whose hurling stick double jobs as a magic wand.

When the hare sits, Shamrocks stars will dust themselves down and confine the final to the history books.

Several will join our senior hurling campaign to bring Liam MacCarthy home to Kilkenny where he has spent so many of his exciting years.

Ballygunner aficionados will enjoy a few pints and maybe a few more.

In fairness the Gunner family is fully entitled to let its hair down as it celebrates a victory that represents Heaven on Earth to what is obviously a top class GAA club.

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