Ballysaggart 4-13 (25) Calry/St Joseph’s 0-8 (8) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Ballysaggart had a comfortable win over a game but limited Calry/St. Joseph’s side in the All-Ireland Club Junior semi-final in Tullamore today. Ballysaggart were much the better hurling team but rested on their oars a bit in the second half after building up a commanding lead. Despite the hopelessness of their situation, Calry battled away to the end but simply lacked a cutting edge up front. They only got one point from their forward division with midfielder and captain Keith Raymond contributing six (all but one from frees) and their centre back the other one.

The poor hurling conditions probably affected Ballysaggart the more. Apart from the heavy sod, a cold blustery wind blew frequent showers straight down the field, and a brief squall early in the second half made conditions almost impossible for the players.

Ballysaggart had first use of the wind, and deployed just Stephen and Shane Bennett in a two-main full forward line, a tactic that worked quite well. However, they started slowly, and in the first few minutes their goalie had to make a smart save and Calry hit a bad wide (they hit seven over the hour to Saggart’s five). Once Ballysaggart settled into the game they gained control and the scores started to come, mainly from Stephen Bennett frees.

The first goal came in the 12th minute when Shane Bennett ran onto a long ball from midfield and although he lost his hurley he kicked to the net. The second goal came ten minutes later. Shane Bennett got in a good shot which the goalie blocked out for a 65 which brother Stephen sent in low and it found its way to the back of the net. We then had a pair of superb long-range points from midfielder Kieran Bennett and two more excellent scores from wing forward Kenneth Cashell. Stephen Bennett essentially wrapped the game up in added time when he dispossessed a Calry defender and then squeezed a tap-down shot just inside the post to leave Ballysaggart 3-10 to 0-2 in front at the break.

Whatever chance Calry had of making a fight of it with the wind at their backs after the change of ends were killed off four minutes into the second half when Stephen Bennett let fly for the top corner from out on the left. An inrushing forward may have finished the ball to the net but I thought Bennett’s shot went all the way.

After that, and the ensuing squall, Ballysaggart relaxed somewhat, while Calry kept plugging away and notched six points but could not get the goal they would love to have got against a hard-working defence excellently marshalled and led by centre back Eugene O’Brien. The biggest cheer from the large Ballysaggart following came late in the game when diminutive substitute Michael Kearney scored a smashing point.

Final score: Ballysaggart 4-13 Calry/St. Joseph’s 0-8. Ballysaggart now play Creggan Kickhams of Antrim in the final in Croke Park on February 8 (throw-in time to be confirmed). They had a good 2-10 to 1-8 win in the other semi-final over Lancashire team Fullen Gaels who got to the final of this competition in 2013.

Ballysaggart: Matty Meagher; Bobby Ryan; Kieran Fennessy; Daniel Devince; Barry Murphy; Eugene O’Brien; Cailean O’Gorman; Christy Murphy; Kieran Bennett (0-2); Shane Bennett (1-0); Darren Meagher; Kenneth Cashell (0-2); Ronan Walsh; Stephen Bennett (3-8, 0-6 from frees, 1-1 from 65s); Tom Bennett.

Substitute: Michael Kearney (0-1). I think Stephen Hale and either Shane or Fearghal Meagher were the other two subsitutes brought on.