Ballybacon Grange advanced to the final of this year’s South Tipperary Intermediate Hurling Championship by virtue of a storming second half display to comfortably get the better of their very gamely and stubborn neighbours, Fr. Sheehy’s in Cahir, 2-18 to 0-12.
Having played senior hurling last year Ballybacon Grange came into this game as hot favourites and started off with serious intent. They hit the ground running, leading after ten minutes 1-5 to 0-1. Three Johnny English pointed frees and two points from play from Daniel O’Regan was followed by a goal from a Brendan Cummins penalty, after Daniel O’Regan was pulled back when he was through on goal. Fr. Sheehy’s only score in that period coming from the stick of Owen Myers
The signs looked ominous at this stage for the underdogs but when they found their feet and rallied. And with some fine hurling, particularly from Brian Hyland and Liam O’Connor, they hit back with two points from Liam O’Connor and three points from placed balls from Owen Myers to reduce the deficit to just three with five minutes left in the half. While Fr. Sheehy’s piled pressure on the Ballybacon Grange defence they just couldn’t find a way through for a goal that their efforts deserved.
Having withstood the Fr. Sheehy pressure two Ballybacon points from Alan O’Gorman and Johnny English either side of a Richie McGrath point for Fr. Sheehy’s brought the half time score to 1-8 to 0-7 in favour of Ballybacon Grange but at times during that first half a neutral would have wondered which team played senior last year.
The second half started in the same vein as Brendan Cummins pointed a free from his own sixty five metre line and Liam O’Connor replying, Aaron Cowan sending over a great point from near the sideline and Owen Myers replying for Fr. Sheehy’s there seemed little between the sides at this stage but then the Ballybacon Grange management decided to act.
They introduced Craig Carrigan and Alex Kirwan with immediate effect. Carrigan temporarly blunted Brian Hyland’s influence in midfield while the direct running of Kirwan caused the Fr. Sheehy defence all sorts of trouble. In a blistering ten minute spell, a la Kilkenny, Ballybacon Grange hit 1-5 without reply to open up a twelve point lead, the goal coming from Brian Lonergan when he batted in a delightful cross from Alex Kirwan after he ran through the ‘Sheehy defence, the points from Johnny English, (3), and one apiece from Aaron Cowan and Tom Kirwan.
Two Owen Myers points and one from Brian Hyland for Sheehy’s were cancelled out by Johnny English, Peter Hally and Alex Kirwan as the game wound down to its inevitable conclusion.
Ballybacon Grange had solid performances from Eoin Walsh, Peter Hally, Tom Kirwan, Aaron Cowan, Brian Lonergan and substitutes Craig Carrigan and Alex Kirwan.
For Fr. Sheehy’s this is the end of the road for another year, but they showed enough to suggest that they will be back next year. Best for them were man of the match Brian Hyland, Sean Flynn, Liam O’Connor, Pa Ryan and John Corbett.
Ballybacon Grange - Brendan Cummins (1-1), Brian Dillon, Eoin Walsh, Michael O’Sullivan, Billy Hewitt, Peter Hally (0-1), Sean Nagle, Aaron Cowan (0-2), Aidan Savage, Martin Ryan, Brian Lonergan (1-0), Tom Kirwan (0-1), Daniel O’Regan (0-2), Alan O’Gorman (0-1), Johnny English (0-9). Subs - Craig Carrigan, Alex Kirwan (0-1), Philip Murphy, James O’Mahoney, Noel Fitzgerald.
Fr. Sheehy’s - Michael Myles, Shane Ryan, John Corbett, Paddy Moran, Pa Ryan, Tom Conway, Cian O’Brien, Brian Hyland (0-1), Sean Flynn, Liam Fleming, Liam O’Connor (0-3), Robbie O’Brien, Stephen O’Driscoll, Richie McGrath (0-1), Owen Myers (0-7). Subs - Shane Lowry, James Mulcahy.
Ref - Brian Tyrell