Ballybacon-Grange goalkeeper and former All Star Brendan Cummins.
South champions Ballybacon-Grange were celebrating at Boherlahan as their five points victory over Toomevara, 0-19 to 1-11, crowned them Tipperary Water county junior A hurling champions carrying with it the bonus of promotion to the intermediate grade for next year.
The winning margin did not flatter the champions though they were made to fight all the way by a spirited Toomevara outfit that included a number of former seniors but which lacked the cutting edge up front of Ballybacon.
This D P Walshe Cup success follows on Ballybacon’s win over Kerry champions, Kenmare in the Munster club championship a week previously and has them nicely primed for their upcoming joust with Cork’s Brian Dillons in the Munster semi-final.
Ballybacon’s frustration at losing to Kiladangan in last year’s final motivated an even more intense effort this year and the delight of both players and followers at the end showed how much it means to the club to be climbing back up the grades again after a free-fall from senior to junior a few years back.
The merit of Ballybacon’s win cannot be questioned. In “doggy” terms, their’s was virtually a “trap to line” victory, having been led only once, briefly at the start, and then making the running all the way. They were inspired by the excellent Daniel O'Regan who scored eight points from play in a Man of the Match performance, and basically, he was the difference between the teams. The steadying influence of former All Star goalkeeper Brendan Cummins was also important and in addition he struck three fine points from long-range frees, so vital in so keenly contested a game.
From the very start Ballybacon were up for the contest. Declan Walsh opened their account after a minute and a minute later Daniel O'Regan had an effort for goal stopped. Points by Shane Nolan and a Paddy Grace sixty five put Toome ahead for the only time in the 8th minute. Two O'Regan points in two minutes restored the lead to Ballybacon, who went 0-8 to 0-3 clear by the 23rd minute O Regan hitting three more points and Aaron Lonergan also raising a flag.
It was all going so well for Ballybacon but in the 25th minute a hesitant defence allowed Conor Delaney bag a goal for Toome. This score gave them a huge lift and they followed with a brace of Paddy Grace points from frees to tie the game at half-time, 0-8 to 1-5.
Ballybacon had to be concerned at the break at the manner in which they slumped in the closing minutes of the first half. They were in disarray and very fortunate that the half-time whistle gave them breathing space to sort themselves out. They took full advantage of it and re-opened with three Aaron Lonergan points from frees and a neat strike from Michael O'Sullivan to go four clear in nine minutes.
The ball was in Ballybacon’s court but Toome were not going to die without a fight. Two Paddy Grace pointed frees got them back in the hunt but Billy Hewitt countered for Ballybacon. Grace was again on the mark but two long-range frees from Brendan Cummins steadied Ballybacon nerves. Once more Grace pointed for Toome but now O'Regan countered, O Regan and Francis Devaney for Toome swapped points but time was now very much on Ballybacon’s side and in the 58th minute Brendan Cummins landed another long-range free for a five points advantage.
Toome knew they needed a goal to save themselves but they never threatened it, a point from Grace being their only reward for sustained pressure, a score cancelled in injury time by the excellent O'Regan.
For Ballybacon players, mentors and supporters it was a big win and the challenge now is to build on this to regain their senior status via the intermediate championship. They certainly have the players to do so and the confidence this win will generate will be so important next year as they face into more serious opposition.
No doubt about who was star of the show as Daniel O'Regan’s eight points from play was a massive contribution to the Ballybacon win. Toome did not know how to handle him and could not curtail his ability to pick off a score from the tightest of angles and under considerable pressure.
He was not alone however as Ballybacon also had top performances from Billy Hewitt, Colin O'Gorman, Michael Barlow, Sean Nagle, Michael O'Sullivan and free-taker Aaron Lonergan. Brendan Cummins also contributed handsomely to the win with his use of the ball and his accuracy from the frees although he was not really tested from play.
Toome fielded a very experienced side with former seniors stars Francis Devaney and David Young leading the way. They will feel that they did not do themselves justice on the day but John Boland, Patrick Tuohy, Conor Delaney, Luke Ryan,Shane Nolan sub Aidan Cahill, and Paddy Grace worked their socks off while David Younge, after a storming first half was not as influential afterwards.
Ballybacon scorers- D O'Regan(0-8), A Lonergan(0-5, 5fs), B Cummins(0-3,3fs), M O'Sullivan, B Hewitt, D Walsh(0-1 each);
Toomevara- P Grace(0-8, 6fs), C Delaney(1-1), S Nolan, F Devaney(0-1 each);
Ballybacon-Grange – Brendan Cummins; Philip Walsh, Eoin Walsh, Craig Carrigan; Michael Barlow, Colin O'Gorman, Sean Nagle; Michael O Sullivan, Brian Dillon; Daniel O'Regan, Billy Hewitt, Gerry Cronin; Aaron Lonergan, Declan Walsh, Aidan Savage; Subs- Stephen Lambert for P Walsh(40 mins), Gavin Whelan for Savage(45mins), Colm O'Shaughnessy for Carrigan(48mins), Johnny English for Cronin(55mins), James O'Mahoney for Lonergan( 61mins);
Toomevara – Willie Ryan; Niall O'Farrell, Mark Grace, John Boland; Patrick Tuohy, Kieran McGrath, Luke Ryan; David Younge, Kieran Flaherty; Kieran Brislane, Francis Devaney, Conor Delaney; Shane Nolan, Jamie Quigley, Paddy Grace- subs – Aidan Cahill for Flaherty(36mins), Pauric Shanahan for Quigley(43mins), Tom Brennan for L Ryan(53mins), Mark Harty for Delaney(55mins);
Ref- Kevin Jordan, Thurles Gaels.