Familiar foe’s James Stephen’s and Ballyhale Shamrock once again do battle in the surroundings of Nolan Park on Sunday with the St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny Senior hurling title up for grabs.
2010 aside it’s been a case of either one of these sides appearing in the last 7 finals, with Ballyhale claiming four tiles and James Stephen’s two.
With hurlers of the calibre of Henry Shefflin, Hurler of the year in waiting Michael Fennelly, Cha Fitzgerald and TJ Reid not to mention the James Stephen’s pairing of Jackie Tyrell and Eoin Larkin and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Croke Park on Sunday rather than on the edge of Kilkenny City.
Ballyhale with the aforementioned quartet along with the talents of Joe Holden and 22 year old Colin Fennelly not to mention the added mental edge of having beaten Sunday’s opponents in the 2008 and 2009 finals head into the clash with the favourite’s tag.
Ballyhale have not had the easiest of run’s to the final having disposed of the 2010 County champions O’Loughlin Gaels in the semi final not to mention the runners up Carrickshock in the round before albeit after a replay.
However James Stephen’s know they can beat Ballyhale having done so in 2005, the year they claimed the All Ireland club championship and in Derrick Brennan, Donnacha Cody, Philip Larkin and Tyrell they have a backline will be more than a match for the attacking power of Ballyhale.
Eoin Larkin in the focal point of the City’s club attack and he could find Eoin McCormack alongside him on Sunday’s after he came on to score a goal in the semi final win over St Martin’s.
Both sides topped their respective groups in the league and when they met in the League final in September, Ballyhale ran out winners 2-13 to 1-10 and it will take a gigantic effort from James Stephen’s if they are to avoid a repeat of that result.
Path to the final
Semi final v St Martin’s 3-16 vs. 2-10
Quarter final v Graigue Ballycallan 1-18 vs. 1-08
Semi final v O’Loughlin Gael’s 2-18 vs. 3-12
Quarter final v Carrickshock 2-17 vs. 3-14
Quarter final v Carrickshock replay 2-18 vs. 1-17
Ballyhale Shamrocks 2/7
James Stephen’s 3/1