Ballyhale Shamrocks and James Stephen’s will go toe to toe again in Nowlan Park on Sunday at 2.45pm in the replay of the Kilkenny senior hurling championship.
A dramatic ending last weekend saw Henry Shefflin score an injury time free to rescue Ballyhale and keep their All Ireland club ambitions alive and was only the tenth time in history that the final has finished all square.
A historic weekend concluding in a first as the minor final between Thomastown and Bennettsbridge also finished level.
In the senior game however after a strong opening 20 minutes when the Reid’s of TJ & Eoin along with Shefflin and Colin Fennelly helped Ballyhale race in to a 07-02 point lead it looked as though there would be only one winner however a stirring second half saw from the green and red that saw them come within minutes of a famous win.
The Village defence was always going to be under pressure during the game and they did well to restrict the Shamrock to no goals not to mention an eight minute period in the second half when they scored nothing.
While Shefflin was the injury time hero for the Shamrocks, the same can be said for the Village’s Eoin Larkin who scored two points in the second half and helped set up David Walton for a goal with 15 minutes left to the put the underdogs in front.
Then came the dramatics’ Ger Fennelly won possession but was surrounded by James Stephen’s players giving the referee an easy decision (some might disagree) to call a free and the rest is now history.
The Kilkenny County board will have no doubt rubbed their hands in glee when Shefflin dropped his free over to salvage a replay; with attendances in general down all over the country the extra revenue a final will generate will no doubt help the coffers.
That said many questioned the decision to go ahead with the game last weekend with the atrocious weather conditions not conducive to good Hurling.
The weather forecast is tipped to be a bit better than last weekend and that will suit Ballyhale more than James Stephen’s who appeared to adapt quicker to the conditions last weekend.
The city side will no doubt be disappointed to have seen victory grasped from them and while Ballyhale will no doubt perform better it remains to be seen if the Village can maintain the performance that they showed for 31 minutes of the second half.