Ballyduff hold firm in stirring finish

Passage East’s Killian Fitzgerald keeps up with Ballyduff Lower’s Paul Stevenson.

Passage East’s Killian Fitzgerald keeps up with Ballyduff Lower’s Paul Stevenson.

Ballyduff Lower 2-11; Passage 1-12

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It was all about survival for both teams in this instance at Walsh Park on Sunday afternoon last in which the victors emerged with a quarter-final date with Abbeyside at the same venue this coming weekend, and the losers having to be satisfied that their stay in the top flight is guaranteed for 2009.

Passage, however, were obliged to field without the services of county star Eoin Kelly who is presently on his honeymoon, and his loss at this juncture proved nigh irreparable to their cause.

As the scoreline suggests this turned out to be a very close encounter, in which early goals proved crucial. The first of these came after five minutes when a Niall Clifford cross from the right caused the Passage defence and their goalkeeper in particular to make an unpardonable error of judgement, and on hand to cash in on the mistake was Jack Kennedy who sent the ball crashing to the net.

Kennedy struck again for goal number two in the 8th minute, this time on the tail end of a well worked build-up, and at that stage the winners led by 2-1 to 0-1 and were really in the driving seat.

Yet, Passage came back to really make a game out of this all-Eastern affair. Eoin Connors was absolutely ‘on song’ from placed positions, and when a John Paul Collingwood centre was flashed to the net in brilliant fashion by Conor Carey in the 28th minute the deficit was down to the minimum: 2-3 to 1-5.

Still Ballyduff, continuing to win a fair share of the ball around the middle of the field, responded strongly in the closing minutes of the half, and three additional points on the trot from Paul Kennedy and Neil Power (two), enabled them to deservedly lead by 2-6 to 1-5 at the short whistle.

Touch and go

With Passage failing to make the most of their early second half chances, it fell to Ballyduff to take up the slack and this they did to lead by 2-9 to 1-7 by the three-quarter stage.

But it was to be a case of keeping the best wine until last, as most of the good hurling on offer came in the closing stages of the match. Eoin Connors continued to find the range – except one lapse three minutes from the end – while four minutes beforehand Conor Casey had recorded the winners’ first point from play, and a marvellous one it was.

But with Pat Matthews by deed and example keeping Ballyduff focused on the task, the breakthrough the Seasiders longed for never fully materialised. Still Passage were just two points behind with as many minutes of normal time remaining, before Jack Kennedy came up an invaluable point on the stroke of the hour; and while ‘lost’ time extended into six additional minutes, the Ballyduff defence held firm, with Passage having to be content with just one point from Aaron Connors in the 65th minute, before finally giving way.

The winners were admirably served by Pat Matthews, Pat Fitzgerald, John O’Leary, Jack Kennedy, Neil Power, Derek Van Veen and Brian O’Leary; while the vanquished owe a great deal to the phenomenal work rate of Liam, Brian and Conor Carey, Thomas Connors, Rory Walsh and Joseph Upton.

Ballyduff Lower: Brian O’Leary, Ger Harris, John O’Leary, Derek Van Veen, Stephen O’Leary, Conor Kenny, Paudie Murphy, Pat Fitzgerald, Pat Matthews, Paul Stevenson, Jack Kennedy, Paul Kennedy, Niall Clifford, Neil Power, Richard Barron. Sub: Coleman Power for G Harris.

Scorers: Jack Kennedy 2-1, Neil Power 0-5 ( 0-4 frees), Pat Matthews and Paul Kennedy 0-2 each, Niall Clifford 0-1.

Passage: Ray Barry, Liam Carey, Brian Carey, Mark Wyse, Ian Power, Thomas Connors, Joseph Upton, John Paul Collingwood, Rory Walsh, Aaron Connors, Eoin Connors, Conor Carey, Killian Fitzgerald, Paul Hogan, Nicholas Quinlan. Subs-Robert Quann for I.Power, James Heffernan for K Fitzgerald, Pat Walsh for P Hogan, Paul Fitzgerald for JP Collingwood.

Scorers: Eoin Connors 0-10 (0-8 frees), Conor Carey 1-1, Aaron Connors 0-1.

Referee: Tommy O’Sullivan (Cappoquin).

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