Last gasp point keeps champions Ballyduff in the title hunt

Ballyduff Upper’s Pa Kearney celebrates his hat-trick against Abbeyside during Sunday’s drawn county senior hurling championship semi-final. | Photos: Michael Kiely

Ballyduff Upper’s Pa Kearney celebrates his hat-trick against Abbeyside during Sunday’s drawn county senior hurling championship semi-final. | Photos: Michael Kiely

Ballyduff Upper 3-12; Abbeyside 2-15

Is there any end in sight to this year’s County Hurling Championship? Ballyduff Upper’s status as champions in the truest meaning of the word, irrespective of what’s to come, is beyond all argument after Sunday’s drama at Fraher Field.

This intriguing semi-final also revealed the fighting spirit of an excellent Abbeyside unit which trailed by seven points at half-time only to be denied victory by a last-minute Seamus Hannon point.

It’s been that kind of County Championship, as De La Salle continue to await their final opponents for a match scheduled for November 9th.

Despite playing against a strong first-half breeze, it was Abbeyside who forced the pace, and led by two points (0-3 to 0-1) after eight minutes.

But Ballyduff surged back in style and with team captain Stephen Molumphy clearly emerging as the most dominant hurler on view, the tide turned in their favour.

By the 10th minute, a free from Brendan Hannon and the champions’ skipper restored parity and by the end of the second quarter, they led by 0-5 to 0-3 thanks to points from Mark Gorman and Gary Hurney.

A lengthy Adrian Power puck-out was picked up by Pa Kearney who surged through for the game’s opening goal, a score which brought the game to life.

As Abbeyside continued to add to their wide tally (how they’d rue many of them by full-time), Ballyduff made more effective use of their chances at the other end, adding 1-2 without reply (Kearney’s second goal). By the 25th minute, they led by eight points.

But it was Abbeyside who finished the half strongly as Mark Gorman reduced the deficit from a free. They should have been closer had it not been for some truly awful wides – and were denied a goal in the 30th minute when Adrian Power brilliantly blocked Gary Hurney’s shot.

Early second half points from Mark Gorman and Gary Hurney gave Abbeyside renewed hope, but all that good work appeared to be undone in the 34th minute.

Inspired by Stephen Molumphy, Pa Kearney, via a deflection off defender John Hurney, completed a rare hurling phenomenon: a hat-trick.

Three goals adrift after Seamus Hannon added to Ballyduff’s advantage, it was going to take something special for Abbeyside to get out of the fire, as their hopes of a first final appearance since 1969 further receded.

But the challengers never lost their shape and made a renewed challenge to the champions.

Mark Gorman recalibrated and found his range from further placed positions and Patrick Hurney chipped in with another marvellous point and they were really on song.

And when Adrian Power was called upon to save a goal bound shot from the dangerous Mark Fives, it was clear that this game was far from decided.

While Shane Kearney came up with a point for the leaders in the 48th minute, just seconds later, the contest was turned completely on its head.

An inch perfect pass from Mark Ferncombe set up Fives for a cracking goal, and now the margin was down to four points.

That lead was eradicated in 54th minute, when, after scoring a fine point, the excellent Hurney, after a great pass from Fives, rammed the ball into the onion sack. For third time in the match, the sides were level.

Molumphy led by example and restored Ballyduff’s advantage only for Patrick Hurney to respond immediately at the other end. On the hour mark, the excellent Fives put Abbeyside ahead and it looked as if a remarkable recovery had been completed.

But Ballyduff were not about to fade from SHC ‘08 like the winter sun and up popped Hannon to force a draw. While Richie Foley’s free sailed wide at the death, Abbeyside’s 17th in total, level terms at the end was a just way for such a ding-dong battle to conclude.

They’ll do it all again at Fraher Field next Sunday at 2pm and face extra-time if so required.

And the 2008 champions won’t have too much time for laurel resting – as they’re due to line out in the Munster Club championship on Sunday, November 16th.

Abbeyside: Darryl Ryan, Tiernan Murray, John Hurney, Gavin Breen, Patrick Lynch, Richie Foley, Eoin Enright, John Foley, Sean O’Hare, Mark Fives. John Gorman, Patrick Hurney, Mark Gorman, Gary Hurney, Mark Ferncombe. Subs: John Phelan for J Foley.

Scorers: Pa Kearney (3-0), Brendan Hannon (0-5; 0-3 frees), Shane Kearney, Stephen Molumphy and Seamus Hannon (0-2 each) and Jamie Kearney (0-1).

Ballyduff Upper: Adrian Power, Patrick Molumphy, Thomas Molumphy , Michael Drislane, John Twomey, Tom Feeney, Ger Feeney, Seamus Hannon, Kenneth Geary, Jamie Kearney, Shane Kearney, Brian Kearney, Patrick Kearney, Stephen Molumphy, Brendan Hannon. Sub: Sean Cunningham for B Kearney.

Scorers: Gary Hurney and Mark Fives (1-3 each), Mark Gorman (0-4; all frees), Patrick Hurney (0-4), and John Gorman (0-1 free).

Referee: Tommy O’Sullivan (Cappoquin).

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