Sunday, 17th December 2017
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Ardmore going for gold

Sunday next could prove a Red Letter Day for Ardmore GAA club as the Waterford Junior Hurling champions appear in the Provincial decider in Mallow against their Tipperary counterparts Ballybacon/ Grange. The men from the Big Strand have proven themselves imperious throughout the Provincial campaign with huge wins over St Patrick's of Limerick (4-20 to 0-11) and Bodyke of Clare (5-22 to 1-8) in the lead up to this final.

That said they must now continue their exhilarating form as they face a very strong outfit from the Premier county who themselves have overcome Kerry champions Kenmare rather comprehensively 5-24 to 1-4. Their semi-final saw them beat a St Catherine's (Cork) outfit who were expected to make a huge bid for outright honours but again it was Ballybacon/ Grange who were on the right side of the scoreboard 1-11 to 0-9 at the finish. The Tipperary club, home club of Michael "Babs" Keating, have been knocking on the door of their domestic competition, winning the South Tipp title in 2016 before finally making the breakthrough this year. Indeed they also share a successful history in the annals of Tipperary hurling having won the senior title away back in 1968.

Goalkeeper Brendan Cummins has been a huge influence for the team as indeed he was for the Tipperary Senior Hurlers for over a decade. His long range freetaking proving so very important in both the County and Provincial championship. Their defence will be well marshalled by team captain and centre back Craig Corrigan with Colin O'Gorman and Sean Nagle cutting the dangers from their wing back position. Behind this trio Eoin and Philip Walsh along with Michael Barlow form a solid last line of defence. Midfielders Michael O'Sullivan and Brian Dillon have really gelled throughout this campaign and will hope to gain some kind of advantage in the engine room.

Up front the Ballybacon/Grange team outfit will look particularly to centre forward Billy Hewitt and Declan Walsh on the edge of the square to create scores and bring the rest of the attackers into the play.

Certain to start in forward positions are Daniel O'Regan, Aaron Lonergan, Aidan Savage and Gerry Cronin and each one of them is capable of creating and taking scores given the right possession. However, Ardmore must be aware of the freetaking ability of former multiple All-Ireland Puc Fada winner Brendan Cummins as he has the ability to deliver long range scores from well within his own half.

FAVOURITES

Waterford kingpins Ardmore, go into this game as favourites following their hugely impressive displays to date. However a favourites tag will not deliver glory and it is so important that the men from the Big Strand show no complacency in their quest for that glory. Yes, this a very accomplished outfit, perhaps, one of the best from the county in recent years. Powered by former intercounty stars the Prendergasts along with the Hennessys, Gartlands and Seamus Keating they are a formidable team and at this stage look as though they will be a huge addition to the Intermediate ranks in 2018.

Goalkeeper Jack Walsh will be the last line of defence behind a very experienced full back line where Declan Prendergast will be flanked by Niall Hennessy and Daniel Power. Outside this trio centre back Seamus Keating is quickly climbing the ranks of the senior ladder and will hope to dominate this area with both Gavin Williams and Richie Hennessy closing down the flanks. With Kenny Murphy and the hugely talented Wayne Hennessy operating in the workhouse that is midfield, they will expect to, at the very least, gain parity in this area.

Up front Ardmore will look to superb former Intercounty star Seamus Prendergast to unlock the key of the Ballybacon/ Grange defence. The big man had for so many years been an integral part of Waterford intercounty teams with his ability to win possession and he can bring the rest of the forward division into play. It is reasonable to expect that John Gartland along with James Kennedy will form a very potent half line with the excellent David Gartland at centre forward. Seamus Prendergast on the edge of the square will hope to create the space for James Flavin and Kieran Conway to punish Ballybacon/Grange at every opportunity. Best wishes to Ardmore in their quest for the Billy O'Neill Cup and hopefully this is another step on the road to glory.

FOOTBALL MATTERS

Last weekend saw the completion of the JJ Kavanagh sponsored Waterford Senior Football semi-finals where holders Stradbally overcame Kilrossanty 0-13 to 0-11 to see them safely through to another county final and a chance to reclaim the Conway Cup.

With the teams level at half time 0-6 apiece it took late points from Jack Mullally and Kevin Lawlor to secure a place in the final. Stradbally had man of the match Shane Ahearne in excellent scoring form and no doubt Nire will be well aware of the potential threat of the Stradbally man. An interesting statistic for the seaside village is that they have appeared in fifteen of the last twenty four finals winning nine. In that period Nire have won eight while also appearing in thirteen. There is a great respect and healthy rivalry between the sides with Stradbally winning in 2015 and Nire in 2016 which no doubt will bring a huge crowd to Dungarvan on Sunday next.

There is a saying that "there is many a slip between cup and lip" and that very nearly proved true for Nire on Sunday afternoon. In what was a terrific encounter against An Rinn the reigning holders of the Conway Cup were made to go all the way to the wire before securing their place on Sunday next. Corey de Roiste opened the scoring for An Rinn but hurling star Conor Gleeson and Dermot Ryan edged the champions ahead midway through the half. Two goals for the team from the Gaeltacht in a five minute spell from Lorcan O'Corraoin and the magnificent Liam O'Lonain had them ahead 2-2 to 0-4 and the crown teetered. Conor Gleeson goaled for Nire and Shane Walsh added a second just after the break. Scores level 2-4 to 2-4.

The game remained close and hugely competitive with An Rinn holding a slender two point lead (2-10 to 2-8) as the game went to additional time. The heartbreak was just around the corner for the team from the Gaeltacht as Shane Ryan, who had earlier missed a penalty, was on hand to fist to the net. Nire had come back and a 3-8 to 2-10 scoreline gave them the win to keep them on course to retain the Conway Cup. A truly great game and An Rinn will surely learn from this experience and come back better than ever in 2018.

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