Rochford strikes late for Ballyduff
A GAME of two halves and, at the end of what developed into a quite pulsating encounter, the spoils of victory, just about, rested with Ballyduff.
Not that they didn't have to dig deep into their reserves of energy, to withstand a vibrant, second half resurgence from St Brendans. The only goal which ultimately decided the outcome, was scored, somewhat, against the run of play four minutes from the end of normal time by Ballyduff substitute Mike Rochford and certainly there was a level of debate about its legality.
For this observer's position, a St Brendans defender appeared to be fouled in his efforts to clear, the ball. However, the match official allowed the play to continue and the Ballyduff attacker fully availed of the opportunity which was presented to him and applied a straight forward finish from close range.
It came at a time when St Brendans with momentum were very much in the ascendancy being just two points adrift and, while they produced a quite admirable response in the remaining few minutes, it left them with too much to do in those latter stages.
St Brendans looked the most likely side throughout the initial stages and they did have some early scoring opportunities, both from frees and in general play. However, some poor striking understandable in the conditions cost them and having been level on one point a piece after just six minutes they struggled thereafter for the remainder of the opening half.
Three unanswered points from the influential Padraig Boyle meant that Ballyduff led by two points at the end of the opening quarter and with Jason Bowler and David Goulding solid in the pivotal defensive positions and Daniel Carroll striking some superb deliveries from wing-forward.
Pat Joe Connolly, Eric O'Connor, and a forementioned Daniel Carroll all registered points and, with Padraig Boyle landing some superb scores from distance, Ballyduff built on their scoring advantage and led by seven points (0-8/0-1) at the half time break, with the prolific Boyle, contributing five of his teams tally.
There was very little to suggest at that particular juncture, that St Brendans would make a contest of it, but they responded with an awful lot of urgency from the outset of the second half. They did have the assistance of a stiffening breeze, but it was their whole hearted endeavour in all quarters of the pitch, which ensured, that they exerted a firm grip on proceedings with full-forward, Daniel Casey, providing a lot of leadership with some extremely industrious and spirited play.
He scored his side's second point within five minutes of the restart, and after Kevin Orpen had added another from a free. St Brendans were awarded, a penalty in the fortieth minute, after Daniel Casey was fouled.
However, the resultant penalty taken, by Casey was saved brilliantly by Nicky Leen, who subsequently became one of his teams leading lights throughout, the remainder of the contest. A goal, at that stage, would have reduced, the margin to just two points, and asked, questions about Ballyduff's ability to stay afloat.
They were largely reduced to sporadic attacks, throughout, that second half, but with David Goulding resilient, in defence, they mantained a slender lead. Kevin Hannafin and Kevin Orphen, in defence, along with David Griffin in midfield pushed St Brendans forward in waves of attacks and with Cian Hussey having won a lot of ball in the first half now making his mark on the scoreboard, the Ardfert side came within touching distance, but Rochford's goal turned the tide firmly in Ballyduff's favour.
It certainly didn't dampen Ardfert's admirable enthusiasm, but with Ballyduff defending deep with determination and in numbers it made it extremely difficult for St Brendans to conjure up a match winning goal.
At the end of it all, St Brendans ambitions of the Grand Slam of championship titles were dashed, by a Ballyduff combination, whose tradition, and record, in championship finals is second to none.
Played in extremely difficult and unsuitable conditions, the supreme effort and entertainment served up was quite simply first class.
Ballyduff: Nick Leen, Cathal Kearney, Jason Bowler, Damian Lynch, Cathal Whyte, David Goulding, John Hussey, Eric O'Connor (0-1), Kevin Bowler, Kevin (Jnr) O'Connor, Padraig Boyle (0-7/0-4 frees); Anthony O'Carroll, John Dowling, Daniel O'Carroll (0-1), Pat Joe Connolly (0-1) Subs: Seamus Teague (J. Dowling), Mikey Rochford (1-0) (Kevin (Jnr) O'Connor), Kevin (Jnr) O'Connor (S. Teague)
St Brendans: Ryan Delaney, Daniel Finnegan, Kevin Hannafin, Killian Wolff, Fionan Horgan, Kevin Orpen (0-1 free), David Fitzgerald, David Griffin (0-2), Jack Savage, Gearoid Silles, Kieran Fitzgerald, John Hussey, Cian Hussey (0-6/0-4frees), Daniel Casey (0-1), Padraig Kearney (0-1) Subs: Gearoid Sheehan (G. Silles), Michael Nolan (D. Fitzgerald);
Referee: John Michael Fitzgerald (Abbeydorney)