Ballyduff's second-half fightback fires them to top of tree
Ballyduff 2-11 Crotta O'Neills 0-15
hot favourites Ballyduff fought back from six points down eight minutes into the second half at Austin Stack Park in Tralee yesterday to score two goals and break Crotta hearts.
They now stand alone on top of the Kerry hurling roll of honour with 23 senior titles -- one ahead of bitter rivals Kilmoyley.
Crotta were devastated at the final whistle as they knew a famous victory slipped from their grasp. Leading 0-12 to 0-6 eight minutes into the second period, they shot six wides in as many minutes with Ballyduff on the ropes. Shane Nolan also looked certain to goal but somehow Liam Boyle got across to save the day for the champions.
It seemed a terrible injustice that Kerry senior star Nolan, who is line for the Christy Ring Cup Player of the Year, should finish on the losing side having scored an incredible 0-13 of his side's total.
Crotta dominated the opening half as they used the wind to telling effect, with Nolan unerring from frees and play, scoring nine points of his side's total of 10.
Ballyduff appeared to be at odds with their game and it took some excellent defensive work from their captain Ally O'Connor and Liam Boyle to keep them in touch.
Crotta were 0-5 to 0-2 in front by the end of the opening quarter, with Nolan running a succession of markers ragged, as they tried to end a 43-year title famine.
However, minors Pat Joe Connolly and Padraig Boyle kept Ballyduff in touch -- with Connolly scoring two points and Boyle one -- but much would depend on whether Crotta could achieve something they had not managed all season -- performing in the second half.
Perform they did but Ballyduff started to dominate around midfield, where Padraig O'Grady, O'Connor, Liam and Mikey Boyle began to win breaking ball and after Nolan's early brace Ballyduff hit back in typical fashion.
Firstly, in the 39th minute Gary O'Brien fed Anthony O'Carroll and the corner-forward scored a soft goal.
This seemed to ignite Ballyduff as Crotta wasted chance after chance and they were made pay in the 49th minute when Barry O'Grady's high cross was fielded by Gary O'Brien and he scored a second goal that gave his side the lead for the first time by 2-9 to 0-14.
Ballyduff were not about to concede the goal that Crotta needed as late points from Padraig Boyle and Bobby O'Sullivan saw them post back-to-back titles under new Antrim boss Jerry Wallis.
Ballyduff will now face a Munster battle with Cork intermediate champions Courcey Rovers who are ironically coached by Kerry boss John Meyler.
Scorers -- Ballyduff: B O'Sullivan 0-7 (0-6f, 0-1 '65), G O'Brien, A O'Carroll 1-0 each, P Boyle, PJ Connolly 0-2 each. Crotta O'Neills: S Nolan 0-13 (0-11f), C Lynch, I McCarthy 0-1 each.
Ballyduff -- PJ O'Gorman; J Bowler, P Costello, D O'Grady; L Boyle, A O'Connor, P O'Grady; B O'Sullivan, B O'Grady; G O'Brien, A Boyle, M Boyle; PJ Connolly, P Boyle , A O'Carroll.
Crotta O'Neills -- S Twomey; D Galvin, P Twomey, TB McElligott; D Twomey, A Keane, P Quille; C Lynch, R Nolan; Matt Lynch, Mike Lynch, S Weir; I McCarthy, D Carney, S Nolan. Subs: P Costello for Nolan (29), E O'Sullivan for Carney (45), T Cronin for McCarthy (51), B Culhane for Lynch (53).
Ref -- J Healy (Clare).