Fennelly hails team ethic as Shamrocks avenge last year's mauling
WATCHING the DVD of last year's 5-11 to 1-16 mauling by Portumna didn't make pleasant viewing for the Ballyhale players but it served its purpose.
Error after error cascaded down in front of their eyes, convincing them that, in reality, they were the authors of their own misfortunes rather than the victims of a Portumna power surge.
"We knew we made some terrible mistakes last year. We managed to cut them out today and that was crucial," said Michael Fennelly, Ballyhale co-manager with former Kilkenny star James McGarry.
In fact, Ballyhale didn't concede a goal for the second successive game, which would have pleased McGarry, a man with a proven reputation for shut-outs on big days. But then it delighted the whole of Ballyhale and was, according to Fennelly, built on a real team ethic.
"Hooking and blocking was the key today. We were disappointed by what happened against Portumna last year and, in fairness to the backs, they were a lot tighter this time. Winning the All-Ireland title for a fifth time is an amazing achievement for a club like ours," he said.
Portumna came to Croke Park in search of a record-breaking All-Ireland three-in-a-row, only to find that while history can beckon you to the front door, it doesn't always allow you inside.
"No complaints, no excuses, Ballyhale were the better side," said Portumna manager Johnny Kelly.
He identified the first 15 minutes as possibly the most crucial period of all as it left Portumna chasing the game rather than setting the agenda as has been their norm.
"We missed a few early chances whereas Ballyhale took theirs and once they built up an early lead they were always going to be very hard to peg back. But look, we're very proud of what we have achieved. We'll take today's defeat on the chin and try and come back an even better team," he said.
Ballyhale captain Eamonn Walsh spoke of the disappointment they felt after last year's semi-final and how it provided them with a huge motivation which ensured they kept their focus, first during the Kilkenny championship, then in Leinster and ultimately at All-Ireland level.
"Beating Newtownshandrum and Portumna is a great way to win the title," he said. "We worked very hard for this and were rewarded today. Portumna are an exceptional side but we cut down on the mistakes today which made all the difference."