Eoin Moore's mighty point from all of 70 metres gave Oulart-The Ballagh a thrilling victory over the Kilkenny kingpins in a gripping provincial semi-final in Wexford Park yesterday.
Wexford hurling at inter-county level may be in the doldrums at the moment, but Oulart proved here that there is something to work on in the future as they put a terrible start behind them, during which they conceded 1-3 without reply, before getting their game together and qualifying for their third consecutive provincial final.
"That was a great win," enthused star attacker Darren Nolan. "It took heart, guts and a lot of hard hurling to win that game.
"Shamrocks are some team and beating them was great. But we have won nothing yet. Now we have to drive on in the final."
Shamrocks suffered badly after Hurler of the Year Henry Shefflin left the field injured before the break. The news from the Kilkenny camp afterwards was that the nine-times All-Ireland medal winner had suffered either an ankle ligament problem or a broken bone.
"We can have no complaints really," suggested Shamrocks manager Tommy Shefflin. "We scored only one point in the second half, and you can't expect to win games at that level with such returns."
Everything looked rosy in the garden for Shefflin's team when they blasted the opposition for 1-3 during the opening five minutes.
James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick drilled over two points, and a third from Eoin Reid was followed by a top-class goal from Colin Fennelly, who blasted the sliotar to the net from 20 metres after a defender lost his footing.
But Oulart dragged themselves back into the game slowly, with Rory Jacob causing the opposition a lot of problems. They had the next four scores from Rory Jacob (2), Conor O'Leary and the hugely influential David Redmond to get over the early shock to the system.
They did live dangerously at times, and David Hoyne and Michael Fennelly might have scored goals for the winners. Fennelly actually had the ball in the net in the 26th minute, but the score was scrubbed because it was ruled he had over-carried.
Oulart enjoyed better luck as they finished the half strongly. Garrett Sinnott netted in the 29th minute and Redmond added an even later point to give them a huge lift.
At half-time, the Shamrocks, now short Shefflin, led by 1-9 to 1-6.
Oulart charged into the second half, and early points from a now-flying Nolan and Frank Cullen had the big home crowd humming. The next score was Sharmocks' lone point of the half from Fitzpatrick in the 38th minute (1-10 to 1-8).
However, they missed three chances from frees afterwards that made fans wonder about the loss of Shefflin, who only returned to hurling in June after being sidelined for six months with a shoulder injury.
It took Oulart until the 49th minute to draw level through a point from a '65' by Nicky Kirwan (1-10 each). By now the home crowd was in full voice and they cheered their heroes to the echo.
The exchanges were wonderful during the closing 10 minutes or so, but the only score, wing-back Moore's long-range point in the 62nd minute, was worthy of deciding any game.
The winners play Kilcormac Killoughey in the final in Nowlan Park next Sunday (2.0).
Scorers – Oulart-The Ballagh: G Sinnott 1-0; R Jacob, D Nolan, D Redmond 0-2 each; N. Kirwan 0-2 (1f, 1 '65); E Moore, C O'Leary, F Cullen 0-1 each. Ballyhale Shamrocks: J Fitzpatrick 0-6 (1f), C Fennelly 1-1, E Reid 0-2, H Shefflin 0-1f.
Oulart-The Ballagh: B O'Connor; D Morton, K Rossiter, B Kehoe; C Goff, D Stamp, E Moore; D Redmond, S Murphy; D Nolan, P Roche, C O'Leary; R Jacob, G Sinnott, N Kirwan. Subs: L Prendergast for C Goff (10), F Cullen for S Murphy (37), D Mythen for P Roche (43).
Ballyhale Shamrocks: R Reid; P Shefflin, A Cummins, A Cuddihy; M Dermody, J Holden, R Aylward; E Walsh, M Fennelly; J Fitzpatrick, H Shefflin, M Aylward; D Hoyne, C Fennelly, E Reid. Subs: P Reid for Shefflin (inj, 22), L Grant for D Hoyne (45).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)