Tuesday 25 September 2018

Walsh strikes back at the death

Munster IHC Semi-Final: Ballyduff 2-12 Kanturk 1-20

Jack Goulding Ballyduff, in action against and Ryan Walsh, Kanturk in action during the Munster club IHC semi-final in Austin Stack Park on Sunday
Jack Goulding Ballyduff, in action against and Ryan Walsh, Kanturk in action during the Munster club IHC semi-final in Austin Stack Park on Sunday

Damian Stack, Austin Stack Park

When the fat was in the fire Kanturk came up with the goods.

Ballyduff, through sheer bloodymindedness and no little skill, had battled their way back to parity in the game. Kanturk, having opened out an eight to zip lead in the opening thirteen minutes, could have been reeling by now.

Paul O'Carroll's goal for the hosts, put them under real pressure, all square on sixty minute, but if Kanturk were under pressure they thrived under it. A brilliant breakaway move saw them sweep from one end of Stack Park to another.

Determination saw Ian Walsh bundle the ball over the line to secure their passage to the Munster final. Brilliant stuff, albeit heartbreaking stuff for the Kerry men who really gave themselves too much to do after those opening minutes of the match.

Credit of course must go to Kanturk who were the more tuned in side at the start, the slicker and more clinical side, but Ballyduff were nowhere near where they needed to be. Having won the toss and having opted to play against the breeze in the first half the Kerry champions had to know an onslaught was on the way.

Knowing that and playing as they did, sloppily, tentatively, they played right into Kanturk's hands. Watching those opening thirteen minutes of play the Cork kingpins were close to poetry in motion, their touch was good, their finishing top drawer.

After four minutes they held a two point lead - Lorcán McLoughlin and Liam O'Keeffe with the scores. After eight minutes they were a further three clear - O'Keeffe again, Ian Walsh and Aidan Walsh with the other two scores.

Further scores from McLouglin (a '65) and two from Alan O'Keeffe pushed them eight clear and with that most observers would have been ready to put a pin in this game and call it done.

Ballyduff, though, are made of sterner stuff. In the space of two minutes they cut Kanturk's formidable advantage in half. On fourteen minutes Pádraig Boyle did as Pádraig Boyle does and collected a ball - deflected by his brother Aidan, who else? - and struck to the back of Anthony Nash's net.

Less than a minute later and Boyle had the ball over the bar for the first time to cut the deficit in half - 0-8 to 1-1 now. In as much as Ballyduff were left reeling by Kanturk's power-packed start that turnaround in fortunes in such a short period of time had the potential to knock Kanturk's confidence.

If it did, it didn't show. In response to Boyle's free the excellent Liam O'Keeffe delivered a lovely point from play. By now, however, Ballyduff had found their footing. They won a majority of Kanturk's puck-outs in the first half, something which wouldn't have been expected before the match given Nash's quality.

The game assumed a frenetic posture by now. Kanturk's early clinical edge deserted them and by the end of the half had squandered a large number of chances (they pucked nine wides, seven of which were scoring chances).

Ballyduff weren't much better and even struck the upright with a free from Pádraig Boyle. Granted conditions were difficult, but those were the chances Ballyduff needed if they were to stand a chance of really challenging Kanturk in the second half.

As it was Ballyduff went in at the break six down - 1-3 to 0-12 - with Kanturk taking the last two scores of the half (sandwiching a wide from a free by Boyle) through the impressive Ian Walsh and cousin Aidan.

At the break Ballyduff had to have been the happier side, despite everything they were still in this game. That's not, of course, to say that Kanturk weren't happy. A six point lead is nothing to be sniffed at.

Kanturk were still favoured to win, but Ballyduff had a sliver of a chance and they grabbed it with both hands. Bit by bit they chased down that Kanturk lead. After ten minutes of the half they'd whittled that six point advantage down to four, 1-7 to 0-14.

Still Kanturk, it seemed, were just doing enough to get by. As long as they kept getting the odd score here and there, as they did in that opening ten minutes of the second half, they'd be alright, just about.

The following ten minutes followed a similar pattern. Ballyduff were clearly on top, thanks in no small part to a brilliant performance by Mikey Boyle who claimed four puck outs alone during this crunch period of the game.

By the fiftieth minute, however, Kanturk had managed to extend their advantage back to five - 1-9 to 0-17 - but even during this spell there were signs of danger for the visitors to the Kingdom.

On forty seven minutes Ballyduff looked to break the cover and Kanturk had to scramble to foul Liam Boyle as he made his way towards goal.

Over the next five minutes Ballyduff managed to close down that five point Kanturk lead to three - points from Pádraig Boyle (two frees) and David Goulding for Ballyduff, a point from second half Kanturk sub James Fitzpatrick.

The atmosphere on the John Joe Sheehy Road by now was electric. It often feels like Ballyduff feed off the crowd and with them urging them on they finally picked that Kanturk lock.

Aidan Boyle set up Pádraig Boyle for a shot well saved by Nash, but there first to pick up the pieces was O'Carroll. It really was a remarkable turn of events. Level game, 2-12 to 0-18.

Moments later they had the chance to take the lead through Pádraig Boyle (who won the puck out turned and shot), alas his shot trailed just wide. With that Kanturk got their skates on and caught out the Kerry men with a brilliantly worked move.

Donnacha Kennelly and Liam O'Keeffe were both involved in setting up Walsh for the winner. Joy unbound for the sizeable Kanturk crowd in attendance, but heartbreak for Ballyduff. Kanturk had finally broken them. Points from Lorcan O'Neill and Walsh rounded out the scoring.

The better team probably did win, but Ballyduff's spirit and determination truly was something to see. Kanturk will be better for it.

Ballyduff: PJ O'Gorman, Ally O'Connor, Pádraig O'Grady, Cathal Kearney, David Goulding (0-2), Paud Costello, Eoin Ross, Daniel O'Carroll, Mikey Boyle (0-2), Liam Boyle, Anthony O'Carroll (0-1), Jack O'Sullivan, Pádraig Boyle (1-5, 5f), Aidan Boyle (0-1), Jack Goulding (0-1) Subs: Paul O'Carroll (1-0) for A O'Connor, 43, Gary O'Brien, 50

Kanturk: Anthony Nash, Paul Walsh, John McLouglin, Alan Sheehy, John Browne, Darren Brown, Mark Healy, Lorcán McLouglin (0-2, 1f, 1 '65), Ryan Walsh, Ian Walsh (1-4), Lorcan O'Neill (0-3), Alan O'Keeffe (0-3), Donnacha Kennelly, Aidan Walsh (0-2), Liam O'Keeffe (0-5, 3f) Subs: James Fitzpatrick (0-1) for M Healy, 48

Referee: Rory McGann (Clare)

The Game in 60 seconds

Main man

It's between Ian Walsh - excellent throughout and scorer of the winning goal - and Mikey Boyle. We can't not go for Boyle. He was the best man on the pitch and give a perfect demonstration of leadership in action.

Talking Point

Will Kerry ever get over the hump in Munster? Surely they will but another year goes by without success at this level.

Key moment

Ian Walsh's goal was the thing which finally killed off a hugely spirited Ballyduff performance. It was a great move by Kanturk to set it up too and he still needed a rebound from an excellent PJ O'Gorman to secure it. This was a game of fine margins