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Ballinteer crowned

THERE were scenes of great emotion as Ballinteer St John's claimed their first ever Dublin U-21 'A' Hurling Championship title as they deservedly overcame Kilmacud Crokes at Sancta Maria last Tuesday evening.

BALLINTEER ST JOHN'S 1-12 KILMACUD CROKES 1-9

The large crowd gathered witnessed a compelling encounter that remained in the melting pot until the final whistle, with St John's producing an inspired second-half display to eventually prevail by three points.

Central to their success was the collective defensive effort that largely nullified a talented Kilmacud attack, with Frank O'Donoghue and Glenn Whelan epitomising the discipline and controlled aggression that was a feature of Ballinteer's play.

Further up the field, Aodhán Clabby maintained his excellent recent form in another influential display at wing-forward, with his largely impeccable free-taking in the second half earning his side tangible rewards for their overall dominance.

A tight encounter between these near neighbours was anticipated, and so it proved in an absorbing opening half in which Ken Kelly landed a second-minute free to push Kilmacud a point clear.

Ballinteer's policy of isolating Fearghal Duffy in their inside-forward line paid early dividends, with the captain turning sharply to fire a superb levelling point off his left-hand side soon after. Duffy was to show his predatory instincts in the fourth minute when registering the first goal of the game.

Danger

There seemed little danger as Seán Corcoran delivered a high ball from inside his own half, but Duffy availed of confusion in the Crokes defence to sweep a composed finish beyond Seán Garvey from eight yards.

That lead was enhanced four minutes later as Clabby struck from play, but Kilmacud slowly began to find their feet, with Kelly converting a 10th-minute free to help regain his side's composure.

Crokes enjoyed plentiful possession at this stage and, despite some desperate defending in the St John's defence, they still managed to trim their arrears through successive points from Tom Clarke and Dillon Mulligan.

Kilmacud subsequently delivered a serious blow to Ballinteer's ambitions at the end of the first quarter as Alex Pilkington fired clinically to the net after some untypically hesitant defensive play by St John's, failing to clear their lines adequately when the opportunity arose.

The contest settled somewhat after that blistering start, with Clabby restoring parity with two points – the second the result of a wonderful pass from Duffy.

The half ended as it began with Duffy adding another superb score for Ballinteer, but a brace of classy points from Caolan Conway and Oisín O'Rorke confirmed a marginal 1-6 to 1-5 interval lead for Crokes.

A Kelly free within three minutes of the restart doubled Kilmacud's lead, but they were struggling for fluency in attack with Enda Larkin, O'Donoghue, Whelan and Dara Morrissey putting the shackles on their respective opponents.

From their solidity, St John's grew in confidence with Clabby converting two frees to restore parity by the 39th minute.

Although Mulligan stuck a sublime score from the wing to restore his side's lead, the momentum was with Ballinteer and Clabby was on hand to level matters once again with a wonderful solo score that showcased his power and finesse. After Duffy was denied by the sharp reflexes of Garvey, St John's opened up a four-point lead with ill-disciplined defending from Crokes being punished clinically by Clabby.

Conway's 54th-minute free offered a modicum of hope to Crokes, but despite a couple of late scares in their goalmouth, Ballinteer held on with a large degree of comfort to ensure their landmark success.


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