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Reid and Fennelly to drive Ballyhale to final

Leinster Club SHC Semi, Naomh Éanna v Ballyhale, Wexford Park, Tom, 1.30

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Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin

Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin

Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin

Ballyhale have won Leinster in four of the last five attempts after winning the Kilkenny SHC, but prior to this year their last county title came in 2014.

In the meantime, their greatest ever player, Henry Shefflin, has taken over and all the early evidence suggests his managerial career could have similarities with his remarkably successful playing career.

Given his status in the game, Shefflin was already being touted as a future Kilkenny manager, long before he assumed control at his club and the signs are promising.

This might not be as strong a Ballyhale team as the one that won the club's sixth All-Ireland in 2015 but they aren't without their charms.

In the county final, a 2-20 to 2-17 victory over Bennettsbridge, all six starting forwards scored from play, as did both of the team's wing-backs.

The contribution of TJ Reid (1-10, 0-8f) was expected but there is clearly more to come from Colin Fennelly, who was subdued at full-forward and scored just a point.

His brother, Michael, was powerful at centre-back that day and at this level and particularly at this time of year, his injury problems don't hinder his influence to the same extent as it did in his final season with Kilkenny.

Shocks

With a bye in the Leinster quarter-final and three weeks to celebrate, repair and prepare for this match, a Ballyhale win is easy to see.

Naomh Éanna, meanwhile, are in a completely different category of club.

This Wexford SHC success was the first in the club's history and their final victory over champions St Martin's was considered one of the biggest shocks in the competition's recent history.

They hadn't even played in a final before this year, yet with Conor McDonald and Cathal Dunbar in serious form up front, they posed a potent scoring threat.

Against Camross in the provincial quarter-final, they trailed by 0-5 to 0-1 after eight minutes in Portlaoise but goals from McDonald and David O'Brien settled them into a rhythm that they maintained for the remainder of the match.

In Pádraig Doyle, they have a long-range free taker of great skill and their defence is solidly marshalled by Brendan Travers, Eoin Conroy, Jack Cullen and Eoin Molloy.

For all that though, Ballyhale have the pedigree and the experience and with Shefflin in charge, they have an apparently renewed ambition to scale previous summits.

In Reid, they have perhaps the game's outstanding marksman and a solid defensive leader in the hulking shape for Michael Fennelly.

Odds: Naomh Éanna 5/2, Draw 8/1, Ballyhale 2/5

Verdict: Ballyhale


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