Thursday 14 December 2017

Oulart to go a step further


A team will read all it likes, and more, into a recovery such as that fashioned by Oulart-The Ballagh eight days ago against Ballyhale Shamrocks.

Giving lightning starts to Kilkenny teams is not a general prescription for winning matches. But they made the most of the breaks that came their way, exploited a jumpy Ballyhale full-back line and were lifted by Henry Shefflin's shortened stay. His absence was sorely felt, as it has been in the past with Kilkenny, not least on placed balls where Shefflin's strike rate remains exceptional.

On a day when the margins were tight and neither team looked particularly decisive, such a marksman would have made all the difference. TJ Reid, who tormented Oulart three years earlier, was another substantial Ballyhale loss.

Oulart haven't been hurling like they were last year or in previous campaigns, but they happily profited from Ballyhale's misfortune. They won with a majestic final score and arrive into today's Leinster final against Offaly champions Kilcormac-Killoughey perfectly poised. Warmed by a stirring victory over Grade A opposition, revealing gritty virtues and a survivor's instinct, they are also cautioned from over-estimating themselves.

Unless utterly delusional, following a shattering defeat in last year's Leinster final to Coolderry, they should not be losing the run of themselves.

Their low-wattage celebrity makes today's opponents Kilcormac-Killoughey, similar to Coolderry – an Offaly team and even less heralded. This year they won their first county senior championship and while the calibre of the opposition they've beaten in the province isn't in the same precinct as those discarded by Oulart, there is a universal reputation true to all Offaly teams – they ought not to be taken for granted. They are allowed take themselves for granted, Offaly teams, but nobody else is. Well, you're allowed, but it's not recommended.

Having probably hurled within themselves to win the semi-final over Rathdowney-Errill, needing a late rally of scores, there is an ideal platform for a raised performance here.

The Offaly champions approach in a gloriously unburdened frame of mind. But they will still do well to win; Oulart are experienced all over the field and now at the point where another defeat is scarcely permissible, this being their third final in succession.

Kilcormac-Killoughey v Oulart-The Ballagh, 2.0 (TG4 Deferred)

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