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Whelahan's amazing run continues

BIRR 1-18 BALLYSKENACH 1-11 Colm Keys Offaly SHC Final PAD JOE WHELAHAN sealed his place in Offaly club championship history at rain and wind swept Birr yesterday.

A seven-point success for Birr over Ballskenach makes him the solitary 'hands on' link between the only two Offaly clubs to have claimed five consecutive county titles.

As a player with St Rynagh's, he won 10 championships including the five from 1972 to '76. Now as manager, he has equalled that record with Birr in what was the 26th senior county final he has found himself involved in between Birr, St Ryangh's and Toomevara, who he guided to three Tipperary titles.

His all-conquering Birr side gave him few anxious moments against the final newcomers from the Tipperary border as their two and a half year unbeaten championship record remained intact.

Pad Joe senses however that maintaining the momentum over the next five months won't be easy and somewhere along the way they could be caught.

"I can't see us going again," he surmised. "Maybe Leinster, but it's hard to keep it going. We'll take on this club championship with a lot less pressure than other years. These lads have been through a lot, six county finals in seven years, going for a fourth All-Ireland in five years."

Once Ballyskenach failed to build a lead with strong wind assistance in the first half, they were doomed.

They went down fighting however as a Brendan Murphy goal helped to cut an eight-point deficit to just three at one stage in the second half.

However, spurred on by the power of the Hannifys, Gary and Rory and the guile of Brian Whelahan, Gary Cahill, captain Niall Claffey and Declan Pilkington, Birr steadied themselves and kicked for home.

Ballyskenach needed some momentum with that strong wind in the first half but, crucially, failed to score from play. They were entirely dependant on the free-taking of Mick O'Hara, who landed two points, and Eoghan Franks who struck four.

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In contrast, Birr drove through the middle to establish an early lead that they never relinquished.

They built up a 0-8 to 0-6 lead by the interval. Ballskenach remained in touch for most of the third quarter, but were knocked back by a well-struck Johnny Pilkington goal on 43 minutes.

SCORERS - Birr: R Hannify 0-6 (4f), G Hannify 0-5, J Pilkington 1-1, Brian Whelahan 0-3 (1f), D Hayden, Barry Whelahan, S Whelahan 0-1 each. Ballyskenach: E Franks 0-7 (7f), B Murphy 1-0, M O'Hara 0-2 (2f), J Dooley, A Franks 0-1 each.

BIRR - B Mullins; G Cahill, J Errity, J P O'Meara; P Molloy, Brian Whelahan, N Claffey; S Browne, Barry Whelahan; R Hannify, G Hannify, D Hayden; D Pilkington, J Pilkington, S Whelahan.

BALLYSKENACH - T O'Toole; E Hannon, C Murphy, B Franks; B Keeshan, M O'Hara, M Kirwan; D Franks, A Middleton; A Franks, N Murphy, D Carney; J Dooley, B Murphy, E Franks.

REF - B Galvin (Clara).

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