Ballyragget will have to be at their best
All-Ireland junior club hurling final St Patrick’s Ballyragget v Charleville | Croke Park: Saturday 5.30pm
By Pat Treacy
St Patrick’s Ballyragget will live the dream next Saturday evening as they walk out onto the hallowed turf of Croke Park in their bid for All-Ireland glory.
The players and selectors will represent their families, their club, their parish, and their county on the biggest stage. A close-knit band of hurlers who grew up together about to battle for the biggest prize.
That is the romance, but what about the game?
If St Patrick’s Ballyragget are to win the AIB All-Ireland junior club title in Croke Park, they will have to do something they have failed to do in the championship so far this season, and that is to play for the full 60 minutes. The men in maroon and white have generally dominated the first half of their games, followed by a poor third quarter and then nervously close out the game in the closing stages.
Ballyragget’s county final performance against Piltown was typical of their efforts in 2011. They dominated the first half, and carved out at least four goal scoring chances without rattling the net. They appeared to have a commanding lead as the second half wore on, but then sat back and allowed Piltown back into the game and were glad to hear the final whistle in the end.
St Pat’s have played some great hurling on their journey to winning the county and provincial titles. Some of their point scoring has been top-drawer stuff. They have created many goal chances during the campaign, but they have lacked the clinical finish in that department. They will have to be ruthless on Saturday evening in Croke Park.
The trip through Leinster was a handy run of games against inferior opposition, and Ballyragget won those games with ease. That provincial run along with the under-21s journey to the Roinn ‘A’ title has given this squad a huge amount of confidence and know-how.
The win in the semi-final against Ballygar of Galway was a lovely way to win a game before playing a final. The Kilkenny champions were never in danger of losing, yet the opposition gave them enough trouble to make everyone realise that an improvement is needed.
The return of full back Geoff Morrissey is a timely boost, however the team will be without their captain Kieran Delaney who injured his hamstring during the week.
Charleville are coming into this game with a bit of a reputation. They have sauntered through Munster and beat Fullen Gaels of Warwickshire 1-17 to 0-6 in the All-Ireland semi-final. In the Munster final they beat the Limerick champions Cappamore, 3-15 to 2-8. The Limerick club team gave them a game for 40 minutes, before the superior Charleville pulled away.
Charleville are a young free-scoring team, that includes the Cork Young Hurler of the Year James O’ Brien at corner forward and a very cultured centre half back in Colm O’Flynn. Andrew Cagney is a handful in the right corner of the attack, while Brendan Dennehy and Mark Kavanagh are also capable of taking a score.
There is plenty of confidence in the Charleville club, but they have not played a team of Ballyragget’s quality on the road to the final.
This Ballyragget team have had a fantastic championship run since September, achieving a brilliant double at junior and under-21 level. It has been an historic run, and now they are 60 minutes away from the crowning glory of an All-Ireland club title. If St Patrick’s succeed in producing an even performance over the hour, like their under-21s in the county final, they will win the title.
With up to six players in the Ballyragget squad having Croke Park experience on All-Ireland final day, they should have the ability and know-how to bring home the silverware.