Gort hope to create a big upset against Ballyhale

The Gort hurlers and their loyal band of supporters will head to Thurles on Saturday knowing the vast majority of people in the county and country expect them to meet their Waterloo against Kilkenny champions Ballyhale Shamrocks.

The Kilkenny club team contains such easily recognised hurling names as Henry Shefflin, James "Cha" Fitzpatrick, Michael Fennelly, TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly, who have all collected All-Stars in the past.

King Henry has eleven All-Stars, and the rest have a few All-Ireland club and a pile of All-Ireland county medals in their possession too.

The Ballyhale men are 2/7 favourites to be in action on St Patrick’s Day, whereas the Galway champions can be had at 10/3 and higher to jump this particular fence. Those odds reflect how many people see Saturday panning out.

However all those statistics and facts will not count for much when the ball is thrown in at Semple stadium (3.45pm ) and it is 15 against 15.

Sport is littered with Goliaths who have been felled when it was least expected to happen.

The Gort club has been at this stage a few times before and the experience of three years ago when they were defeated at this juncture should steel them for the task that lies ahead.

Gort team captain Greg Lally works in Medtronic and he has been in splendid form in the team's run to the All-Ireland semi-final.

He acknowledges they are big outsiders, but he is optimistic about their chances.

"Very few people expected us to beat Portumna in the county final either. All we have been doing over the past few weeks is focusing on our own job and how we need to perform individually and as a group. We cannot control what people outside our camp are saying or thinking.

“The mood among the 33 players on our panel is positive and our training has been going really well. We are going to Semple Stadium to give it our absolute best shot. We'll see where that takes us."

Lally was wing-back in 2011 when they won the county title, but he now anchors the defence and is enjoying the responsibility of captaincy too. His brother Gavin is in goal and there are eight sets of brothers on the panel which makes it a very tight knit group.

"We are all very close and things are going very well for the club at the moment. A lot of younger lads are involved this year and we have six minors on the panel which augurs well for the future.

“The management team of Mike Finn, Gerry Spellman and Mattie Murphy have done fantastic work with us over the past 14 months and the improvement and progression of all the hurlers on our panel has been very positive. We are enjoying our hurling and our training and that is always a good sign."

Greg and Gavin's father, Gerry, was on the Gort team in 1984 that was beaten by Ballyhale in the All-Ireland semi-final and it is a piece of history they do not want repeated.

"A lot of the players this weekend have very strong family links and connections with the Gort team that won county titles in 1981 and 1984. However that is a long time ago now and we have to try to go out and make out own history and play at the highest level we can.

"When we won the county title in 2011 there was not much focus on the All-Ireland series, but this time there has been and our preparations have been better as a result.

"Ballyhale is a serious outfit, we all know that. They have won four or five All-Ireland titles for a reason. We respect them, but that said, we are going out on Saturday with a lot of belief in our own ability. It will take a massive performance from us to win, but it is one we believe we are capable of delivering."

• The game is live on TG4 and in the other semi-final Kilmallock take on St Patrick's, Portaferry (2pm ). That game is also being shown on TG4.


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