Tomorrow will see a novel pairing in this year’s Connacht Colleges Senior C Hurling final, as Ballyhaunis Community School make the journey to Kenny Park in Athenry to play Mercy College, Woodford.
Mercy College is a small secondary school with just 150 students, with hurling and camogie being an important part of the school’s activities. The school draws its hurlers from the nearby Tommy Larkins Hurling Club, which is the home club of RTE hurling pundit and former Galway hurling manager Cyril Farrell.
The Ballyhaunis Community School side is drawn from the east Mayo hurling strongholds of the Tooreen and Ballyhaunis GAA clubs. Backboned by the Tooreen u16 side who claimed the Connacht GAA Club Championship last November, this Ballyhaunis school hurling team have shown very little respect for tradition in recent Connacht Colleges ties.
Ballyhaunis CS started off their campaign with an impressive win over St Enda’s (Galway city ) on a scoreline of 4-13 to 2-8. They then went on to defeat New Inn Community School (Galway ) on a similar scoreline to qualify for their semifinal showdown against Colaiste Mhuire Ballygar (Galway ). In that semifinal played in Tuam Stadium, the Ballyhaunis CS lads showed steely determination to win on a scoreline of 3-14 to 1-12 to set up this showdown with Woodford.
The Ballyhaunis CS side has been driven all year long by PE teacher Ray Woolley, who has nurtured hurling within the school over the past number of years. External coaching support is provided for the team by Nicholas Freyne (Tooreen HC ) and Jonathon Griffin (Ballyhaunis GAA ), in what has been a very successful and efficient set-up all season, while Davog Freyne (overage student ) also provides coaching support to the group. Praise must also go to the teaching staff of Ballyhaunis Community School for their support of hurling in an already busy calendar of sporting events.
The Ballyhaunis CS team which will take the field next Saturday will not be found wanting for skill, strength, determination, and a raw love for the game of hurling. Bobby Douglas has kept the goal intact in recent games, and if called upon will supply great confidence to his defenders in front of him. The Ballyhaunis CS defence has stood firm all year, with numerous Galway forwards left frustrated by the Ballyhaunis rearguard, with John Cassidy, PJ Burke, Conor Hunt, Michael Freyne, and Callum Gardiner all proving their worth in the campaign. With All-Ireland Minor C winners medals in their back pockets, Mark Phillips, James Lyons, and Adrian Boyle will provide strong leadership also. The midfield pairing of Niall Robinson and Aiden Henry, members of the Mayo Minor Hurlers last year, prove to be real dynamos in the team’s drive forward. Up front is where the matches are decided, and with Brian Morley, Sean Kenny, and the Phillips brothers Cormac and Eamon - this Ballyhaunis side can cause a threat to any hurling stronghold. Ryan Kilbane, Shane Crinnegan, and Dylan Niland can also provide goalscoring touches - especially Niland - who scored a hat-trick of goals when introduced off the bench in their round two defeat of New Inn in January.
The game throws-in at 3.30pm in Kenny Park, Athenry, with Pat McGrath (Rahoon ) officiating. The winners of this tie will progress to the All-Ireland Senior C semifinal which will be held on Saturday March 7 against the winners of the Leinster final.