Early summer silverware up for grabs

Thursday, 3 May 2018

WE LIVE in strange days as far as the GAA is concerned. Next Saturday, May 5, the Denis Meats North Tipperary Intermediate Hurling final between holders Ballinahinch and Borrisokane will take place at Toomevara with a 7pm throw in.
Yes that's right folks a North Intermediate Hurling Final played in the first weekend of May and not in the traditional Autumn schedule due to the constraints of the new GAA season when the months of May, June and July are devoid of club championship fare.
A quick glance at the history books tells us that August 15, 1959 was the earliest date a North Intermediate hurling final was played when Burgess easily defeated Roscrea at Nenagh.
Historic times indeed and even more historic is that Ballinahinch not only hope to retain the title but also strive for a third in a row - a feat not attained in the grade since Silvermines achieved it in 1999.
Their journey so far this season saw them recover from their opening round defeat to Moyne Templetuohy in the county championship to defeat Shannon Rovers in the North semi final at Puckane on April 22.
They needed two periods of extra time to put Rovers away on a 0-21 to 0-19 scoreline after the sides finished level at 0-16 each at the end of 60 minutes.
It was a brave effort by the champions. Having come from behind they needed the leadership of Shane McGrath, John Foley, Donnacha McGrath and Shane Grace to haul them back. In addition the side stepping runs of David Gleeson whose ability to pick off scores benefited his team greatly. And while Gleeson, Vincent Kearns, Shane McGrath and Alan Kelly can pick off valuable scores from play the jewel in the crown is the accuracy of Brendan Ryan on frees. His performance in the semi final was on a par with the best.
Borrisokane on the other hand reached the final with an extra game. Similar to Ballinahinch they lost their opening county championship encounter when losing to Drom Inch. The very poor performance was a shock to the system as they failed to score in the second half. But since then they recovered to beat Kiladangan in the quarter final at Ballinderry on April 21 and eight days later came from behind to overcome Moneygall in the semi final at Cloughjordan last Saturday.
It was a great win for the Greens who looked down and out at half time as they trailed by eight points before two goals by Shane Dooley and Philip Austin - inside the opening six minutes of the second half - gave them the momentum to maintain a lead to the finish.
Since winning their second North title last year, the champions have been hit badly with injuries. Unavailable up to now include John Ryan, Tom Grace who are both injured while Marcus Ryan has retired. If John Kennedy's side are to retain their title they will need every effort from the fifteen especially from the attack where Darragh McGrath and Kevin Mulcahy can step up to the mark.
This is a young Borris side filled with plenty enthusiasm and Vince McKenna has given youth its fling with Liam Cleary, Jack Larkin and Michael Heenan just out of minor level a place on the starting fifteen. They are doing well too. Competition for places is very tight but the experienced heads of Cathal Dooley, Shane Nevin, Peter McSherry, Brian Davis, Colm Larkin and Shane Dooley will also be an advantage.
Borrisokane have won two games without the speedy Philip Austin on the starting team but in each game he has come on as a substitute to enhance with telling effect and one feels if the body is fit enough he will start from the off.
There is no doubt but he makes a huge difference and next Saturday he will do it all again and help Borrisokane to become champions for the eighth time and bring home the Fr Hewitt for the first time since 1996.


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