| 2.6°C Dublin

Crokes can show their teeth but Ballyhale have pedigree to be top dogs

IT'S true, this Leinster club hurling title does the rounds of the province in a much more inclusive manner than its inter-county equivalent; the Bob O'Keeffe Cup.

Lately, it's been resting in Carlow, where it came from Offaly and both Wexford and Laois have had a go in relatively recent times too.

Equally, it's not a phenomenon familiar with Dublin, for whom the Leinster club championship has been a largely fruitless endeavour.

And while Kilkenny's dominance of the province at county grade isn't nearly so pronounced at club, Ballyhale don't tend to get waylaid quite as often as some of their internal rivals.

They've won three of their previous five ventures into provincial warfare in their current guise and speaking last Sunday after they usurped Clare in the county final, Michael Fennelly suggested their priorities were already turned towards Leinster.

"Once the weather's not too bad, you know, we're enjoying it.


"We haven't been here for a couple of years so just delighted to get another county final. And even looking forward to next week already because the weather is good and we're enjoying our hurling, that's the main thing."

For anyone not entirely au fait with Kilkenny hurling parlance, 'enjoying our hurling' is a euphemism for tearing teams apart and relishing every moment of it.

Crokes, meanwhile are a couple of years on and fair bit better than they were in 2012 when they almost scalped Oulart-The Ballagh.

Players such as Cian Mac Gabhann, Caolan Conway and Oisín O'Rorke give them pace and touch but you imagine it's going to be the O'Carrolls (all three), Ryan O'Dwyer and Niall Corcoran who will be needed most here.

Because, without resorting to non-specific sporting tribalism, they're going to have to wage war on Ballyhale here and they're the warriors to lead the charge.


Class-wise, few club teams in history can compare to Ballyhale, which isn't to say they can't be beaten, it's just the method that needs examination.

Fennelly, as it happens, played at centre-back in the county final last Sunday and a bout with Ryan O'Dwyer tomorrow would be utterly enthralling.

But then you look at their fire-power; Henry Shefflin, Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid.

None of which will perturb Crokes, it must be said.

There is an inherent confidence in that club - not to be confused in any way with self-regard - whereby the identity of opposition and their level of success or degree of royalty isn't of any great interest.

In short, whatever about being out-hurled, Crokes certainly won't be struck by any stars.

And it's precisely that attitude that might make them the most dangerous opposition Ballyhale could face right now, just a week after winning a Kilkenny title and even less post the merriment that naturally ensues. It's only likely to take them so far though.

This is as strong a club hurling team as any in verifiable memory so inevitably, they'll find a way.

ODDS: Crokes 11/4, Draw 9/1, Ballyhale 1/3

VERDICT: Ballyhale


KILMACUD CROKES v BALLYHALE Shamrocks (Parnell Park, Tomorrow, 2.0)