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Shefflin and Co look 'Hale and hearty

A BIT like the Kilkenny hurlers, you could make the argument that Ballyhale Shamrocks aren't quite the invincible force they were in the mid-to-late noughties.

Just like Kilkenny, though, would you bet against them with silverware on the line?

Seven weeks after Henry Shefflin collected his tenth All-Ireland senior inter-county medal, the ageing King and his decorated troop of club generals return to the county final stage that was once their personal fiefdom.Shamrocks have 'only' accumulated one of the last four Kilkenny titles (in 2012), having amassed the previous four on the spin.

Tomorrow they face the holders, Clara, who underlined their back-to-back credentials by overwhelming Carrickshock (last year's beaten finalists) on a 1-19 to 0-8 semi-final scoreline.

But? Well, county captain Lester Ryan is their best known player and he was essentially reduced to a bit-part role during the Cats' All-Ireland run.

Contrast that with the wealth of riches, Shefflin apart, at the disposal of Ballyhale boss Andy Moloney: the powerhouse Michael Fennelly (featuring at centre-back for his club) and his All Star sibling Colin Fennelly up front, alongside fellow All Star TJ Reid, not to mention 'Cha' Fitzpatrick (remember him?) and Joey Holden, part of Brian Cody's starting plans until this year's All-Ireland replay.

That said, it wasn't all plain sailing in the semi-final. Even playing with the wind, Shamrocks initially struggled to breach St Martin's disciplined, defensive set-up and trailed by 0-6 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.

Class, but also experience, ultimately won out: the favourites recovered to lead by two at the break before easing to victory by 1-19 to 0-14.

We expect a similar outcome here, albeit it could well be closer, and so the big question mark over Shefflin's inter-county intentions may remain unanswered for another week at least.

ODDS: Ballyhale 8/15, Draw 10/1, Clara 17/10

VERDICT: Ballyhale


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