Clough/Ballacolla prove that you can only put 15 on the field
Kilmacud Crokes have 4800 members, Clough/Ballacolla have 300 but on a wet and windy night in O'Moore Park, the Laois champions cleared up any confusion to show that you can only put 15 of them on the field.
They had a mighty fifteen tonight.
Call it David against Goliath, call it a shock, an upset and whatever else you want but they had a mighty fifteen every other night so nothing changed when they had a mighty fifteen here. Hurling is their religion and as Darragh Moloney said in the RTE commentary box - it is their God - so while this combination of two half parishes might be underdogs the next day, in the Leinster club final, it won't have been just feint and baseless prayers to the man above tonight.
And that was exactly how they hurled.
Oisin O'Rourke scored a corker of a goal to leave the bare minimum between the sides with seventeen minutes left and to be honest about it, if you knew little about Laois hurling and less about Clough/Ballacolla, then you'd have thought that these boys were goosed.
They'd done all the hurling but somehow Kilmacud were hanging in there. They'd come from a worse place to win the Dublin final and if it was a spark they were looking for then they'd been handed a drum of gasoline and a lighter here. But Laois have beaten Dublin as recently as 2019 and Clough/Ballacolla continued to put out fires here. Stephen 'Picky' Maher was the man-of-the-match and it was hard to argue against it given he'd scored 1-8, 1-2 from play but Brian Corby was sensational.
He's such a ball of tenacity and fire that his slight frame went untouched for a whole hour by the men from Dublin. Just like he'd been doing all night, the wing back won the next 50:50 and when he got hit, he let it affect him only as a forward propulsion to put Kilmacud Crokes on the back-foot again. Then Picky Maher scored a free and Stephen Bergin scored another beauty that raised the roof.
Kilmacud Crokes, ye'll need another miracle tonight.
Clough-Ballacolla 1-16 Kilmacud Crokes 1-13.
A bit of Picky Maher magic inspires the Laois champions past Kilmacud and into Leinster final. They're first Laois team in 20 years to make it. Picky was brilliant, so was Brian Corby & Stephen Bergin.
Some achievement @Clough_Bcolla pic.twitter.com/7mIeHSuUnl
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) December 11, 2021
To be fair to the Stillorgan men, they never gave into the blue and gold tide with Fergal Whitely doing his level best to stem the flow. But there's nothing 4,500 members can do about a man like Darren Maher, so old-school and aggressive in his approach to full back play that you'd need two men to tie him down. Ronan Hayes never got a sniff.
Fittingly, the brilliant Willie Dunphy scored a tremendous point off the back foot to seal it and when you think about it, he doesn't look like a man who gives a hoot about membership figures anyway.