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18th Dec 2022

Eoin Murphy leads the praise for Stephen O’Keeffe after yet another jaw-dropping display of goalkeeping

Niall McIntyre

The sliotar travels so fast in hurling that if a player gets a clear-cut chance then, for the most part, you expect him to score.

But when it comes to Stephen O’Keeffe, it’s the other way around. He’s done it so many times before that, when a player gets clean through, you almost expect him to save it.

TJ Reid discovered it today, Evan Shefflin discovered it today and Adrian Mullen discovered it twice today that if you want to score a goal past Stephen O’Keeffe, you have to hit the perfect shot.

Sometimes, as was the case with TJ’s first penalty, not even the perfect shot will do.

TJ did score with his second penalty, but that was an absolute rasper.

Both Shamrocks and Ballygunner managers Pat Hoban and Darragh O’Sullivan were effusive in their praise of O’Keeffe, with Hoban saying that Ballyhale had focused on hitting low shots to try and beat him

“I’d give Stephen O’Keeffe fantastic praise for the saves he pulls off,” said Hoban.

“We told the boys to keep the ball low, they did that, it didn’t matter, because he pulled off three great saves. And that made it scary. Three points in the last play. You might have heard me shouting, ‘remember February.’

“He was outstanding,” said O’Keeffe’s own manager Darragh O’Sullivan. “And that’s what he is and he’s been doing that year in year out for us. He’s a special guy and a special player.”

Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy was also blown away by O’Keeffe’s performance today, and in very magnanimous fashion, he tweeted that the 31-year-old from Waterford is the greatest of all time. Magnanimous seeing as many would say it’s a two horse race between Murphy and O’Keeffe for that title.

Meanwhile, on the back of their score-settling win, Hoban hit back at some of his side’s critics.

“For a team that two weeks ago, it was said we weren’t fit enough, not fast enough.

“I think we proved that we’re well, well conditioned. I don’t think they got the praise they deserved for winning Leinster, four-in-a-row, there was criticism of how we played that day.

“But Crokes would put it up to anyone. I think they’d put it up to any team. There was a lot of talk about Ballygunner and their tactics, but I think we proved today that we can match anyone as well.

“At half-time we said, ‘Look, we can run at these, we can take them on’. Everybody said, ‘Run at Ballyhale and they’re in bother’. I think we turned the tide today.”

Joey Holden was another man who came in for huge praise from both Murphy and Hoban.

‘To me Joey was man-of-the-match,’ said manager Pat Hoban ‘He’s an incredible leader. An incredible man.

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