Rural clubs the last standing but it's defeatist to say that's what sets them apart 1 month ago

Rural clubs the last standing but it's defeatist to say that's what sets them apart


These are unheard of odds for an All-Ireland club hurling semi-final, but that's Ballyhale Shamrocks for you.

The Kilkenny giants are one of the most successful and traditional club hurling teams of all, and they have a brilliant young team on the job now.

Stalwarts Eoin and TJ Reid, Michael and Colin Fennelly are still at the heart of it but the real gamechanger for this Shamrocks team has been the rising prominence of 19/20/21-year-olds Eoin Cody, Evan Shefflin, Adrian and Darren Mullen as well as Darragh Corcoran and Dean Mason.

There's a new breed of hurlers in the south Kilkenny parish, and Ballyhale Shamrocks look like they're here to stay. They're chasing a second successive All-Ireland club hurling title this winter and on Sunday they will travel to Newry as raging hot favourites as they take on Ulster champions Slaughtneil in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Cheddar Plunkett summed up the scale of the challenge facing the Derry men on Thursday's GAA Hour show, when he claimed that there could be no fewer than ten Ballyhale men on the Kilkenny panel next year, with seven of them set to start.

"I think there's going to be ten Ballyhale players on the Kilkenny panel this year. There may very well be seven of them on the team and there probably will be four of them in the Kilkenny forward line, and this is a county who played in an All-Ireland final only a couple of months back," said Cheddar.

The Ballyhale nine (possible)

  • TJ Reid (Starter)
  • Colin Fennelly (Starter)
  • Adrian Mullen (Starter)
  • Joey Holden (Starter)
  • Evan Shefflin (Potential starter)
  • Darren Mullen (Potential starter)
  • Eoin Cody (Potential starter)
  • Richie Reid (Potential starter)
  • Brian Cody (Potential panellist)

"Eoin Cody has that ability. I'd be very surprised if Darren Mullen isn't corner back. You've a number of other players there as well, Evan Shefflin is very good," added Plunkett.

It'll be a tall order for Slaughtneil to keep it tight this weekend, but one thing they won't lack is commitment, and that goes for each of the four teams left standing.

"The four clubs are quiet rural clubs and there are common denominators in all of them. The nursery/development structure is quite good in all of them...all of these teams have a huge community involvement, the club is the centre of the community in them all and I think clubs should look at that...These things don't just happen by chance," added Plunkett.

It isn't just the rural nature of them, according to Plunkett that creates this community spirit in the club.

"What community initiatives do most clubs do? I think the big town clubs lose that sense of identity and they don't try to get it back. There are so many initiatives you could try to make your club the centre of the community...I think size makes no difference, it's simply taking your eye off the ball"

You can listen to This week's GAA Hour Show's club semi preview here.