Ballygiblin are All-Ireland junior club hurling champions

Ten points for Joseph O'Sullivan as North Cork side atone for 2022 defeat
Ballygiblin are All-Ireland junior club hurling champions

Ballygiblin celebrate after their victory in the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Junior Championship Final at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Ballygiblin 1-16 Easkey (Sligo) 0-11

Ballygiblin led from start to finish as they claimed the AIB All-Ireland Club JHC title at Croke Park on Saturday evening.

After last year’s defeat to Mooncoin at the same stage, there was pressure to avoid a second defeat against Sligo's Easkey but that was channelled in the best way. Darragh Flynn's first-minute goal meant they were in front from wire to wire, establishing a five-point half-time lead and building on that in the second period to ensure that there was no way back for their opponents.

Any one of a number of attackers is capable of catching fire and here it was the ten points of Joseph O’Sullivan that were worth their weight in gold.

Ballygiblin's Joseph O'Sullivan was in top form. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Ballygiblin's Joseph O'Sullivan was in top form. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The lack of a goal conceded meant that it was a fifth consecutive game in the Munster and All-Ireland series where a clean sheet was recorded – not since the opening minute of the county Premier JHC final had they allowed a green flag. With a such a mean defence, any opponent would have to out-score them on the points front – far easier said than done.

To that end, they couldn’t have had a better start. From the throw-in, the ball broke for centre-back Mark Keane to run onto it and slice his way through the defence before off-loading to Darragh Flynn – only eight seconds had elapsed when he deposited the ball in the net.

While Andrew Kilcullen replied with a pointed free for Easkey and they settled into the game, much of their shooting in the opening quarter was rushed and their wides tally built quickly.

Shane Beston and Dean Barry had good points as Ballygiblin established a cushion, the leading extending to five points when Joseph O’Sullivan had his first score, a free that hit the post and bounced inside to make it 1-3 to 0-1.

Easkey’s decision to go with five forwards allowed Mark Keane to operate well as the spare man while captain Fionn Herlihy and Barry Coffey also stood up well in the Ballygiblin defence. However, the Easkey sweeper, number 10 Rory McHugh, brought an assuredness to their play, both in cutting out Ballygiblin forays and setting up attacks at the other end.

The Sligo side were unlucky when a Kilcullen free was initially signalled as a point only to be reversed by Hawkeye and then O’Sullivan made it 1-4 to 0-1 with a free. However, three on the trot from Easkey, two by Kilcullen, had them right back in the game.

Ballygiblin's Seán O'Sullivan battles for possession against Easkey pair Eoghan Rua McGowan and James Weir. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ballygiblin's Seán O'Sullivan battles for possession against Easkey pair Eoghan Rua McGowan and James Weir. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

That good work was almost wiped out in freak fashion as Ballygiblin’s Dean Barry sent a shot goalwards – expecting the ball to be going wide, Easkey goalkeeper Jimmy Gordon went to retrieve his puckout hurley but, as the shot came back off the post, Seán O’Sullivan was rushing in. He got his stick to the ball but Gordon recovered sufficiently to save at the expense of a 65, which Joseph O’Sullivan converted.

Two more super points by the centre-forward left him with five for the first half and a good Cathail O’Mahony point ensured that the North Cork side retired with a half-time advantage of 1-8 to 0-6.

Within two minutes of the restart, Beston had them six clear, but Easkey midfielder Finnian Cawley went close to a goal as his run only ended with a save by Christopher Noonan. Play was called back as Cawley had had an advantage and Kilcullen pointed to bring it back to five.

After O’Mahony sent over another superb effort, Easkey wing-back Dónall Hanley replied in kind, 1-10 to 0-8, but it was to be the last time that the sides were so close.

Shane Beston of Ballygiblin about to take a short in the All-Ireland final.  Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Shane Beston of Ballygiblin about to take a short in the All-Ireland final.  Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Joseph O’Sullivan was playing with the confidence of a man that knew almost any shot would go over; another brilliant attempt from play was followed by a pair of frees to open up an eight-point advantage by the 42nd minute.

While Kilcullen did have his fifth point, a free, the Ballybilin defence was offering up fewer and fewer opportunities. At the other end, O’Sullivan grabbed his ninth point with another dead ball and O’Mahony, finding more space in the second half, slung over a brilliant shot from a tight angle for a 1-15 to 0-9 advantage with 14 minutes left.

They only added one more, a point from O'Sullivan at the death, but Easkey never looked like eroding the advantage. It was all over bar the shouting, but there would be lots of shouting.

Scorers for Ballygiblin: J O’Sullivan 0-10 (0-6 f, 0-1 65), C O’Mahony 0-3, D Flynn 1-0, S Beston 0-2, D Barry 0-1.

Easkey: A Kilcullen 0-5 (0-3 f), J McHugh 0-2, R McHugh, M Gordon, D Hanley, T Cawley 0-1 each.

BALLYGIBLIN: C Noonan; J Mullins, F Herlihy, L Finn; M Lewis, M Keane, B Coffey; R Donegan, K Roche; J O’Sullivan, D Flynn, S Beston; D Barry, S O’Sullivan, C O’Mahony.

Subs: K Duggan for Barry (34), D Sheehan for S O’Sullivan (54), P Molloy for Beston, A O’Brien for Roche, C O’Brien for Finn (all 60).

EASKEY: J Gordon; S Molloy, E Rua McGowan, J Weir; R Molloy, N Kilcullen, F Connolly; D Hanley, F Cawley; T Cawley, R McHugh, F Moylan; M Gordon, J McHugh, A Kilcullen.

Subs: G Connolly for Hanley (46), É Moylan for F Moylan (52), B Feeney for S Molloy (54), L Reddy for R Molloy, T Rolston for Cawley (60).

Referee: C Flynn (Westmeath).

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