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Tragedy inspired Ballyhale's back to back heroics

By John Harrington

Ballyhale Shamrocks manager, Henry Shefflin, said after todays AIB All-Ireland SHC Final victory over Borris-Ileigh that his team were inspired to win back to back titles by tragedy.

In the last two years two Ballyhale players Eoin Doyle and Eugene Aylward have died in traffic accidents.

Honouring their memories has been a real source of motivation for this group of Ballyhale Shamrocks hurlers.

I think as joyous as an occasion as it is today it's a very sad day as well, said Shefflin after the match.

There's no doubt about it, to do back to back you have to have serious desire and want.

I think Eugene's Aylward passing last year has given them that want and desire. They wanted to do something special and have that jersey with them.

We had a photo inside last year of Eoin's Doyle jersey. As some of ye might be aware, Eugene's jersey, number 19, wasn't seen all year, but it was inside with them in the dressing-room.

We got a picture with that jersey and the Cup and I think that's a great reflection of what the lads wanted to achieve today."

Ballyhale Shamrocks players celebrate after the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Final between Ballyhale Shamrocks and Borris-Ileigh at Croke Park in Dublin.Ballyhale Shamrocks players celebrate after the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Final between Ballyhale Shamrocks and Borris-Ileigh at Croke Park in Dublin.

As he usually does, Ballyhales TJ Reid led from the front for his team today hitting eight points in total, and two of them from play in the closing minutes to stymy a Borris-Ileigh revival.

Yeah, that part there when we really needed him, in the last five or six minutes, you were just waiting for TJ, said Shefflin.

That's what I'm saying, we give out the jerseys at the start of the match, number six, number three, number 11, and number 14 first because we say these are our leaders lads, and ye just follow these lads.

That's what we have, we have that spine there, we're very fortunate to have that spine.

Veteran centre-back Michael Fennelly was another hero for Ballyhale on the day, putting his body on the line time and again and winning a huge amount of ball.

If it is to be his last match for the club, he has gone out on a fitting note, but Shefflin believes he still might have more to give to the cause.

Yeah, well I thought this time last year that it was his last day, to be honest, said Shefflin.

When he got a serious knee injury he was off for four months. I was in contact with him and he was humming and hawing so I knew there was a glimmer of hope. I think hes minding himself very well and the word has been used before hes a warrior. He just keeps in there.

That long 37-inch hurl swinging over someones shoulder to get the flick or a touch in and just the physical strength of the man and the way hes managed himself with the double jobbing in Offaly and dealing with Johnny Kelly as well.

In the last couple of weeks its been noticeable, his focus and his performance against Slaughtneil was a little bit off and he wanted to put it right. I thought he was a brilliant rock in the centre of our defence there today.

Borris-Ileigh battle all the way, but Ballyhale were that bit cuter than them in most areas of the pitch.

Their utilisation of space was especially impressive, and allowed them to limit the influence of Borris-Ileigh sweeper Dan McCormack.

Two weeks ago against Slaughtneil we faced a similar scenario and probably didn't handle it very well in the first half. I think Colin was too happy up in Slaughtneil because Ger Bradley was getting too much ball," said Shefflin.

I think we learned from that. Even in training last Thursday night and last Sunday, we trained for that. We had a bit of work done on that and I was glad we did. Look, Darren is a fabulous hurler. I think himself and Darragh in the other corner were absolutely magnificent today.

I felt like we were coming in the first half, the second half of the first half, per se, but we just didn't get that goal.

I thought if we had of gotten that goal we might have kicked on. Again, at the start of the second-half I think we started well enough. The one thing I was afraid of in the lead-up to the match, everyone was texting me the same thing, Borris-Ileigh have serious momentum behind them.

They started to get that then come the end of the second half obviously TJ stands up and away we go again.

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