All Ireland Club SHC Semi-Final:
De La Salle 1-21 Cushendall 1-19 (AET)
De La Salle advanced to the All-Ireland Club Hurling Final with a 1-21 to 1-19 extra-time win over Cushendall at Parnell Park on Sunday.
Cushendall had looked set to break their semi-final hoodoo as they led for the entire second-half of the game but a late rally from the Waterford side sent the game to extra-time, where De La Salle just did enough.
De La Salle began brightly and the first score of the game was a goal, Paidi Nevin finding the net with a smart finish after a superb assist from Dean Twomey.
The Waterford champions looked like they might run away with things in the opening surges but Cushendall fought back, with centre-back Aaron Graffin rising to the challenge as he put over the Antrim side’s first score, an inspirational effort after a rangy run.
Lee Hayes was in stirring form for De La Salle in the first half, two fine points his contribution, while Aidan Delargy kept Cushendall in touch with two excellent efforts of his own with Neil McManus also adding an excellent post-splitter. Indeed, McManus was exceptional throughout, popping up all over the pitch.
Graffin had the better of Waterford star John Mullane in the first half and his suffocating display was exemplified by an incredible block on the forward when he looked set to blast to the net midway through the first half.
It was 1-6 to 0-9 at half-time and both sides exchanged scores after the break, but Cushendall took control of the game when Shane Naughton netted after Stevie Brennan saved McManus’ ripping shot.
This put the Antrim men three points ahead and they were able to preserve this lead despite the dismissal of Declan McKillop for a hook midway through the second half.
De La Salle began to create more chances as the extra man made a difference but they squandered them, and a run of four wides left them in a precarious position as full-time loomed.
Going into injury-time, Cushendall led by two but De La Salle somehow rescued a draw when Bryan Phelan sent over a wondrous sideline cut from 45 metres.
And in extra-time, the Waterford champions just had that bit too much for Cushendall, whose record in All-Ireland Club semi-finals now reads a grim eight losses from eight matches.
Mullance came to the fore in the extra period, and although Cushendall got close in snatches in the final reckoning, points from Mullane and Phelan put De La Salle though to face Portumna on St. Patrick’s Day.
All Ireland Club SHC Semi-Final:
Portumna 5-11 Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-16
Portumna hit five goals as they comfortably beat Ballyhale Shamrocks 5-11 to 1-16 to progress to the All-Ireland Club Hurling Final at Semple Stadium on Sunday.
Joe Canning was at his inspirational best as he hit 2-5 for Portumna, while Henry Shefflin did his bit for Ballyhale, scoring 0-10.
Few games start as frenetically as this one did. With not five minutes on the clock, Portumna led by eight points – 2-2 to 0-0 – and yet less than five minutes later, Ballyhale were only a goal behind.
Kevin Hayes knocked over the game’s first score just before Galway star Damien Hayes smashed to the net to make it 1-1 to nothing. A superb effort from distance from midfielder Leo Smith extended the lead and as Ballyhale reeled in shock, Joe Canning dispatched a penalty. It was breathless.
But Ballyhale had too much guile and experience to be beaten so early and Eoin Reid’s sharp finish from an acute angle settled the Leinster champions.
The game had been billed as a stand-off as much between Shefflin and Canning as between the two provincial champions and the two men traded scores for the next few minutes, but all the while Ballyhale were getting closer to parity.
Canning was looking exemplary on placed balls and on 20 minutes he reasserted Portumna’s dominance with a powerful goal, charging onto a low pass and showing tremendous strength to plough through and slot under the keeper. The goal made it 3-6 to 1-6.
Not too many hurlers have been billed with the kind of hype that has attached itself to Joe Canning but every time the young man plays, he seems to ascend to a new level of brilliance. Shortly after his goal he hit a sideline ball over the bar as sweet as a golf shot.
With two goals between them at the break, there was plenty for Ballyhale to do but two sucker punches from the magnificent Portumna floored them soon after the restart.
Firstly, Damien Hayes grabbed his second goal of the day after a mix-up around the square ended up with the ball at his feet and an open goal before him.
Ballyhale couldn’t seem to cope and within seconds, Portumna had their fifth goal and the game was over as a contest.
Once again, Canning was at the heart of it all. Although his initial shot was repelled by Ballyhale goalkeeper James Connolly, Canning had the coolness to scoop the ball back into danger, where Ciaran Ryan only had to flick to see the net ripple.
That made it 5-8 to 1-8; it was brutal and clinical and it was exactly the kind of performance that teams from Kilkenny have been inflicting on the country all year.
Shefflin kept his head up and continued to pluck a few scores for his side, but as soon as the fifth goal went in, a real element of procession took hold of proceedings.
Yet, Shefflin’s resolve seemed to impose itself on his teammates, and a number of stellar efforts from him, as well as a point from TJ Reid, reduced the lead to seven points.
But genius has a name, and it is Joe Canning. With fear and fire beginning to shake his teammates a bit, he jigged down the right wing gingerly, flipped a ball up to himself and slashed it over the bar serenely.
It settled Portumna, and it made the final few minutes more comfortable for them as they contemplated their All-Ireland final date on St Patrick’s Day.