First Published Irish Examiner Monday, December 09, 2013
By John Fogarty GAA Correspondent

Ballysaggart 3-12 Feenagh/Kilmeedy 0-15

Ballysaggart is one of the smallest units in the entire GAA, a tiny secluded village in a parish with a population of less than 250 in the hills beyond Lismore. Yesterday in Mallow they joined the elite when becoming the first Waterford club to win the Munster club junior hurling title. It was hard won too, a high-quality contest against very worthy opponents, Limerick champions Feenagh/Kilmeedy. At one end of the field for Ballysaggart was veteran keeper Matty Meagher (40), in his 25th adult season with the club, safer than houses with a series of outstanding under-pressure clean catches. At the other the uber-talented teenager Stephen Bennett, who finished the afternoon with 1-7. His 1-4 in the opening half in which Ballysaggart faced into a very stiff breeze helping his side to a 1-8 to 0-9 half-time lead. For all of Bennett’s scoring heroics, however, younger brother Shane also impressed with a 1-2 haul — burly Ronan Walsh with their third major — defence was the key to this win. While Meagher offered a very secure last line, he was for giving credit to those outside him.

“Our defence was immense today again, as it has been all year,” he said. “The boys work so hard above to get the scores, we have to work to keep the score down at the other end. They were just absolutely outstanding — fair play to any team that can get scores off them because they’ll earn it.”

The full-back trio of Kieran Fennessy flanked by Bobby Ryan and Daniel Devine was especially impressive, safe and sure-footed, aware of the threat posed by full-forward Jimmy O’Sullivan who was constantly probing, ever-ready to capitalise on the frequent raids in from the flanks by the dangerous Feenagh duo John O’Gorman and Diarmuid Coleman.

“We were a bit disappointed that we were letting them have the ball and come through but we said there would be no rash tackles, we would stand them up and see what would happen. No free shots but no silly frees either.”

Ballysaggart did that to perfection, albeit it took them to the second half to really get it right. In the first half, capitalising on those early scores from the Bennett brothers (older sibling Kieran, 19, was also impressive, in midfield), the Deciemen led 1-6 to 0-3 after 18 minutes and considering the wind they would face in the second half, a trimmimg looked likely for Feenagh/Kilmeedy.

An exhibition of dead-ball shooting from centre-back Eddie Murphy (three frees from well inside his own half) and Diarmuid Coleman (two frees, two 65s), kept hopes alive for the Limerick champions coming up to the break, and it was talk of those ‘silly frees’ that dominated proceedings in the Ballysaggart dressing room at the break.

They were more disciplined thereafter, the outside defensive line of Barry Murphy, Eugene O’Brien (co-captain, along with Christy Murphy) and Caileann O’Gorman really stepping up their game.

“It’s down to the coaching the lads [management] are giving them,” said Meagher. “Everything is about ‘Don’t waste the ball, don’t hit it for the sake of hitting it — hold it, get it to the man in the best position, trust the man beside you that he can take that pass, get that score’. That’s what it’s about, team-work, team-mates working for each other and that’s what this success is down to.”

They needed to show that team-work in the second half in the face of relentless attacks by Feenagh/Kilmeedy. Goals would prove the difference, Ballysaggart repelling every effort at one end, Ronan Walsh (38m) and Shane Bennett (42m) doing the necessary at the other, Shane’s goal giving Ballysaggart a seven-point cushion they would defend to the end.

Scorers for Ballysaggart: Stephen Bennett 1-7 (4f); Shane Bennett 1-2; R Walsh 1-0; D Meagher 0-2; C Murphy 0-1.

Scorers for Feenagh/Kilmeedy: D Coleman 0-6 (4f, 2 65); E Murphy 0-4 (4f); J O’Sullivan 0-2; J O’Gorman, L Lynch, J Nix, 0-1 each.

BALLYSAGGART: M Meagher; B Ryan, K Fennessy, D Devine; B Murphy, E O’Brien (jt capt), C O’Gorman; C Murphy (jt capt), K Bennett; K Cashell, D Meagher, Shane Bennett; R Walsh, Stephen Bennett, T Bennett.

Subs: M Kearney for Walsh (58); C Fitzgerald for T Bennett (61); S Meagher for Shane Bennett (61).

FEENAGH/KILMEEDY: D Egan; J O’Regan, L Murphy, N Irwin; M Bergin, E Murphy, J Gaffney (capt); D Harrold, G O’Gorman; D Coleman, P Irwin, J O’Gorman; L Lynch, J O’Sullivan, D Kiely.

Subs: B Hannigan for N Irwin (30); P O’Regan for G O’Gorman (49); J Nix for Kiely (49); D O’Sullivan for Lynch (59); B O’Sullivan for P Irwin (5

Referee: J O’Brien (Tipperary).

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