Clough-Ballacolla 0-17 Slieve Bloom 1-13
Laois Shopping Centre ACHL Division 2 Final
The hurlers of Clough-Ballacolla and Slieve Bloom played out an entertaining and hard-fought ACHL Division 2 final in Colt this evening – with Ballacolla doing just enough to claim the silverware and promotion to 1B for next season.
This Ballacolla team – their second string side – have been very consistent in recent seasons, losing the intermediate championship final in 2016 and this Division 2 league decider 12 months ago.
And they continued that run of results by topping the group this year and automatically reaching the final.
With a team sprinkled with players with senior experience and county medals – and a handful more well capable of making the step up, they got off to a great start and recovered from conceding a goal five minutes into the second half to hold off the Slieve Bloom challenge.
The winners got off to a dream start, hitting five points in succession in the opening six minutes, with the lively Shane Hyland getting two from play, Jordan Walshe getting two frees and full-forward Ray Cummins getting one.
Slieve Bloom’s impressive young wing-back Tadhg Cuddy got them off the mark in the eighth minute with a fine point from distance and it was the score that brought them to life.
While Ciaran Finane replied for Ballacolla, Slieve Bloom then went on to hit five of the next six points.
Ciaran Conroy got the ball rolling with a free and the goal-keeper Gavin Conroy landed a monster from way out.
A Jordan Walshe free cancelled that out but a Ben Conroy free, another whopper from Gvain Conroy and one from Darragh Delaney had the gap back to one in the 21st minute.
Shane Hyland and Jordan Walshe pointed either side of a Ben Conroy point from play but Slieve Bloom got the last two scores of the half – from Linus Breen and Ross Holmes – to go in level 0-9 each at the break.
Slieve Bloom came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half. A foul on JP Campion within minutes of the restart earned them a penalty but Ben Conroy sent the resulting shot wide much to Ballacolla’s relief.
Two Walshe strikes from dead balls nudged Ballacolla back into the leade but Ben Conroy made amends for his penalty miss by crashing home a brilliant goal. That put Slieve Bloom into the lead for the first time.
But Ballacolla hit back with excellent points from Sean Corby and Tim Delaney – back in the club colours for the first time in a number of seasons after a spell living overseas – before a Conroy free levelled things up again.
An outstanding point from Jordan Walshe from play from way out on the wing put Ballacolla ahead once more but another Ben Conroy free and one from Martin Delaney swung it back in Slieve Bloom’s favour.
There was still 15 minutes of normal time to play and Ballacolla came good when it mattered most. The experienced Shane Hanlon levelled things, then John Keane put them ahead when the linesman over-ruled the umpire’s original call that it was wide. Sub John Dwyer then put them two up with a nice point from play after moments earlier forcing a great save out of Gavin Conroy.
Slieve Bloom battled on but their 16-minute spell without a score only came to an end in injury time when Ben Conroy pointed a free.
It wasn’t enough though and the final whistle sounded moments later. Laois GAA chairman Peter O’Neill presented the cup to Ballacolla captain Damien Bergin after the game.
Just reward for Ballacolla then after a couple of seasons knocking around finals but it’s onwards to championship now.
Slieve Bloom face Clonad in the opening round in a couple of weeks while Ballacolla take on Ballypickas.
SCORERS – Clough-Ballacolla: Jordan Walshe 0-7 (four frees, one ’65), Shane Hyland 0-3, Ray Cummins, Ciaran Finane, Tim Delaney, Sean Corby, Shane Hanlon, John Keane and John Dwyer 0-1 each; Slieve Bloom: Ben Conroy 1-5 (0-4 frees), Gavin Conroy 0-2 (both frees), Ciaran Conroy (free), Linus Breen, Tadhg Cuddy, Darragh Delaney, Ross Holmes and Martin Delaney 0-1 each
CLOUGH-BALLACOLLA: Tommy Nolan; Canice Coonan, Jim Doyle, Matthew Bergin; John Keane, John Doyle, Johnny Finane; Shane Hanlon, Diarmuid Conway; Damien Bergin, Jordan Walshe, Tim Delaney; Ciaran Finane, Ray Cummins, Shane Hyland. Subs: Sean Corby for Cummins (22), Aidan Doyle for C Finane (38), John Dwyer for Bergin (38), Chris Rafter for Hanlon (60)
SLIEVE BLOOM: Gavin Conroy; Fergal Delaney, Tom Delaney, John Lowry; Shane Farrell, James Tobin, Tadhg Cuddy; Robbie Burke, Linus Breen; Darragh Delaney, JP Campion, Ciaran Conroy; Martin Delaney, Ben Conroy, Ross Holmes. Subs: Stephen Phelan for Holmes (41), Paul Heffernan for Campion (41), Holmes for Breen (55), Campion for M Delaney (60)