Sunday Next, December 3, in Mallow 1.30 p.m. A.I.B. Munster Club J.H.C Final – Ardmore V Ballybacon-Grange (Tipperary)
Ardmore carry the Waterford banner in Munster Club competition to Mallow on Sunday next where they will be hoping to emulate the feats of the Ballysaggart and Modeligo teams of 2013 and 2014 respectively by bringing the Munster title back to the Deise.
Since those two Waterford successes our champions of 2015 and 2016 both competed strongly in this championship with Fenor losing out to Cork champions Dungourney in the 2015 final in Mallow and Balllyduff Lower were back att he same venue the following year when they went down to eventual All Ireland winners Mayfield of Cork.
It is significant that on their way to last year’s final Ballyduff Lower faced Ardmore’s opponents Ballybacon-Grange in the semi-final in Walsh Park and came away with a creditable 0-14 to 0-6 victory after a very physical encounter. Last year Ballybacon were not the Tipperary champions as their county final against Kildangan’s second string had not been played and when it was played a week later Kildangan emerged narrow victors.
This year Ballybacon-Grange are the newly crowned Tipperary champions having beaten Toomevara in the final and that is a measure of how much they have improved since last year. The home club of Babs Keating they still retain Tipperary great Brendan Cummins in goal and will be much more confident on this occasion when facing the Waterford champions on neutral ground.
Sunday next will be a big day for the Ardmore club as they represent the county for the first time in a Munster Final. Relegated from Intermediate last year and not too long out of senior ranks, Ardmore may have faltered slightly in the Western championship before coming out on top but they hit top form in the county decider against Ballydurn and were highly impressive in seeing off Clare champions Bodyke in the Munster semi-final in Carraiganore.
This is a very experienced Ardmore side with players such as Seamus Prendergast, Declan Prendergast, Wayne Hennessy, Niall Hennessy and Richie Hennessy having come through from winning the county U-21 (A) title in 2000, the Intermediate championship in 2002 and on through the noughties as Senior challengers before a second Intermediate title in 2014. Now they have bounced back from successive relegations to take the Junior title with a side boosted by the maturing of talented young hurlers in such as Seamus Keating, Kenny Murphy, David Gartland, John Gartland and current minor star James Flavin and the club is well placed to hold its own in the Intermediate grade this coming year.
In the meantime there is the business of winning a Munster title and led by a man who knows all about doing the business at this level they must be in with a real chance of advancing to the All Ireland series on Sunday. It will be difficult enough but in Seamus Prendergast at full forward and current county senior panellist Seamus Keating at centre back the have the leaders on the field and with the Gartland’s and James Flavin feeding off the attention given to stopping Seamus Prendergast by opposing defences Ardmore are totting up big match winning scores.
While they will be touted as favourites going into this game it is important that Ardmore do not see it that way and that they approach this tie as outsiders with it all to do. Ballybacon showed themselves against Ballyduff last year to be a tough, physical side who will try to knock Ardmore out of their stride but retaining their discipline Ardmore have the hurling and the key players to see them through here.
It is a pity that the game clashes with the county football final but that cannot be avoided.