Ballyea (Clare) 1-21 Glen Rovers (Cork) 2-10
Clare champions Ballyea made history in Thurles this afternoon by landing a very first AIB Munster senior club hurling crown.
The Banner County representatives were too good for Cork outfit Glen Rovers in bitterly cold Thurles.
The performance of 2013 Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly was enough to warm the hands of the vocal Ballyea supporters in the 4,583 attendance.
Kelly scored five points from play in a barn-storming performance but he wasn’t the only player to excel for Ballyea on an historic day.
Gearoid O’Connell was also brilliant in the half-back line and Niall Deasy led the way in the scoring stakes with seven points, including four from play.
Glen Rovers were left with bitter disappointment in their first Munster final appearance in 40 years.
Trailing by nine points at half-time, Conor Dorris scored two early second half goals as they battled back to within three, but Ballyea pulled away again, with Kelly and O’Connell leading the charge.
Ballyea’s win sets up an All-Ireland semi-final with Galway’s St Thomas’ in February.
And with this growing sense of momentum propelling them forward, there could be more glory on the horizon in the new year for a club breaking new ground.
On a freezing afternoon in Thurles, Ballyea had established a nine-point lead, 1-10 to 0-04, at half-time.
But they were rocked by that Dorris brace and with 11 minutes left, Rovers were just three behind again when Cork senior star Patrick Horgan landed a ’65.
But Ballyea finished excellently, with leading scorer Niall Deasy accurate on placed balls and from play throughout.
The sides had been three times in the opening 12 minutes before Ballyea put some daylight between them.
Pearse Lillis, one of the Clare senior footballers in the Ballyea side, latched onto O’Connell’s pass and left the Rovers defence for dead before cracking home a 13th minute goal.
That assist wasn’t the only good piece of work from O’Connell all day, as the centre back also collected three points from play in a dominant outing.
Wearing number 5, but operating in the central position, O’Connell was immense and with that excellent half-back line platform to work from, Ballyea made hay.
Kelly was everywhere, full of tricks and impudent flicks on a landmark day for his club.
Deasy top-scored and there was a brace of points each for Pat Joe Connolly and Damien Burke, in what was very much a team effort from Ballyea.
And yet their nerves jangled with Dorris pounced on defensive uncertainty for goals in the 32nd and 37th minutes.
With their tails finally up, Rovers had a whiff of a fourth-ever provincial title but Ballyea would not be denied their first.
All Star football nominee Gary Brennan became a more prominent figure as Ballyea drove on.
And in the final 11 minutes of playing time, plus the extra three minutes, Ballyea outscored Rovers by 0-07 to 0-02.
BALLYEA: K Sheehan; B Carrig, J Browne, J Neylon; P Flanagan, G O’Connell (0-03), J Murphy; T Kelly (0-05), S Lineen; N Deasy (0-07, 3f), P.J. Connolly (0-03), C Doohan; P Lillis (1-01), G Brennan (0-01), D Burke (0-02).
Sub: P O’Connell for Connolly (60+2).
GLEN ROVERS: C Hickey; C Healy, S McDonnell, G Moylan; D Dooling, B Moylan, G Callanan; D Cronin, D Noonan; D Brosnan, P Horgan (0-05, 4f, 1 65), D Cunningham (0-01); C Dorris (2-01), C O’Brien (0-01), D Busteed.
Subs: M Dooley (0-02) for Busteed (38), B Murphy for G Moylan (38), G Kennefick for O’Brien (45).
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick)