TJ Reid paid emotional tribute to two late members of the Ballyhale Shamrocks panel after their second Kilkenny SHC title win in a row on Sunday.

Eugene Aylward (22) was killed in a car crash earlier this month while Eoin Doyle (24) died after a motorbike accident in April 2018.

Speaking to RTÉ GAA correspondent Brian Carthy following yesterday's win over James Stephens, Reid said: "It was just three weeks ago that we lost Eugene Aylward.

"It was one of the hardest days in Ballyhale. There were players, friends, old men with tears in their eyes. The whole street gathered in their green and white jerseys.

"I'll remember that day forever because it shouldn't be happening. It was very tough.

"To go through that was very hard and the spirit and character of the whole panel of players, makes today a little bit different.

"For Eugene's family and Eoin Doyle's family, Ballyhale Shamrocks have helped them with winning and keeping the parish together.

"To see people with a smile on their faces is very special.

"We were lucky that it was three weeks in a row we were hurling because those training sessions and matches kept us united and spirited together."

James Stephens rocked Henry Shefflin's favourites with a goal after 90 seconds through Tadhg O'Dwyer but Shamrocks kept their cool and were five up by the break before going on to win by 2-21 to 1-15.

"The first half was tough," admitted Kilkenny star Reid. 

"James Stephens were always going to bring that. They are a very strong side.

"James Stephens got off to a good start. But we kept going. What Henry has installed in this team in the last two years is to never panic.

"We have a talented bunch of players and we can create scores so keep focused, keep the head and concentrate on getting scores ourselves.

"We woke up then and started playing with our heads up. In the second half, things opened up and we got a few scores on the board."

Of course, Ballyhale are not just the reigning Kilkenny champions but also the Leinster and All-Ireland title-holders too.

They will begin the defence of their provincial crown against Westmeath winners Clonkill in Mullingar on Sunday with a semi-final against Wexford winners St Martin's up for grabs.

"Today is a marvellous day for Ballyhale Shamrocks," said Reid. "We're looking forward again to Leinster next weekend.

"A week is tough, obviously we're going to enjoy tonight, but we'll be back in action on Wednesday."