Naas 1-16 Ballyhale Shamrocks 3-22

Ballyhale Shamrocks remain on track for a four-in-a-row of AIB Leinster club SHC titles though they had to overcome an early scare at Croke Park to secure their place in next Sunday's final.

Trailing by 0-01 to 1-04 after just 10 minutes, it looked as if the 11-time provincial champions might struggle to come good on their 1/40 odds against the reigning All-Ireland intermediate club champions.

But goals from TJ Reid, who top scored for last season's All-Ireland runners up with 1-06 just days after the birth of his first child, Joey Cuddihy and Eoin Cody helped turn a difficult situation into what was ultimately another comfortable win.

Pat Hoban's side will return to Croke Park next Sunday to face Kilmacud Crokes.

Naas, who compete as a club in Kilkenny at certain underage grades, will kick themselves for not making more of their great start though they had arguably the man of the match in centre-forward Jack Sheridan who impressed from frees and in open play, contributing 0-12.

Fresh off their four-goal quarter-final win over Shinrone, Naas came into the contest looking to make a mockery of the 9/1 long shot odds attached to them by bookmakers and hinted early on that they might just do so.

Perhaps drawing on the positive vibes from their intermediate final win over Kilmoyley at Croke Park last February - a number of their players also played for Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup final win - they burst out of the traps and into a shock 1-05 to 0-02 lead at the quarter hour mark.

Sheridan, who took over the free-taking duties from dual player James Burke after the county final, drilled two early points and Harry Carroll added another from long range.

Then Cathal Dowling sniped a goal and suddenly the raging underdogs led by 1-03 to 0-01.

Eoin Cody of Shamrocks Ballyhale is tackled by Peter O'Donoghue

Remarkably, Naas carved out three decent goal chances before they actually hit the mark; captain Brian Byrne twice going close and Sheridan also forcing Dean Mason to save smartly.

By the time Shamrocks knew what had hit them, they trailed by six points and must have realised it wasn't going to be the cakewalk many had predicted.

To their credit, the five-in-a-row Kilkenny champions didn't panic and simply set about reeling in Naas, score by score.

Reid's 22nd minute goal from a penalty - Colin Fennelly was fouled by full-back Ross Kelly in the buildup - breathed life into their comeback.

Cody then slotted his second point and with 22 minutes on the clock they were already back on level terms at 1-6 apiece.

When Adrian Mullen then picked off a cracking point from the right sideline to move Ballyhale ahead for the first time in the 26th minute, it looked like they might go on to put some daylight between the teams.

Naas dug in though and the sides were level four more times in the run up to half-time with Darragh Corcoran's point for the holders in the 34th minute giving Ballyhale a narrow 1-11 to 1-10 interval lead.

Naas kept Ballyhale waiting for several minutes before they returned for the second-half. Tom Mullally and his management team were perhaps reminding the players that with eight first-half wides, three shots that dropped short and three goal chances, aside from the one they scored, they were proving more than a match for their vaunted opponents.

Ballyhale's strong start to the second-half was ominous though and points from Ronan Cororan, Reid and Paddy Mullen stretched their lead.

The eight-time All-Ireland winners effectively sealed the win during a terrific 60 seconds of play late in the third quarter when they rattled the net twice.

Cuddihy struck the first of those goals and when they regained possession from the resulting puck-out, Ballyhale worked the ball to Cody who opted for goal from around 25 metres out and found the bottom right corner.

Naas did respond immediately with back to back points but the damage had been done and the Shamrocks could afford to go through the motions in the run in, Reid even opting for a cheeky looping pass over the top of the Naas defence to Fennelly for a goal attempt in the run in.

Ballyhale Shamrocks: Dean Mason; Darren Mullen, Joey Holden, Killian Corcoran; Evan Shefflin, Richie Reid, Darragh Corcoran (0-03); Ronan Corcoran (0-02), Paddy Mullen (0-04); Joey Cuddihy (1-00), TJ Reid (1-06, 1-00pen, 0-04f), Eoin Cody (1-02), Adrian Mullen (0-04); Eoin Kenneally, Colin Fennelly.

Subs: Niall Shortall for Cuddihy 50, Brian Butler for Killian Corcoran 61, Eoin Reid (0-01) for Adrian Mullen 61.

Naas: Cormac Gallagher; Ross Kelly, Peter O'Donoghue; Harry Carroll (0-01), Rian Boran, John McKeon, Kevin Whelan (0-02); Conan Boran, Simon Leacy; Kevin Aherne, Brian Byrne, James Burke (0-01); Charlie Sheridan, Jack Sheridan (0-12, 0-09f), Cathal Dowling (1-00).

Subs: Conor Dowling for Aherne 49, Ferran O'Sullivan for Kelly 56, Darach MacDonncha for Rian Boran 59, Rian Monaghan for Burke 61, Liam Walsh for Charlie Sheridan 62.

Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Dublin).