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Ballyboden Aiming To Establish Their Own Legacy This Sunday

Ballyboden Aiming To Establish Their Own Legacy This Sunday

This Sunday's meeting of Ballyhale Shamrocks and Ballyboden St Enda's marks the clash of two of this century's most dominant hurling clubs. Since the turn of the millennium, the pair have won a combined 14 county championship titles.

The difference is that one of these clubs has used success within their own county as a catapult to much larger honours, while the other has consistently fallen short.

Ballyhale Shamrocks are the most successful club in the sport. Their record of eight Leinster and six All-Ireland championship titles is unrivalled, a remarkable feat for a club only founded in 1972. It would take them only eight years to win their first All-Ireland, and success has never stayed away from the Kilkenny parish for too long in the intervening years.

They have produced some of the greatest hurlers of the modern era: Henry Shefflin, TJ Reid, Michael James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick.

Ballyboden boast a winning pedigree of their own. They have claimed seven county titles since 2007, no small achievement in what is perhaps the country's most competitive county. It is from this point that the tale of these two clubs begins to widely differ.

Where Ballyhale have made the breakthrough on a provincial and national level, the Dublin club have had no such luck. They have only one provincial final appearance to show for their six previous forays into the competition, a narrow defeat to Birr in 2007.

Their differences in fortune were perhaps best encapsulated by their meeting in the 2009 semi-final, a game where Ballyhale thoroughly outclassed their opponents coming out on top with 12 points to spare.

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And yet these two clubs enter Sunday's final in similar circumstances. Both have returned to the provincial scene for the first time since 2014, a year which brought an end to dominant runs within their own counties.

While one would assume experience will stand to Ballyhale in this match, it may not have as big an impact as you may think. Four years is a long time in the GAA, and it is a period which has seen many key members of that all-conquering team step away from the game.

Speaking to GAA.ie, Colin Fenelly echoed this sentiment:

It feels like we haven’t been here in a while, yeah. We were in transition there recently, our minors won and our U-21s won last year, so we were probably waiting for those players to come through.

Obviously we try to win every single year, but those players have come through massively for us this year, you see Eoin Cody inside scoring every game, Adrian Mullen out around the half-forward line, Brian Cody, there’s just a good balance to the team, between the older lads and the younger lads.

The younger lads haven’t played in a Leinster final yet, they’ll be cherishing this moment.

This year has also marked the beginning of what could be one of the most enthralling stories in hurling over the coming years: Henry Shefflin's transition from player to manager. It is a step which he has shown little hesitation in taking, and if the Kilkenny legend can replicate even a portion of the success he experienced on the pitch, he could be one of the top coaches in the game.

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Despite the relative inexperience of this Ballyhale side, they should not be underestimated. Speaking to RTE, Ballyboden's Conal Keaney was well aware of the challenge that lay ahead for his team.

To say that Ballyhale have superstars is correct, but we also have superstars and have young lads coming through that want to make their mark.

We are not going to sit back and be in awe of them. We have come out the right side of some tight games so far and that will stand to us.

Tight games is something of an understatement. Their semi-final clash with Coolderry was one of the all-time great club championship matches, finishing on a remarkable scoreline of 5-28 to 5-25 after 100 minutes of play.

A titanic clash such as that one may well give their players a boost in confidence, but its effects could be equally negative. It was a match that will have left them physically and emotionally drained, and with only two weeks to prepare for the final, it will be interesting to see what affect it may have had.

With the promise of a first provincial title within their reach, none of it may matter.

Both of teams will be desperate to come out on top, there is little doubt about that. One hopes to restore a sputtering legacy, while the other hopes to establish one of their own. Who will be successful?

SEE ALSO: The Boston Housemates Going Head-To-Head In Tomorrow's Meath U21 Final

Gary Connaughton

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