Ballyhale Shamrocks 2-21
James Stephens 1-15
Ballyhale Shamrocks recovered from the concession of an early goal to retain their Kilkenny SHC title at James Stephens' expense in UPMC Nowlan Park.
Stung by Tadhg O'Dwyer's second-minute goal, the reigning All-Ireland champions overturned the deficit within eight minutes and were never headed thereafter as they eased to a nine-point victory before an attendance of 9,533. It was an emotional triumph for the Shamrocks who were hit by tragedy earlier this month when one of their players, Eugene Aylward, died in a road accident the night before they were due to play Clara in the county SHC quarter-final.
Henry Shefflin's men took control of the game when Brian Cody's 10th minute goal from a Colin Fennelly pass propelled them into a 1-3 to 1-1 lead. Fennelly, TJ Reid, Cody, Eoin Reid and Adrian Mullen added points as they extended their lead to 1-9 to 1-4 after 25 minutes.
Stephens, who relied heavily on Eoin Guilfoyle frees, got their first score from play via O'Dwyer in the 27th minute before Guilfoyle tagged on two frees to leave them trailing by 1-7 to 1-12 at the interval.
The city side narrowed the gap further with scores from Guilfoyle (free) and captain Conor Browne after the restart, but the holders struck for their second goal in the 40th minute when Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid combined to set up Eoin Cody for a neat finish.
That made it 2-12 to 1-9 and there was no way back for Stephens after that as further points from Cody and Reid (free) put Ballyhale - who will open their Leinster club SHC defence against Westmeath's Clonkill - out of sight.
Ballyhale Shamrocks - D Mason; D Corcorcan, J Holden, D Mullen; E Shefflin (0-2), M Fennelly, R Reid; R Corcoran (0-1), P Mullen (0-1); A Mullen (0-2), TJ Reid (0-6, 4f, 1'65), B Cody (1-1); E Cody (1-2), C Fennelly (0-3), E Reid (0-2). Subs: J Cuddihy (0-1) for P Mullen, M Aylward for B Cody, C Phelan for D Corcoran, G Butler for R Corcoran, J Connolly for D Mason.
James Stephens - G Costigan; L Murphy, T Keogh, J Tyrrell; D Hennessy, E Larkin, N Mullins; S Donohoe (0-1'65), C Kenny (0-1); M Ruth, C Browne (0-1), L Scanlon; T O’Dwyer (1-1), N Brassil (0-3, 1f), E Guilfoyle (0-8f). Subs: J McGrath for E Larkin, D Walton for D Hennessy, L Hickey for T Keogh, M McWey for L Murphy, J Byrne for E Guilfoyle.
Referee - O Kenny.Tweet