Ballyduff wary of Crotta O'Neill's hunger

Garveys Supervalu County Senior Hurling Final Preview-
By Murt Murphy for kerrygaa.ieAustin Stack Park Tralee this Sunday, will be awash with colour as Championship kingpins Ballyduff, will be seeking to go to the top of the SHC tree, when they meet success starved Crotta O'Neill's, in this year's Garveys SuperValu County Senior Hurling Championship final ( Throw in- 3-30pm) .

Ballyduff are raging hot favourites to post back to back titles, under newly appointed Antrim manager Jerry Wallis , while Crotta O'Neill's under the guidance of Tipperary native Paddy Williams, will be trying to end a 43year famine as it was 1968 that Crotta won their last Co Championship and they have not appeared in a final since 1999.
The last time Ballyduff and Crotta O'Neill's met in a Co Final was back in 1972 and Ballyduff are as close as certainties as one can get in sport, as they attempt to move to title number 23 and one ahead of great rivals Kilmoyley.
Crotta may take some solace from the fact that, Ballyduff did not impress in their semi final win over Lixnaw, but Crotta themselves have thrown away big half time leads in three of their Championship games, scoring only four points in total, during the second period of those games!
So, if Crotta O'Neill's want to end the famine, they will have to play for sixty minutes plus, and manager Paddy Williams recognizes that Crotta side must improve However, Williams feels that Crotta have prepared well and that players are focussed for the major task that lies ahead on Sunday" We've done the hard work. The training is complete. Now it's just a question of tweaking a few things - talking them through a few options".
Williams is sage enough to know that Ballyduff will put great emphasis on curtailing top scorer Shane Nolan, so he believes that others will have to help out
"They will of course target Shane who is one of best young hurlers in the county. But we've spoken about that. It's time for the others to step up to the plate and I am sure they will".
Williams has been impressed with the club scene in Kerry
"Kerry club hurling has a good reputation in Tipperary. This Crotta team has a good blend of youth and experience. They may have lost a few finals and we are the underdogs but it's a question now of getting them to understand what's required of each and everyone of them. I've watched Ballyduff. They are a strong, formidable side."
Williams, along with his fellow selectors John Shanahan, Arthur Spring, Andrew Keane and Jerome O'Sullivan, know that a mighty roadblock in the shape of Ballyduff stands in their way but sporting fields this year world wide have been littered with the carcases of favourites as the underdogs have prevailed - So could this be the "Year of the Underdog" - I am sure Crotta are hoping so!!!

His opposite number Jerry Wallis knows that his team has the experience and firepower to win with the Boyle brother Liam, Aidan, Mikey and Padraig all class performers who can post big totals " The reality is that no matter what I say , Ballyduff are favourites and rightly so. There is fear in Ireland to embrace favouritism but I believe in reverse psychology and going out on the field and dealing with it. I firmly believe that if we turn up on Sunday and give a good solid display of hurling over the hour, we are good enough to win"

The newly appointed Antrim manager admits that some people might find that statement to be bordering on cockiness and might well be used as ammunition by Crotta to get suck in and teach Ballyduff a lesson.
But Wallis is s straight talker and rather than give the media the same old spiel of - it's a fifty -fifty - it all depends on the day - We played poorly against Lixnaw - he call its as it is- Ballyduff are 1/8 favourites by Paddy Power- in other words you would have to part with €8 to collect €9 and even Ballyduff folk wont be doing that.

So basically Ballyduff are unbackable but that does not mean that they cannot be beaten!
But Wallis believes that Ballyduff are exactly where they want to be "It's great to be back and its great to see Ballyduff Back where they belong. Last year we played in the Munster Club after winning the county and we did not kick on and that's disappointing.
There is s lot at stake on Sunday and I don't mean just winning the title. There is also the opportunity of achieving more in Munster. I think we can be happy with the way we are playing this year.
We could spring one or two surprises in this game but you will have to wait until Sunday to find out "he quips.

By now you have probably read all the strengths and weaknesses in the papers and aren't we lucky to have editors like Jim O'Gorman and Paul Brennan (naming order by age only) who have such an interest in our games and both Kerryseye and Kerryman have done excellent previews; If you haven't read the Latter Day Heroes versus Modern Day Masters, penned by Sylvester Hennessy in Kerryseye - then go and read it - it's a historical masterpiece!

Look the cards are stacked in favour of Ballyduff but they have to perform and you don't win County Championships the week before in the media. So firstly Ballyduff must be switched on from the start - if they believe for one moment that they have only to show up to win, then they might well be in trouble - We know that Ballyduff have quality hurlers but how many class sides lost out because the heads were not right. So Jerry Wallis has a major job on his hands to convince the Ballyduff players that they have no silverware won yet.

However the major driving force for Ballyduff might not be that they want to thump Crotta but that winning will have them on top of the Championship tree - on 23 titles - one ahead of fierce rivals Kilmoyley. That is sure to focus the minds and I believe that Ballyduff will be rearing to go on Sunday.
They are strong all round - P J O'Gorman is fine keeper, Jason Bowler, Paud Costello, Ally O'Connor and Liam Boyle are quality defenders while Padraig O'Grady and Bobby O'Sullivan make an interesting midfield pairing.
There is little that can be said about the Ballyduff attack - just mention, Mikey Boyle, Aidan Boyle, Podge Boyle, Gary O'Brien and young Pa Joe Connolly and opposition defenders are likely to have sleepless night.

For Crotta O'Neill's they have nothing to lose , very few outside the parish think they can win so they can go out and express themselves, knowing that if they are in the game entering the final quarter then they might be able to surprise Ballyduff.
Crotta's problems thus far are well documented - they just don't do second halves and if they repeat this on Sunday, they will be in big trouble.
Crotta have started well in all their games bar their thumping at the hands of Kilmoyley but they have scored only a point in two of their championship games and two in another, if memory serves me right.
So Paddy Williams will have to drum it into his players that they will have to play for sixty to sixty five minutes to have any chance.
There is also the question of hunger- Crotta O'Neill's are waiting too long to win a County Final - they don't appear in too many so now is the hour, they must grasp the opportunity or forever hold their peace. They will have huge support - not alone from the parish but from all the neutrals who will be on the side of the underdog.

Crotta have a very useful side and against any other team, they would be given a great chance.
Sean Twomey has done well in goal; Philip Twomey is in line for fullback of the Championship while Andrew Keane is another experienced campaigner as is Tom Cronin. Throw in the two younger players Tom B McElligott (only 17) and Pa Quille and Crotta boast a useful defence.
Crotta also have probably the best midfield pairing in the Championship- twins Mike and Cyril Lynch so they will be key if Crotta are to win.
Crotta have one stand out attacker in Shane Nolan but he has been doing it very much on his own so he needs help on Sunday.
David Carney has been playing better this year and Sean Weir is tricky customer when he runs at you so Crotta O'Neill's will be no pushovers in attack.

Verdict: While accepting that anything can happen in sport, anything other than a Ballyduff win would be a major shock.