Ballygunner 4-20 -
Co. SHC FINAL – The Big Match Highlights
Score of the Match
Billy O’Keeffe has been used as an attacking weapon from midfield all season long and timed his run to perfection on 21 minutes. Peter Hogan spilled the sliotar after he initially escaped from corner back Darragh Lynch but O’Keeffe arrived to scoop it up on the hurl. The 20 year old finished venomously to the far corner of the net beyond Eddie Lynch. He scored a wonder goal against Mount Sion into the same end last year and this latest strike transpired as another game changing moment.
A rapid double blast improved Ballygunner’s outlook. Against the wind and against the grain, Tim O’Sullivan and Billy O’Keeffe popped up with two crucial second quarter goals. O’Keeffe’s three-pointer gave the champions a lead that they never relinquished.
Save of the Game
Three years ago, Conor Carey walloped past Stephen O’Keeffe to settle the verdict in favour of Passage. On this occasion, the Waterford number one refused to buckle with the 36 year bearing down on goal. Thomas Connors wriggled his way through the red and black cover to find Carey one-on-one inside. The veteran forward fired high towards the roof of the net but O’Keeffe got his stick up to it and deflected away for a 65. With only four points separating them at that stage, his acrobatics quelled a potential Passage revival. Adrian Power made a very similar intervention for WIT in that classic 2008 Fitzgibbon Cup final against LIT. A save worthy of winning any championship.
Without any high drama, the short priced favourites reached for a season’s best and enhanced their provincial claims in the process. The large Passage contingent among the 3,811 spectators found their voice after an encouraging start from the underdogs. Ballygunner were in no mood for a repeat of 2013 however. They were utterly relentless in that second half and finished on 4-20, the largest winning total in 40 years. This final will be best remembered for the O’Keeffe goal, the O’Keeffe save and the Mahony comeback.
Passage tried to marshal the marquee strikers for Ballygunner but their man-to-man strategy left huge spaces at the back. Noel Connors monitored Brian O’Sullivan from the start with Jason Roche chosen to police Pauric Mahony. The two-time All Star gained the upper hand in his duel at first but he was then forced to follow the number fourteen out the field and this presented difficulties. The fluidity of movement among the Ballygunner front six isolated Tim O’Sullivan and Peter Hogan against Darragh Lynch and Jason Flood. The yawning gaps around the Passage full back zone contributed to the two goals and this had lasting damage. O’Sullivan performed a withdrawn role for the remainder of the first half and peppered passes inside. Connors decided to stay at home and pick up Peter Hogan instead. Peter Queally settled on three changes to his side after their narrow semi final win and sent in John Whitty at half time. Passage also rotated their free takers over the hour as Killian Fitzgerald, Owen Connors and Eoin Kelly all miscued at different stages. Mahony only spurned one dead ball opportunity for the winners. Denis Walsh could call on Stephen Power for the closing quarter and he rammed a shot to the top of the net within three minutes of his introduction. With 5-21 to his name in the 2016 championship, how much longer can he be kept in reserve?
Michael O’Brien could have taken sterner action against Eoin Kelly and Barry Coughlan after both players wrestled with each other on the ground in front of Stephen O’Keeffe’s goal. The pair escaped with yellows after the Portlaw man consulted his umpires. Peter Hogan also appeared to nudge Darragh Lynch to the ground before Tim O’Sullivan swooped to shoot past Eddie Lynch.
Man of the Match
Pauric Mahony headed the list of county final scorers for the fourth time in his career. Brian O’Sullivan, David O’Sullivan, Philip Mahony and Stephen O’Keeffe all contended for this award but Mahony stuck his head above the parapet. When the game was there to be taken on in the second half, he injected 1-7. After Eoin Kelly levelled matters for the first time, he stepped it up. The 24 year old instantly regained the lead with his third point from play. For his next score, he won a free deep in his own territory and struck over from well inside the 65. In difficult shooting conditions, he only missed the target twice. Two more frees followed before he emerged from a sea of red and white shirts to shorten the grip and deliver another point. During a fourteen-minute scoring spree, Mahony contributed five out of eight unanswered singles. He latched on to Peter Hogan’s hand pass eight minutes from time and drove in a fourth goal. The final nail. In the first half, he ghosted into threatening areas. He collected from Shane O’Sullivan to clip the sliotar between the uprights before he drifted into corner forward to pick up Brian O’Sullivan’s delivery and score. 1-11 for the day and 2-47 for the season. A marvellous return to club colours. Captain O’Sullivan continued a prolific campaign with four from play in the second half after serving as provider early on. Dominant midfield presence David O’Sullivan generated forward momentum with his barrelling runs. Four wides from five attempts will concern him however. Passage leader Noel Connors defended robustly in a pure masterclass. The 26 year old chose the right moment to drive over his first point of the championship, a seventy metre wind assisted effort. Three members of the Passage defence obliged inside the opening ten minutes. Connors prevailed in his direct confrontation with Brian O’Sullivan before he moved elsewhere. He also engineered two frees and robbed Billy O’Keeffe during the first half. Two further frees came his way after the break.