Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Waterford SHC Semi Final Ballygunner v Mt.SionBallygunner mentors: Darragh O’Sullivan, selector, Denis Walsh, manager and Gary O’Keeffe, selector. Photo: Sean Byrne.

Sunday Next – Walsh Park 3.00 p.m.
J. J. Kavanagh & Sons Co. S.H.C. Final – Ballygunner (Holders) V Passage

Down the years Passage had rarely, if ever, beaten neighbours Ballygunner in anything other than an odd Junior hurling game in the recent past. That was prior to a dramatic October afternoon in Walsh Park three years ago when the hurling landscape changed in an unforgettable manner and has remained that way since.

That was the day when Passage faced up to their nemesis for the first time in a county final since suffering defeat at their hands in 1997 and the Gunners were again odds on favourites to repeat that victory as they went into the final minutes seven points clear. What happened in those dramatic final minutes of added time will forever be etched in the minds of those who witnessed the manner in which that lead was wiped out and when Passage captain Conor Carey crashed the ball to the net with seconds remaining for the winning goal the scenes that greeted it and the presentation of the News and Star Cup to Carey will remain with every Passage player and supporter for a very long time.
Now the scene is set for a repeat of that final and both teams will carry their memories of that day into battle in Walsh Park on Sunday with each drawing their own motivation from the result. Passage will have no sense of inferiority now going in against their tormentors of many years. They remain the outsiders on Sunday but deep inside they know that as a result of that final victory they have found the self belief and mental strength to take on any opposition and it was those traits that saw them over the line against Dungarvan on Sunday blast with another strike from Carey playing its part in the victory.
Ballygunner on the other hand will use the hurt of that defeat as a primary motivating factor here and their respect for their opponents will mark their approach to this final as being a fifty/fifty game to be won or lost on the day.
The Gunners will be bidding for a third successive title on Sunday and despite being held to a draw in their opening Group game last May they have remained strong favourites to achieve that goal. The debate may go on as to what might have happened had the lights not gone out in Fraher Field when Abbeyside led by a goal with fifteen minutes remaining to play but the champions left no room for doubt as they stamped their authority on the re – fixture and on Sunday last they clinically and emphatically disposed of Mount Sion’s semi – final challenge in Walsh Park.
Both sides would have wished for a further week to refocus on Sunday’s final, Passage in particular after what was a draining tie, mentally and physically, against Dungarvan but the Munster Council left no room for manoeuvre and the winners must be prepared for a trip to Thurles the following week to play Thurles Sarsfields.
Both teams appear to have come through Sunday last without injury but the daunting programme of recent weeks will see Sunday’s game as a test of the strength and conditioning of both sides as much as their resolve and respective hurling skills…………

Waterford SHC Semi Final Passage v Dungarvan;Passage Mentors Michael Murphy, selector. Peter Queally, manager and Ray Barry, selector. Photo: Sean Byrne.

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