Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ballygunner 2-18


De La Salle 0-16


The Ballygunner players celebrate after they lifted the News & Star Cup for the fourth year in a row on Sunday last. Photo Sean Byrne.


Four-in-a-row. Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it. Well if you’re a Ballygunner supporter anyway. First time in the club’s history and it takes them to 16 county senior titles (eight this century) and now three clear of Erin’s Own on the Waterford SHC roll of honour behind old rivals Mount Sion. This was no classic but that won’t bother the Ballygunner contingent in the crowd of just over 2,500 as they got the job done and now march on to a massive Munster Club clash with Thurles-Sarsfields, once again at Walsh Park, on Sunday next. This is a good Ballygunner team and with home advantage on Sunday, I give them a great chance. A win there would see them also have home advantage in the semi-final against new Clare champions, Sixmilebridge and then anything is possible. The one drawback is that they’ve played so many weeks in a row, while Thurles Sars had a free weekend but I still wouldn’t rule Fergal Hartley’s men out. Anwyay back to Sunday’s game and how did they win the News & Star Cup once again.

Thinking about it I think there were two turning points in this game and both were Ballygunner green flags. Conor Power’s tenth minute goal certainly steered the path of this final in the way it was to go. After an even start Ballygunner were just a point ahead, 0-3 to 0-2 at this juncture before Power’s goal jumped the Gunners four ahead and quick points followed from David O’Sullivan and soon it was six.
To be fair to De La Salle the battled back and in the latter stages of the first-half they had it down to three, a one score game. The Gunners made a great start to the second-half with the first three points and this helped them to lead 1-14 to 0-11 at the three quarter mark. Then came Conor Power’s second goals and the lights really did go out on De La Salle’s challenge. Ballygunner’s lead was nine then and one feared that this could turn into a right hiding but De La Salle stuck in there and outscored Ballygunner five to four in the final quarter to leave eight between them at the final whistle.

Plenty of contenders here. Jack Fagan struck over a beautiful sideline late in the opening half and also on the De La Salle side, Waterford captain, Kevin Moran struck a beauty with 12 minutes to play but the winners, like the match itself, were on the Ballygunner side and it was a tough decision between two. Billy O’Keeffe was the architect as Brian O’Sullivan hit a beauty from right on the stand side touchline, 12 minutes into the second-half but the winner for me has to be Pauric Mahony’s cracker in second-half stoppage time. 47 yards out, practically standing in the front row of the covered stand, no look, straight over. A thing of beauty.

Coming into this game Ballygunner were strong favourites (1/2) with the bookmakers to make it four in a row and as we know, to our peril, the bookies seldom get it wrong. And while the Gunners won by eight and were fairly comfortable throughout it still wasn’t a bad game. Us neutrals could have done with a De La Salle goal or two to make it even more interesting but that never looked likely, as Stephen O’Keeffe didn’t have a single save to make in the whole game. That said you couldn’t fault the De La Salle men for the effort they put in, they just came up against a very good Ballygunner who are worthy county champions and worthy winners of the club’s first ever four in a row. I felt during the week that Ballygunner’s big fright in the previous weekend’s semi-final against Lismore was probably the worst thing that could have happened De La Salle and I think that was proved right. That fright just focused the Ballygunner’s mind and they were at it right from the off on Sunday and when they are they just have too much firepower for the rest of the clubs in Waterford right now.

I overheard a few Ballygunner men at half-time who were far from happy with referee Tommy O’Sullivan in the first half. The free count at the midway point was nine to two in favour of De La Salle. It didn’t even out a bit in the second-half and by the final whistle it was 16 to ten in favour of De La Salle. That said I don’t think the Cappoquin man had a bad outing but to be fair there wasn’t really a dirty stroke in the match, he handed out just two yellow cards which is always a sign of a clean encounter.

Not surprisingly they were nearly all in red and black. A good sign of any team is when all six forwards score from play and Ballygunner’s attacking sextet duly obliged on Sunday. David O’Sullivan started like a man possessed and had three points from play before 12 minutes had elapsed, while his brother, Brian, had a hand in two goal as well as clipping over two from play. Pauric Mahony hit nine, two from play and Conor Power, as mentioned above, got the game’s only two goals. Shane O’Sullivan was solid in midfield, as was the Ian Kenny at corner-back and as they have been all year the half-back line of Philip Mahony, Wayne Hutchinson (who almost scored an unlikely goal) and joint-captain, Shane Walsh, were excellent throughout. Philip Mahony got the official nod for Man of the Match and it was hard to argue.
In contrast to Ballygunner’s 2-11 from play, De La Salle mustered just 0-5 in the same column. Jack Fagan got one of those, and a free and a sideline and he was the best of the men in white and red.

For Ballygunner, there’s no time to party or rest on their laurels as they are back in action next Sunday in the Munster Club Championship when they take on reigning champions and favourites, Tipperary winners, Thurles Sarsfields. For De La Salle it’s back to the drawing board as they will hope to bounce back in 2018 and go one better in claiming their fourth County Senior Hurling title.

Ballygunner’s two goal hero, Conor Power, celebrates one of his green flags in last Sunday’s County SHC Final. Photo: Inpho/Ken Sutton.

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