McGrath masters lead Sion to promised land
MOUNT SION 1-19 ; BALLYGUNNER 2-14 IT finished in a welter of excitement, but Waterford's glorious odyssey at provincial club and county level over the last ten months seemed a dim and distant memory such was the disappointingly low standard in yesterday's County SH final at Walsh Park.
And, to make matters worse, the game was marred by two melees in which sticks were indiscriminately used and which involved up to eight players after just two minutes and again after 22 minutes.
However, the only action taken by the generally over-lenient referee, Michael Wadding, was to book Mount Sion's John Meaney and Ballygunner's Alan Kirwan for their involvement in the second altercation.
Referee Wadding also booked three other players, Ballygunner's Rory O'Sullivan and Colin Kehoe plus Mount Sion's Brian Greene.
Of course, the quality of the play won't worry Mount Sion who rocketed out of the blocks and led 1-7 to 0-2 after 27 minutes and by 1-9 to 0-5 at half-time.
And central to this powerful opening were the outstanding contributions of the McGrath brothers, Ken and Eoin, in attack.
Centre forward Ken played with tremendous energy, courage and guile and contributed the massive overall total of 0-11, 0-3 from play.
The slight, but seemingly indestructible Eoin, playing at left half-forward, shot the all-important goal after a tremendously pacey run.
Eoin Kelly at midfield also had a stormer, shooting a magnificent 0-6, all from play.
Not far behind the hugely influential trio were defenders Anthony Kirwan, John Cleere and Tony Browne.
"Despite the fact that we won two county titles in the last four years, Mount Sion's character has been questioned by a lot of people because Ballygunner had won five titles in the last eight years," said scoring hero Ken McGrath.
"So, that gave us a huge incentive and I've never known us to be as focused and fired up before a county final. We were also delighted that it was a dry day because that suited our style of play."
In contrast to Mount Sion, a number of Ballygunner's big guns like Fergal Hartley, who was marking Ken McGrath, Andy Moloney and Paul Flynn were often on the back foot.
Moloney, directly opposed to Eoin Kelly, was switched to centre forward after 25 minutes and he resuscitated Ballygunner's victory hopes with a sweetly struck goal which reduced Mount Sion's lead to 1-10 to 1-7 after 37 minutes.
The normally deadly accurate Flynn was off target from four placed balls and only featured prominently on an intermittent basis.
Most of the drama was confined to the last four minutes of added time. After 30 minutes of the second half, Mount Sion looked to be coasting to victory at 1-18 to 1-13, but then a 30-yard free from Flynn found the back of the challengers net.
A minute later Kelly put Mount Sion three points ahead, but then, with the last stroke of the match, Flynn directed the ball just over the crossbar when he was obviously shooting for the goal which would have brought the match to a re-play.
SCORERS Mount Sion: K McGrath 0-11 (0-7f, 0-1 '65'), E Kelly 0-6, E McGrath 1-0, S Ryan 0-1, T Browne 0-1 (f). Ballygunner: P Flynn 1-6 (1-4f), A Hearne 0-4 (0-1f), A Moloney 1-0, P Power, B O'Sullivan, G Cullinan, T Fives 0-1 each.
MOUNT SION - I O'Regan; J O'Meara, A Kirwan, B Flannery; J Cleere, T Browne, B Greene; E Kelly, R McGrath; M Frisby, K McGrath, E McGrath; S Ryan, J Meaney, B Browne. Subs: D Kelly for B Browne, P Fanning for Ryan.
BALLYGUNNER R Whitty; N O'Donnell, A Kirwan, R O'Sullivan; S Frampton, F Hartley, C Kehoe; T Fives, A Moloney; M Mahony, A Hearne, P Foley; B O'Sullivan, P Flynn, D O'Sullivan. Subs: P Power for P Foley, G Callinan for D O'Sullivan, P Foley for Mahony.
REF M Wadding (Roanmore)