Sunday 30 April 2017

Mahony points the way as 'Gunners land three-in-a-row

Ballygunner 4-20 Passage 1-12

Ballygunner's Peter Hogan gets away from Darragh Lynch of Passage during the Waterford SHC final Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ballygunner's Peter Hogan gets away from Darragh Lynch of Passage during the Waterford SHC final Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Within minutes of captain Brian O'Sullivan accepting the 'News and Star' Cup as kingpins once more in Waterford hurling, Ballygunner manager Denis Walsh was back over at the changing-rooms in Walsh Park making plans with members of his backroom team to dissect the video of what had happened for later in the week.

Such is the nature of the fixtures carousel that they don't get much time to draw breath as they look ahead to a seventh successive weekend of action and a Munster quarter-final with Thurles Sarsfields.

But it's also a reflection of how quickly they can park their local championship, such is the grip they now hold over it.

Three years ago they were leading the final by seven points with seven minutes remaining against the same opponents but lost by three, a shuddering defeat to neighbours who were winning their first county title. But their response has been to rack up a three-in-a-row to now match the exploits of the 1995-'97 team and the 1966-'68 teams before them.

Peter Queally was manager of Passage then just as he was yesterday and knows he was planning for a completely different team.

"They have really matured. If you look at the quarter-final, semi-final, I don't think anyone came close to them," said the former Waterford midfielder.

"It would be unusual to go through the last three rounds of any championship without a real fight being put up to them. It shows the quality they have."

For Queally, that quality was reflected in the replacements they were able to press into action - Wayne Hutchinson and Stephen Power especially, the latter helping himself to 1-1.

Long before the end Passage had accepted their fate, that they, like every other Waterford club, are the in the eye of a considerable storm.

There was poignancy for Ballygunner with the death of Pat Flynn, father of Paul, late last week. Flynn, who is to be buried this morning, was a club stalwart who helped to nurture so much of the talent that is sweeping through the county and there were fitting tributes paid to him.

It was another personal triumph for Pauric Mahony who finished with 1-11 (0-7 from frees) but he enjoyed an armchair ride with brother Philip Mahony enjoying a superb opening as Ballygunner played into a strong wind and David, Brian and Tim O'Sullivan and 19-year-old Peter Hogan, a member of this year's All-Ireland U-21-winning side, also prominent.

Passage had started well and were 0-5 to 0-0 ahead before Ballygunner landed their first blow. That five-point lead was still in place by the end of the first quarter when Shane O'Sullivan set up Pauric Mahony to close the gap but then two Ballygunner goals in the space of four minutes changed the dynamic completely.

First goal

Passage may reflect on how they allowed Ballygunner so much space in front of their own goal during that opening half as Tim O'Sullivan broke through for the first goal after Hogan had appeared to foul corner-back Darragh Lynch.

Hogan had a hand in the second goal too, his blistering run creating the opening for Billy O'Keeffe to send a rasping shot past Eddie Lynch for a 2-3 to 0-7 lead on 21 minutes.

By the break it was 2-5 to 0-10 and the only real question was by what margin the champions would stretch the lead. There was initial resistance on the restart but the Ballygunner attack had too much craft.

More questions would have been asked had Stephen O'Keeffe not saved so smartly from Conor Carey in the 42nd minute.

There was a palpable sense of deflation in Passage after that and when Power, not long on the field, got possession from a puck-out and goaled on 51 minutes the lead was pushed out to 10 points, 3-13 to 0-12. Mahony quickly followed up with a fourth goal after Hogan played him in and they added seven more points to really drive their superiority home, Thomas Connor's 54th minute goal the only respite, however brief.

"We were up against far superior opposition," said Queally.

"We firmly believed going into this game that we were good enough to win. We showed a lot of character last week but didn't get to our potential.

"Today, believe it or not, we hurled quite good at times, just the opposition were too good, very well drilled, good game plan that they have perfected over the last three years. They have good skilful hurlers all over the field."

Whether or not they can translate that in the province is a question former All-Ireland-winning dual player Walsh accepted afterwards.

"They are ambitious and maybe they've underachieved, let's be honest about it. They've a great opportunity next Sunday to show what they can do."

Scorers - Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 1-11 (7fs), S Power 1-1, B O'Sullivan 0-4, B O'Keeffe, T O'Sullivan 1-0 each, P Hogan 0-3, D O'Sullivan 0-1. Passage: K Fitzgerald 0-4 (3fs), T Connor 1-1, O Connors (1f), E Kelly (1f) 0-2 each, N Connors, J Roche, A Roche 0-1 each.

Ballygunner - S O'Keeffe; I Kenny, B Coughlan, E Hayden; H Barnes, Philip Mahony, Shane Walsh; S O'Sullivan, B O'Keeffe; D O'Sullivan, Pauric Mahony, C Power; T O'Sullivan, B O'Sullivan, P Hogan. Subs: W Hutchinson for B O'Keeffe (43), S Power for Barnes (48), M Mahony for C Power (51), JJ Hutchinson for T O'Sullivan (54), J McCarthy for Hogan (55).

Passage - E Lynch; J Flood, N Connors, D Lynch; A Roche, J Roche, S Mason; P Walsh, S Hogan; O Connors, C Carey, K Fitzgerald; G Cullinane, E Kelly, T Connors. Subs: J Whitty for Cullinane (h-t), R Hurley for Carey (54), C O'Neill for Fitzgerald (59), P Flynn for Mason (59), P Donnellan for A Roche (60).

Ref - M O'Brien (Portlaw)

Irish Independent

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