SIXMILEBR' 2-17; MOUNT SION 3-8 NIALL GILLIGAN started the day unsure as to whether he could even play and ended it with a man-of-the-match award after ripping the heart out of Mount Sion's defence in yesterday's AIB Munster club SHC final in Thurles.
His accuracy from play and frees yielded 1-8. Not bad for a man who has a medial ligament problem.
"People will say that it was all a take-on and that I wasn't injured at all but that's not the case.
"We had a puckaround this morning and the knee was quite painful but once the game started everything was fine," explained Gilligan, who found a willing partner in opportunism in right corner-forward, Brian Colbert.
Gilligan and Colbert got 2-12 between them and while John O'Meara, didn't score he caused the Mount Sion defence plenty of trouble. It was very different at the other end where the Sion full-forward line were well tied up.
Mount Sion were relying far too much on Ken McGrath and while he did his best to inspire them, he was fighting a lost cause.
McGrath scored 2-3, with both goals coming from frees. It summed up Mount Sion's day, really, as they were relying on chance breaks to keep afloat against a far more even and committed 'Bridge side, who could afford to shoot 18 wides. The Clare champions, making it a six in-a-row for the Banner, were five points clear after six minutes as Mount Sion struggled to settle.
McGrath's goal, driven in from 21 yards past a posse of 'Bridge defenders, raised Mount Sion hopes in the eighth minute and, for a brief spell, they hurled with precision to lead by 1-3 to 0-5 after 12 minutes.
However, their surge merely acted as a spur to Sixmilebridge and with Pat Hayes, Christy Chaplin, Stiofan Fitzpatrick and John Reddan forming a dominant midfield diamond, the opportunity tap opened regularly for Gilligan and Co.
Philly Flynn made three great saves in the Mount Sion goal as Sixmilebridge increased momentum and, in truth, the Waterford champions looked a beaten docket when they trailed by 0-11 to 1-4 at the interval.
They were five points adrift ten minutes into the second half but got a short-lived boost when Eoin Kelly drove in a goal in the 42nd minute and followed up with a point to cut the lead to a point, 0-14 to 2-7.
Kelly was replaced in the 49th minute, which stunned Mount Sion fans in the 4,385 crowd as by that stage, he had scored as much from play as the rest of the side put together.
Sixmilebridge responded quickly to the new challenge and Colbert started a fresh scoring burst with a goal in the 47th minute. It steadied the' Bridge, who scored 1-3 in the following five minutes, with the second goal coming from Gilligan in the 48th minute.
Trailing by ten points, Mount Sion were looking back up a new mountain, only this time they couldn't even see the top.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH - N Gilligan.
SCORERS - Sixmilebridge: N Gilligan 1-8 (3f, 3 '65s'), B Colbert 1-4, C Chaplin, J Reddan 0-2 each, A Mulready 0-1. Sion: K McGrath 2-3 (2-1f), E Kelly 1-1, M White, J O'Meara, T Browne (f), B Browne 0-1 each.
SIXMILEBRIDGE - D Fitzgerald; K McInerney, J O'Connell, W Kennedy; A Mulready, P Hayes, D Murphy; C Chaplin, S Fitzpatrick; R Conlon, J Reddan, M Conlon; B Colbert, N Gilligan, J O'Meara. Subs: B Kennedy for R Conlon (43), P Fitzpatrick for M Conlon (56), A Chaplin for Kennedy (59).
MOUNT SION - P Flynn; S Twomey, G Gater, K O'Connor; B Flannery, R McGrath, K O'Neill; E Kelly, P Fanning; M O'Regan, K McGrath, T Browne; B Browne, M White, E McGrath. Subs: A Kirwan for O'Regan (h-t), J O'Meara for Fanning (43), P Meaney for Kelly (49), J Meaney for E McGrath (54).
REF - G Hannigan (Cork)