WATERFORD'S hurling showcase turned into a mirror image of their roller-coaster year - plenty of goals, poor defending and the occasional stormy flashpoint. Watching Decies boss Justin McCarthy didn't see anything that he hadn't encountered this summer as Mount Sion deservedly clinched a hat-trick of county SHC titles Ballygunner at a blustery Walsh Park.
MOUNT SION 4-14
Waterford SHC Final
WATERFORD'S hurling showcase turned into a mirror image of their roller-coaster year - plenty of goals, poor defending and the occasional stormy flashpoint.
Watching Decies boss Justin McCarthy didn't see anything that he hadn't encountered this summer as Mount Sion deservedly clinched a hat-trick of county SHC titles Ballygunner at a blustery Walsh Park.
McCarthy and most of the Ballygunner contingent would like to have seen their chief talisman, Paul Flynn, take centre stage but he sat out the game due to suspension. The former Deise captain would have made a difference, but it's doubtful if even he would have changed the outcome.
Flynn's absence was noticeable during the early exchanges which, as expected, were keenly-contested. Ballygunner had a strong wind at their backs, but their forwards failed to take advantage and a superb point from their midfielder Shane O'Sullivan was the only score in the opening 10 minutes.
Mount Sion took time to find their stride, but the wait proved worthwhile for their supporters in the 6,000 crowd. After Brian Greene opened their account with a point, Eoin Kelly struck for an opportunist goal in the 14th minute when Stephen Frampton failed to hold Michael White's crossfield delivery.
This concession was a huge setback for Ballygunner, but to their credit, last year's beaten finalists fought back and regained the lead in the 26th minute when the towering Paul Foley found the net after good approach play from Gearóid O'Connor.
Inside four minutes, Ballygunner struck for their second goal - a 25-yard howitzer from the industrious Andy Moloney - and suddenly, it looked as if they would carry more than a morsel of hope into the second half.
But the 'Gunner's optimism evaporated in first half injury-time. Firstly, Mount Sion goalie Ian O'Regan showed razor-sharp reflexes to deny Tommy Power's goalbound effort. Seconds later at the other end, Ken McGrath hammered a 20-metre free to back of the net to put the reigning champions a point behind at half-time 2-4 to 2-3. Mount Sion were now favourites.
The strength of the wind appeared to relent when the teams came back onto the field, which gave Ballygunner the impetus to launch a comeback-of-sorts. Within seven minutes of the restart, the challengers had regained a one-point initiative but that was the cue for their arch-rivals to hit top gear.
In a whirlwind four-minute spell, Mount Sion hit a sensational 2-3 and the game was effectively over as a contest. Their third goal, which came in the 37th minute, was a significant morale-blow to their opponents whose 'keeper, Ray Whitty, misjudged Tony Browne's 75 metre delivery and the sliotar hopped under him, trickling over the goal-line.
After Kelly and Eoin McGrath bagged quickfire points, Seán Ryan put one Mount Sion hand on the Cup when rifling a groundstroke past Whitty in the 41st minute. From the puck-out, a point from sub Fintan O'Shea had Jim Greene's charges 4-9 to 2-7 ahead and their opponents were playing for mere pride.
The reigning champions got a fright when quick-fire goals from Power and Colin Kehoe reduced the gap to three points. But this was as good as it got for the challengers as they were reduced to 14 men minutes later when captain Niall O'Donnell got red-carded.
SCORERS - Mount Sion: K McGrath 1-3 (1-0f); E Kelly 1-2; S Ryan 1-1; T Browne 1-0; B Greene, M White (1f), F O'Shea 0-2 each; E McGrath, M Frisby 0-1 each. Ballygunner: P Foley 1-2; A Moloney, C Kehoe 1-1 each; T Power 1-0 (f); S O'Sullivan 0-2; G O'Connor 0-1.
MT SION - I O'Regan; J O'Meara, A Kirwan, K Flynn; J Cleere, T Browne, B Flannery; E McGrath, R McGrath; B Greene, K McGrath, E Kelly; M White, M Frisby, S Ryan. Subs: F O'Shea for Frisby (38); K Stafford for Flannery (60); B Browne for Ryan (60).
BALLYGUNNER - R Whitty; N O'Donnell, A Kirwan, R O'Sullivan; S Frampton, F Hartley, W Hutchinson; S O'Sullivan, T Fives; C Kehoe, P Foley, A Moloney; G O'Connor, B O'Sullivan, T Power. Subs: M Kearney for B O'Sullivan (44); Gary Cullinan for Fives (56); P Carroll for Frampton (60).
REF - T O'Sullivan (Cappoquin/Afane).