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Break since Munster final gives edge to Ballyhale - Hutchinson

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Ballygunner's Wayne Hutchinson. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Ballygunner's Wayne Hutchinson. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Ballygunner's Wayne Hutchinson. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The last ball to be struck in the Munster club hurling final in November takes pride of place on a mantelpiece in a house in Waterford; a small, discreet monument to a giant achievement.

After ending a frustrating 17-year wait for the Munster title, that sliotar takes pride of place in Wayne Hutchinson's mother's house.

Ballygunner had lost four finals since their only other win in 2001, the last two against Limerick's Na Piarsaigh who had never lost a provincial club championship match until last November's decider.

But their defiance in Thurles almost 11 weeks ago was palpable, in no one more so than Hutchinson, especially down that home straight as he seized possession to thwart Na Piarsaigh momentum time and again. Fitting then that the ball should rest in his hand when the final whistle blew.

"It's sitting at home now on the mantelpiece in my mother's house and it will be there for ever more. It was a great moment," he conceded.

So good that goalkeeper Stephen Brenner and Philip Mahony, veterans of many great days with Waterford, declared it the best day of their hurling lives.

"The two boys are well experienced and have been out on All-Ireland final day. Obviously they haven't won one but hopefully that will change too. But it was a massive day because the last time we won a Munster was back in 2001 so a lot of the talk around the club is always about that team and could this team actually go on and do what they did. Thankfully we are after creating our own bit of history.

"They are talking about this team now and we're after leaving a legacy for U-12s, U-14s and U-16s coming up in the club. Now they have something to look towards."

Hutchinson - who transferred to Dublin club St Jude's in 2015, helping them back to another county final before recommitting to Ballygunner - was a peripheral inter-county hurler through the management of Justin McCarthy, Davy Fitzgerald and Michael Ryan, never managing to establish himself fully with injury a constant bedfellow.

But his gritty presence has been a feature of successive Ballygunner teams and winning a Munster title was a prize he could never give up on.

"I knew the potential was in the team, no question. I knew there was a group of players to go on and do something special. If I didn't think that, I wouldn't be committing to it.

"From a personal perspective, you might have some lads sit here and say 'oh no it was in doubt' but I felt it was never in doubt that this team was going to go."

The club, he feels, has put down sufficient roots now to enjoy more success at this level but managing an 11-week break is new to this group and potentially will give a more experienced Ballyhale Shamrocks side an advantage on Saturday.

Wait

"The break is pretty tough," he said. "You win a Munster championship in November and you go all of December and January without a championship game, it's a long, long time to wait.

"It's literally a new season. So whoever is playing well in November doesn't really have that form to bring into a game two or three weeks later. They are trying to bring the form that they had in November into a new season two-and-a-half months down the line.

"It all comes down to which team reacts better to the break and I think Ballyhale might have the advantage in that they have been in this position before.

"We haven't. Henry (Shefflin) has been in this position. he knows how to prepare a team to be at this stage. It is new ground for us."


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