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Gunners fire up Déise four-timer

Waterford SHC final: Ballygunner 2-18 De La Salle 0-16

Concentration is the name of the game as Ballygunner’s Ian Kenny (left) and David Greene of DLS battle for possession at Walsh Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Concentration is the name of the game as Ballygunner’s Ian Kenny (left) and David Greene of DLS battle for possession at Walsh Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Even before joint-captains Pauric Mahony and Shane Walsh had been presented with the trophy following Ballygunner's historic fourth successive county title, predictions of further glory were emanating from their vanquished rivals.

"They could push on and win the All-Ireland. They are a quality side. We all knew that and you could see it here again today," said John Mullane.

Ballygunner's Conor Power celebrates after scoring his side's second goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Ballygunner's Conor Power celebrates after scoring his side's second goal. Photo: Sportsfile

He had spent a frustrating afternoon as part of an undermanned De La Salle attack that struggled against a Ballygunner defence where the half-backs excelled while Barry Coughlan secured the No 3 area.

And while goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe didn't have his shot-stopping qualities tested very much, his well-directed puck-outs added to a wide range problems for De La Salle.

Brother

Philip Mahony turned in a man-of-match performance in the Ballygunner half-back line while his brother Pauric scored 0-9 (0-7 from frees).

Ballygunner's Pauric Mahony challenges De La Salle's Tom Moran. Photo: Sportsfile
Ballygunner's Pauric Mahony challenges De La Salle's Tom Moran. Photo: Sportsfile

Conor Power pounced for two goals, both of which came off good work by Brian O'Sullivan, while David O'Sullivan's early enterprise - he scored three points in the opening 12 minutes - was hugely influential in settling Ballygunner into a steady rhythm.

Ultimately, it was a case of a superior force bringing enough of its collective power to bear on opposition who weren't able to win enough of the individual battles.

It made for very pleasant viewing for Ballygunner manager Fergal Hartley and supporters who now share Mullane's view that the club's first county four-in-a-row will be followed by further success across wider boundaries.

The quest for Munster glory begins next weekend when Ballygunner play Thurles Sarsfields in the Munster quarter-final in Walsh Park. Joint captain Walsh outlined their ambitions for further glory after becoming the first club to win a Waterford four-timer since Mount Sion in the 1950s.

"We'd feel we have unfinished business with the level of players that are in the squad. Next week's game will be massive for us," said Walsh.

Thurles Sarsfields were very impressive in their march to Tipperary glory so their clash with Ballygunner promises to provide a splendid launch to the Munster campaign.

The proximity of that big test will keep Ballygunner's celebrations to a minimum but they will certainly have enjoyed last night after fitting so many pieces of the jigsaw together in a very solid performance..

De La Salle, who were back in the final for the first time in five years, needed everything to go right for them from the off against such high-powered opposition, but instead found themselves trailing by 1-6 to 0-3 at the end of the first quarter.

David O'Sullivan's general enterprise and accurate finishing had helped unlock De La Salle's security code, a process which was enhanced in the 10th minute when Brian O'Sullivan placed Power for a goal.

Playing against the wind, it was a testing time for De La Salle, as there looked a real possibility that they might be completely overwhelmed.

In fairness, their response to a difficult situation was brave and effective. Shane Ryan's accuracy from frees, backed up with an opportunist point by Mullane and an even better one from a line cut by Jack Fagan, cut the deficit to three points in stoppage time before Pauric Mahony closed out the scoring, leaving Ballygunner leading by 1-10 to 0-9 at half-time.

Power's second goal in the 45th minute put Ballygunner ten points ahead and on their way to a comfortable victory.

It fell to Pauric Mahony to make the victory speech ("Shane told me he had nothing prepared, so you take it") but even as the black-and-red hordes streamed out of Walsh Park, there was a feeling that bigger deals lay ahead.

Still, winning the club's first four-in-a-row is a major achievement in its own right and guarantees the squad a special place in club folklore.

"It hasn't happened since the 1950s - it's a rare occurrence and we're delighted to be part of a special day for the club. You never get tired of winning county titles," said Mahony.

Shane Walsh also pointed to the overall squad balance as a vital ingredient in the county success and the plans for the future.

"Fergal has a hard job to pick the team. Everyone stood up to the mark today, especially in the second half when we were against the breeze. These are the days you remember - being part of the four-in-a-row is special."

Scorers - Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 0-9 (7f), C Power 2-0, D O'Sullivan 0-3, B O'Sullivan 0-2, S O'Sullivan, P Hogan, B O'Keeffe, S Walsh 0-1 each. De La Salle: S Ryan 0-8 (8f), J Fagan 0-3 (1 l/b), P Nevin, J Mullane, K Moran, A Farrell, T Douglas (f) 0-1 each.

Ballygunner - S O'Keeffe; E Hayden, B Coughlan, I Kenny; Philip Mahony, W Hutchinson, S Walsh; H Barnes, S O'Sullivan; P Hogan, D O'Sullivan, Pauric Mahony; C Power, B O'Sullivan, B O'Keeffe. Subs: M Mahony for Hogan (53), JJ Hutchinson for Power (57), B O'Sullivan for O'Keeffe (59), T O'Sullivan for D O'Sullivan (63).

De La Salle - S O'Brien; S Dalton, S McNulty, M Doherty; E Madigan, K Moran, T Moran; E Barrett, J Dillon; A Farrell, J Fagan, D Greene; J Mullane, P Nevin, S Ryan. Subs: T Douglas for D Greene (52), E Meaney for Madigan (52), C McCann for Ryan (57).

Ref - T O'Sullivan

Irish Independent

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