Sunday 21 January 2018

Ballygunner finally scale club heights

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

BALLYGUNNER 2-14 : BLACKROCK 0-12 THE sunshine smiles on the faces of Jeff and Emma Frampton as they accompanied their delighted father Stephen to the presentation area at Semple Stadium yesterday typified the ecstatic mood which washed over the whole of Ballygunner after the club's first ever win in the AIB Munster club hurling final.

The young Framptons may have little memory of the several disappointing days experienced by Stephen, Ballygunner and indeed Waterford hurling over recent years but older fans were very conscious of the absolute imperative to snatch Munster hurling's big club prize from Blackrock who themselves were bidding for their first provincial crown since 1979.

The Ballygunner following comprised the majority of the 7,600 crowd and they were rewarded with a compelling performance which squeezed the life from Blackrock's effort. The Cork champions also helped in their own undermining process, shooting ten first half wides, which was unforgivable on a dry, calm afternoon.

The sides were level (0-6 each) at half-time but despite their inaccuracy, the advantage seemed to rest with Blackrock, who had recovered from an 0-6 to 0-2 deficit in the closing ten minutes.

Blackrock were winning lots of good possession so it was vital for Ballygunner to increase the intensity of their game, which they did very successfully in the second half.

"We knew we would have to move up a gear but we also felt that we were well capable of doing that. We got a great start after half time and built on that as the game progressed," said Stephen Frampton, who finally landed a Munster medal after 15 years in the Ballygunner senior shirt.

Ballygunner exploded from the starting gate in the second half with Paul Flynn hoisting a pointed free in the first minute, followed by a Paul Foley goal 50 seconds later after he got a crucial touch to a long-range free by Fergal Hartley.

Blackrock had cut the lead to two points by the 37th minute and were three adrift after a further 16 minutes of high quality action but Ballygunner sprinted menacingly for home in the closing stages.

They out-scored Blackrock by 1-3 to 0-1 in the final six minutes with the goal coming from Paul Flynn, who sped into space before angling his drive past Trevor Barry in the 59th minute.

Flynn scored 1-9 (0-8 from placed balls) while team captain Billy O'Sullivan, who delivered a fine second half performance, and Tipperary native Andy Moloney also distinguished themselves in the Ballygunner attack.

Blackrock despatched Wayne Sherlock to mark O'Sullivan at the three quarter mark but, by then, most of the serious damage had been done.

Paul Tierney, Barry Hennebry, Liam Meaney and Brian O'Keeffe also battled doggedly for Blackrock but their frustrating day was probably best characterised by full-forward Alan Browne.

He threatened a great deal but enjoyed no luck with his shooting either from play or frees and ended up with five wides. Blackrock might have been able to disguise the impact of such inaccuracy against lesser opposition but a well co-ordinated Ballygunner side, who had beaten Doora-Barefieled and Toomevara in earlier rounds, were in punishing mood and once they took control in the second half, they were never going to be caught.

"We lost Munster finals here in 1996 and 1999 so we were determined to get it right this time. We knew we were good enough to win so it was a question of going out and delivering. It was a bit worrying when Blackrock wiped out our first half lead but once we got the early breaks in the second half, we grew in confidence," said Frampton. He turned in a typically tidy performance at right half-back but it was his long-time colleague Fergal Hartley, who gave the biggest contribution of all from centre-back.

He was solidity personified all through and was at his imperious best when Blackrock launched a desperate rescue package in the second half.

Hartley, Frampton and Co fully deserved their long awaited success and will now move on with confidence to an All-Ireland semi-final clash against Galway champions, Clarinbridge, in February.

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