Na Piarsaigh 2-8
Fintan O’Toole reports from Semple Stadium
AND FINALLY A winning breakthrough in Munster hurling for a side who had become well-versed in heartbreak.
Ballygunner’s Stephen O’Keeffe and Eddie Hayden with Na Piarsaigh’s Adrian Breen.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Ballygunner have fallen short twice in the last three seasons, a core of their side have memories of a loss in 2009 at this stage as well.
But they ended that run in style with a terrific victory in today’s provincial decider and achieved it against a great team. Na Piarsaigh have lorded Munster in recent times in claiming four titles and have despatched Ballygunner three times since 2011.
Yet the Waterford side altered that trend with Pauric Mahony shooting 1-6, Stephen O’Keeffe netting from a penalty and their defensive unit combining to thwart a star-studded Na Piarsaigh forward line.
The game was barely two minutes old when Na Piarsaigh advertised their attacking threat. Kevin Downes collected a pass off Shane Dowling a fair distance from goal but he galloped away, cut inside and got clear of the cover to finish clinically to the net past Stephen O’Keeffe.
That set the tone early on, despite Ballygunner clipping over points either side of the goal. Na Piarsaigh’s hurling was crisp and smart, their confidence exemplified by the four unanswered white flags raised between the 5th and 9th minutes. Shane Dowling contributed three of them and they were five to the good.
Ballygunner have dealt with Na Piarsaigh onslaughts before. They settled down and worked their way methodically back into the game. Brian O’Sullivan and Conor Power were the focal points in attack, and they chipped away at the deficit with O’Sullivan seeing one goalbound shot tipped over by Padraig Kennedy. They got it back to two on one occasion and when Na Piarsaigh pushed ahead by four again, Ballygunner timed their run to the half-time line perfectly.
Pauric Mahony snapped over a free and then instigated a superb team move that cut apart the Na Piarsaigh defence, culminating in Brian O’Sullivan being fouled by Mike Casey close to goal. Stephen O’Keeffe ran upfield and drilled home the penalty. Mahony converted another free moments after and nudged Ballygunner in front 1-7 to 1-6 at the break.
Ballygunner emerged in the second half with the look of a team determined not to squander this opportunity. They reeled off four points without reply and it was not until Dowling posted a 41st minute free that Na Piarsaigh were on the mark since half-time.
Pauric Mahony was starting to stamp his authority on the game. He swept over a point from play in the 42nd minute before five minutes later he saw his long-range free hop in a crowded goalmouth and evade Padraig Kennedy before rolling into the net.
It was the critical moment. Na Piarsaigh thundered forward in the closing stages and while Dowling smashed home a 20-yard free, he was denied another goal by O’Keeffe’s reflexes and Ballygunner’s defence held firm in a frantic finale.
Six points in front at the final whistle and full value for a success that propels them into the All-Ireland series.
Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 1-6 (1-5f), Stephen O’Keeffe 1-0 (1-0 pen), Brian O’Sullivan 0-3, Barry O’Sullivan 0-2, Shane O’Sullivan, Billy O’Keeffe, Conor Power 0-1 each.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: Shane Dowling 1-4 (1-3f), Kevin Downes 1-0, Ronan Lynch, Alan Dempsey, David Dempsey 0-1 each.
1. Stephen O’Keeffe
4. Ian Kenny
3. Barry Coughlan
2. Eddie Hayden
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of the team
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6. Wayne Hutchinson
5. Philip Mahony
8. Harley Barnes
10. Barry O’Sullivan
7. Billy O’Keeffe
9. Shane O’Sullivan
11. Peter Hogan
12. Pauric Mahony
13. Tim O’Sullivan
14. Brian O’Sullivan
15. Conor Power
18. Mikey Mahony for Tim O’Sullivan (57)
17. JJ Hutchinson for Power (62)
1. Padraig Kennedy
3. Michael Casey
7. Cathal King
2. Jerome Boylan
5. Ronan Lynch
6. William O’Donoghue
19. Thomas Grimes
8. Alan Dempsey
9. Gordon Brown
10. David Dempsey
11. Shane Dowling
12. Conor Boylan
13. Adrian Breen
14. Kevin Downes
15. Peter Casey
17. Mike Foley for Grimes (42)
21. Conor Houlihan for Breen (50)
Referee: Nathan Wall (Cork)
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