Ballyduff out-point The Gunners in Walsh Park thriller

Well most pundits got it all wrong last Sunday, as exhilarant Ballyduff Upper stole a march on fancied Ballygunner to win their County Senior hurling title

Well most pundits got it all wrong last Sunday, as exhilarant Ballyduff Upper stole a march on fancied Ballygunner to win their County Senior hurling title

Ballyduff Upper . . . 1-18;
Ballygunner . . . 1-14

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Well most pundits got it all wrong last Sunday, as exhilarant Ballyduff Upper stole a march on fancied Ballygunner to win their County Senior hurling title, and deservedly so on a final score line of 1-18 to 1-14. This was indeed a fitting climax to the Decies premier hurling competition in a year when intercounty fortunes emerged much brighter for Waterford, and it attracted a splendid 6,000 attendance, who judging by the enthusiasm the match generated enjoyed every single minute of it. Yet credit where credit is due, apart from the opening minutes when the teams traded early points from frees, the new champions led for the greater part of the hour, and weren’t in the slightest flattered by their four points win in the end.

A masterful midfield performance by man of the match All Star Stephen Molumphy had a crucial bearing on the ultimate result, and while his swift moving forward colleagues also played no mean part in fashioning this most unexpected result, not even the most partisan Gunner’s support could cavil with the result when it was all over. Yet for all that, the former champions who earlier in the season again lost sensationally to the Western team in the group stages didn’t knuckle under easily and put in a strong storming finish, which on another occasion would certainly have reaped handsome dividends. However once the ‘reds’ got their noses in front they were going to be deterred from their set mission and by the half way mark, they had sensationally opened up a six points advantage, and actually increased their advantage to double scores with two minutes of the restart, and each time subsequently when the Gunners threatened like they might yet fulfil expectations, Ballyduff had kept something in reserve, and utilised it to the full when the need was greatest. In the end the difference between the teams amounted to four points – not an exorbitant advantage in hurling, and in a grandstand finish, the necessary resolve remained to see the new champions over the finishing line.

This was a splendid advertisement for hurling, sportingly played throughout, adorned with scores of exemplary vintage, and played at a cracking pace from start to finish. Winners in 1982 and 1987, Ballyduff will now have the distinction of leading Waterford into next year’s Munster championship, while much sooner – next Sunday week in fact, November 18th, they will throw their hat in the provincial club campaign against Clare champions Tulla at Ennis, and on the evidence of what we witnessed at Wash Park last Sunday, Decies folk can rest assured that we are going to be admirably represented in this prestigious of competitions.

So Ballygunner’s bid for their 11th County senior hurling title came unstuck, and they were the first to congratulate their opponents after the final whistle, yet rest assured the Gunners will be back and this was only a temporary lapse in what will still be regarded as a good year for this famous East Waterford club. Hurling emerged the real winner last weekend, and this can be readily vouched for by all those present.

Early scores prove crucial

With the clerk of the weather in benevolent mood, and the playing surface in impeccably fine condition, Sunday’s Top Oil Senior Hurling Final commenced in bewildering fashion with rank outsiders Ballyduff Upper successfully carrying the game to their more fancied opponents and once they hit the front they never surrendered their lead in what was by any conceivable yardstick one of the better deciders of the modern era.

The game was scarcely a minute old when Brendan Hannon from a placed position gave Ballyduff an early lead, yet the Gunners Stephen Power and David O’Sullivan shot wides in turn before Stephen Power equalised from a free in the 5th minute. Predictably in the light of the Westerners early dominance they were back in front after Brendan Hannon (free) and Jamie Kearney shot points between the 7th and 8th minutes. Already Stephen Molumphy was making his presence felt in the middle of the field winning a lion’s share of the ball and invariably putting it to good use. A long ball from the All Star in the 10th minute delightfully found Patrick Kearney who breaking away from his marker gave Patrick Haran in the Gunners goal no chance. Still very much in the ascendancy the winners increased their lead further in the 12th minute, again a fine defensive clearance from Tom Feeney found Brendan Hannon who duly obliged with his third point to open up a seven point differential between the sides.

The Gunners came back with points in the 13th and 15th minutes respectively, the first from Gearoid O’Connor which could just have easily been a goal, and the other from a placed position by Stephen Power. Yet, a more realistic assessment of first quarter play can be gleaned from the fact that the winners shot five wides to their opponents three in that crucial early period. Ballygunner’s mid field partnership combined well for Shane O’Sullivan to reduce the deficit in the 16th minute leaving a goal between the sides, but undaunted Ballyduff came again with a flourish and superb points from Jamie Kearney and Brendan Hannon had their earlier five point lead restored by the 18th minute. The right of reply fell to Andy Moloney half a minute later, under pressure he had a marvellous point for the Gunners. A minute later however, Patrick Kearney came mighty close to emulating his earlier feat when he cut through Ballygunner’s defence and with a goal within his sight he was impeded by a defender resulting in the game’s only penalty award. Here scorer in chief Brendan Hannon opted to take the easy point on offer instead to again leave a five point differential between the sides. Andy Moloney and Shane Walsh kept flagging Ballygunner hopes alive with points in the 21st and 22nd minutes respectively, but the rampant Western side could not be contained. Jamie Kearney showed a clean pair of heels to Tommy Power as he added another point in the 24th minute, and when goalkeeper Adrian Power registered a point from a free on his own 65m line in the 25th minute the writing was beginning to appear on the wall for the hard pressed Gunners.

Matters continued to go Ballyduff’s way in the concluding moments of the initial half, and their lead situation was further enhanced when Jamie Kearney and Michael Molumphy made it 1-11 to 0-7 by the half way mark, yet there was still time for Ballygunner’s Stephen Power (free) to get one back, leaving Ballyduff six points clear at the interval (1-11 to 0-8), and already looking the most likely of winners.

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