Ballygunner land maiden four-in-a-row SHC glory

Brothers in arms: Ballygunner’s JJ and Wayne Hutchinson embrace after the Gunners made history at Walsh Park

Brothers in arms: Ballygunner’s JJ and Wayne Hutchinson embrace after the Gunners made history at Walsh Park

So Ballygunner made history in recording a record fourth successive Senior Hurling title success in defeating De La Salle at Walsh Park on Sunday last.
The history makers will now put their Munster Club ambitions on the line this Sunday when they host Thurles Sarsfields in the opening round, also at Walsh Park.
There is really is no substitute for talent. Without question, Ballygunner currently have the best panel players, and by a distance, of any club in this county.

This is effectively the same or substantially the same Ballygunner side over the last four seasons.
In reviewing this Sunday’s game it was noticeable that the only change in personnel from the County Final programme to that of last year’s Munster club tie is Billy O’Keeffe replacing Tim O’Sullivan. Indeed, Billy O’Keeffe was a second half substitute in the one-point defeat to Thurles 12 months ago. Definitely a settled Ballygunner team then.

If you have a good team there is little need to change it. Because of this familiarity Ballygunner have developed a style of play and type of fluent hurling that only comes when everyone exactly knows what is expected of them and what to expect from each of their teammates.
It is clear that Owen Dunphy and his De La Salle management team had planned and plotted aplenty but there just weren’t sufficient solutions available to the questions that Ballygunner posed.

De la Salle 2017 Waterford Senior Hurling Championship Finalists

De la Salle 2017 Waterford Senior Hurling Championship Finalists

Drop an extra defender to augment your defence and your attack is hopelessly outnumbered with the accuracy and stick-work of the men in Black n’ Red out manoeuvring your defensive shield.
Ballygunner’s half-back line of Philip Mahony flanked by Wayne Hutchinson and Shane Walsh with assistance from Harley Barnes and Shane O’Sullivan create a five-man wall that is almost impossible to breach.
It would be careless too to not to acknowledge the stranglehold provided by Barry Coughlan and his able lieutenants Eddie Hayden and Ian Kenny.

Pauric Mahony, with a 100 per cent success rate from placed balls is simply worth his weight in gold to any side, and few teams have forwards with the ability of David and Brian O’Sullivan. I’d be expecting more than a single phone call to the O’Sullivan homestead from Waterford manager Derek McGrath to negotiate a return to the fold for both these Ballygunner match winners. There are no club players in the county that could make a greater impact to Derek McGrath’s senior squad for 2018.
Billy O’Keeffe is a great utility player that is comfortable on the ball and an injury-free Peter Hogan is another vying for promotion.

Amongst this immense talent is two-goal hero Conor Power. It’s somewhat unusual that a player scoring two goals in a county final doesn’t get a mention in the man-of-the-match discussion, such is the way for a multi-talented team.
De La Salle really failed to impact in attack and rarely threatened Stephen O’Keeffe’s goal. The Gracedieu faithful need not fret too much as De La Salle does have a number of young players in line to make the grade in the near future.

Players like Thomas Douglas, Cormac McCann, Dylan Foley and Mikey Costigan all appear to have the necessary attributes to become successful senior players. Others like Shane McNulty, Tom Moran, Adam Farrell, Jack Fagan, Eoin Madigan and Shane Ryan will likely backbone their team in coming seasons alongside All-Star and county captain Kevin Moran.

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