Gunners in the Groove

Ballygunner take fifth successive Senior title as thoughts turn to Munster glory

Brian Flannery at Fraher Field

So the ‘Drive for Five’ is consigned to history with title number 17 secured for Ballygunner thanks to an emphatic Senior Hurling Final win over Abbeyside at Fraher Field.
However, the race for a second Munster club title and a maiden All-Ireland crown is only just beginning for Fergal Hartley’s men.In the pre-match previews to last Sunday’s Final the case for the challengers needed to be made but it was all circumstantial rather than substance. The only solid evidence of an Abbeyside advantage was that the game was being played in Fraher Field. Given that the Villagers had lost all their previous five finals whether they played in Dungarvan or Waterford City you kind of knew the perceived venue advantage itself was tenuous enough, all the more so when one considered Ballygunner had won their previous 18 Championship matches at Fraher Field prior to Sunday last.

Ballygunner’s players savouring Senior Hurling Championship glory at Fraher Field following victory over Abbeyside on Sunday last. See inside for further coverage. 		| Photo: Sean Byrne

Ballygunner’s players savouring Senior Hurling Championship glory at Fraher Field following victory over Abbeyside on Sunday last. See inside for further coverage. | Photo: Sean Byrne

The champions held all the aces going into this game and it pretty much played out exactly as predicted. Abbeyside proved game in the opening half but you can’t shoot eight wides and not expect it to cost you dearly at this level. Trailing by three points at the break (0-09 to 0-06) despite having had the advantage of a strong wind in the first 30 minutes, you just knew what was coming.
Ballygunner play to a very set pattern. Brian O’Sullivan and Conor Power (deputising superbly for the injured Peter Hogan) are the twin striking partnership in front of the opposition goal.
The Gunners deep lying half-forward line create an ocean of space for their front two to exploit and the deadly duo didn’t disappoint. Abbeyside’s last line of defence consisting of John Elsted and Darragh McGrath were effectively on an island without help and every slip or mistake was punished severely.

Goals from Brian O’Sullivan and Conor Power on 40 and 50 minutes respectively killed a game that already was fast losing its competitiveness. Patrick Hurney’s red card was the act of a frustrated player on an afternoon that had already gone south for the player and his teammates.Pauric Mahony was the unanimous choice for the man-of-the-match award with the silken star shooting 13 points over the course of the game including five excellent efforts from play. Mahony’s ability to guide the ball between the posts from all angles and distances is unrivalled in this county. The effortless nature of his striking is pure poetry and certainly wowed the 4,275 in attendance.Ballygunners average winning margin in their six championship games this year is a staggering 17 points. I imagine motions for the next county convention proposing the dividing up of the Ballygunner parish into North Ballygunner and South Ballygunner are already being drawn up! Joking to one side, the gap is certainly widening rather than closing between the champions and the chasing pack and a sixth successive title looks more a certainty than a possibility.

A second minor hurling title in succession secured by Ballygunner last Saturday suggests that the current dominance is likely to continue far into the future. That’s perhaps a story for another day. The cup is likely to be quickly put away with Midelton visiting Walsh Park on Sunday, October 28th and the significant advantage of a further home game against the Clare champions for the winners. Domestic dominance is bliss while winning in Munster is a sauce of an altogether much sweeter variety. Tipperary champions Thurles Sarsfields have fallen, Sixmilebridge in Clare are gone and All-Ireland champions Cúala are out of the Dublin Championship.The stars appear to be aligning quite nicely for a deep run by the five in a row Waterford champions.

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