Gunners unbeaten but severely tested

Ballyduff Lower goalkeeper Brian O'Leary is tackled by Ballygunner Stephen Power in their county senior hurling championship match in Walsh Park.

Ballyduff Lower goalkeeper Brian O

Ballygunner 2-16; Ballyduff Lr 1-13 

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Ballygunner kept their 100% record in this year’s championship intact when they beat a very game and stubborn Ballyduff Lower outfit at Walsh Park last Saturday evening.

Most observers were predicting an easy win for the Gunners but this was anything but easy. With County star Jack Kennedy in outstanding form at full-forward, Ballyduff really put it up to Ballygunner and with a little bit of luck, they could have got a bit more out of this game.

The first major talking point of this game came as early as the fifth minute when a Wayne Hutchinson slip on the edge of his own square allowed Jack Kennedy to sneak in for an early lead goal for Ballyduff.

Despite excellent points from play from exciting corner forwards, Stephen Power and Brian O’Sullivan, Ballyduff were able to hang onto this early lead. This was in no small part down to Jack Kennedy who added to his goal with a couple of excellent points.

They also owed a debt to goalkeeper Brian O’Leary who made an extraordinary save in the 10th minute from Brian O’Sullivan who skinned Derek Van Veen before testing the Ballyduff net minder.

However, the game turned in the 14th minute when Stephen Power was fouled in front of the Ballyduff goal. The corner forward dusted himself down and rattled the resulting penalty to the back of the Ballyduff net. This left the score at 1-4 to 1-3 in favour of Ballygunner.

The sides then exchanged points before a second Ballygunner goal in the 21st minute. Excellent work by Brian O’Sullivan led to confusion in the Ballyduff defence before Power swooped to grab his second goal of the game.

Instead of killing off the Ballyduff challenge, the goal seemed to galvanise the men in red and white.

They added points through Paudi Murphy and two more frees from the unerring Neil Power. Ballygunner replied with a pointed free from the equally reliable Brian O’Sullivan. When the whistle blew to signal the half time interval, Ballygunner were leading by 2-6 to 1-7.

Shoot-out

For the first 12 minutes of the second half, the game became a shoot-out between the freetakers. Neil Power proved more than able to split the Ballygunner posts from placed balls while both Tommy Power and Brian O’Sullivan punished any indiscipline in the Ballyduff defence.

For a minute in the middle of the half, the county stars showed us what they can do, as first Jack Kennedy and then Shane O’Sullivan raised white flags for their respective teams. Ballyduff midfielder Paul Stevenson also chipped in with a point in this period, to leave just two points between the teams as the game entered its final quarter.

Ballygunner were beginning to get on top in midfield but their forwards briefly lost their touch. They shot successive wides through Shane O’Sullivan, substitute Paul Flynn and Brian O’Sullivan.

Normal service resumed with 10 minutes left on the clock when Shane O’Sullivan scored a point from way out the field. Not to be outdone, Ballyduff added two points from play themselves through Neil Power and the inspirational Jack Kennedy. Unfortunately for Ballyduff, Kennedy’s fourth point from play was to prove the final score his team would get. Ballygunner finished strongly and in the final 10 minutes they added a further four points from play through Colin Kehoe, Alan Kirwan, Brian O’Sullivan and Shane Walsh.

This will not go down as a vintage performance by Ballygunner but they did enough to get the job done. They are now virtually assured of a place in the quarter finals following three wins. In this game, Wayne Hutchinson and his half back colleague Philip Mahony were outstanding throughout.

Shane O’Sullivan got two excellent points when they were badly needed while up front Stephen Power and Brian O’Sullivan gave the Ballyduff backs an evening they would rather forget.

Ballyduff acquitted themselves quite well in this game and will be disappointed not to have got more out of it. It was a huge improvement on last week’s performance against Tallow. Jack Kennedy in particular had a spectacular hour while John O’Leary also had a great game at full-back.

Ballygunner: P Haran, V Molloy, W Kiely, R Cunningham, W Hutchinson, P Mahony, D O’Sullivan, S O’Sullivan, T Power, S Walsh, A Kirwan, G O’Connor, B O’Sullivan, B Mullane, S Power. Subs: JJ Hutchinson for B Mullane, C Kehoe for D O’Sullivan, P Flynn for G O’Connor.

Scorers: S Power 2-2 (1-0 pen), B O’Sullivan 0-5 (0-3 f) T Power 0-4f, S O’Sullivan 0-2, C Kehoe 0-1, A Kirwan 0-1, S Walsh 0-1

Ballyduff Lower: B O’Leary, G Harris, J O’Leary, D Van Veen, C Power, C Kenny, P Kennedy, P Fitzgerald, P Stevenson, N Power, P Murphy, R Barron, N Clifford, J Kennedy, D Clifford. Subs: D Power for C Kenny, M De Paor for R Barron, K O’Brien for D Power.

Scorers: J Kennedy 1-4, N Power 0-5 (0-4f), N Clifford 0-1, P Fitzgerald 0-1, P Murphy 0-1, P Stevenson 0-1.

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