Gunning for Glory

When reviewing the Munster Senior Club Hurling roll of honour, Ballygunner’s sole title, claimed in 2001, sticks out like a beacon. All of the Gunners’ 16 Waterford senior titles have been won during the Munster club era, with Cork’s Glen Rovers the inagural winners back in 1964.
But from those 16 sorties, there remains just the sole provincial win,secured by the Billy O’Sullivan captained team at the turn of the century. The fact that Waterford clubs have just five titles in total over 52 years again emphasises how blood difficult it is to lay claim to the O’Neill Cup. Interestingly, our inter-county team has won the Munster title four times during the Club Championship era.

On the other hand, Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh have taken to Munster Hurling like a duck to water and after 10 games still remain unbeaten in the provincial series. Munster club titles were added to their County titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015, taking out Ballygunner twce along the way for good measure.
Four county titles in seven years for Na Piarsaigh isn’t too shabby a record but Ballygunner’s four from four demonstrates a local dominance which would be further enhanced with the addition of a Munster crown on Sunday.

Ballygunner’s Brian O’Sullivan taking on Na Piarsaigh’s Mike Foley in the 2015 Munster Club Final. The Gunners have had to plan without their injured talisman for Sunday’s rematch.  | Photo: Noel Browne

Ballygunner’s Brian O’Sullivan taking on Na Piarsaigh’s Mike Foley in the 2015 Munster Club Final. The Gunners have had to plan without their injured talisman for Sunday’s rematch. | Photo: Noel Browne

Anyone who invests in stocks and shares will no doubt be familiar with the mandatory warning “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”. These teams met at exactly the same stage two seasons ago at Semple Stadium with the Limerick men winning by seven points en route to the All-Ireland title.
While Ballygunner’s passage through Waterford ran fairly smoothly, there’s no questioning the merit of their Munster campaign. Coming through a titanic battle against a star studded Thurles Sarsfields and then to come from behind to get past a gutsy Sixmilebridge team shows this Ballygunner side has both talent and character.
Winning close games is character building for any team and Fergal Hartley’s men head into Sunday’s final on the back of two great victories that will give them huge confidence when it comes to taking the next step.
Na Piarsaigh, on the other hand, had a no contest semi-final against a demoralised Blackrock side representing Cork. All in all, we look set for an intriguing contest.

Both sides will lament the absence of injured stars Brian O’Sullivan and Shane Dowling with Ballygunner fortunate to have such strength in depth with a player of the calibre and experiencer of JJ Hutchinson to come into the starting line-up.
Ballygunner have strength in every line. Newly crowned All-Star Stephen O’Keeffe is the conductor at the back that orchestrates their tactical approach.
Barry Coughlan has proven peerless on the edge of the square with Eddie Hayden and Ian Kenny completing a rock-solid rear-guard. But it’s at half-back where Ballygunner have dominated all year.
Philip Mahony, while less dominant last time out, has been the fulcrum, snuffing out most opposition attacks. Wayne Hutchinson is back to his best form this year with Co-Captain Shane Walsh leading from the number seven positon.

Shane O’Sullivan is enjoying one of his best ever seasons at centre-field with Harley Barnes the ideal player to transition play from defence to attack.
David O’Sullivan brings huge physicality and scoring prowess to the half-forward line while Pauric Mahony continues his metronomic scoring pattern. Billy O’Keeffe is a player that frequently comes up with the important scores and this was no more evident than in the slender victory against Sixmilebridge.
The yellow helmeted duo of Peter Hogan and Conor Power have both the pace and skill to trouble any defender with the returning JJ Hutchinson delivering a man-of-the-match performance against Sixmile.
Na Piarsaigh are not lacking for star quality either. Ronan Lynch has assumed free-taking duties while Kevin Downes, David and Adrian Breen, Will O’Donoghue and the lively Peter Casey will all be familiar with the Semple Stadium sod from multiple appearances over recent years.
To me, Ballygunner have the cut of a team on a mission this season and not even Limerick’s best are likely to derail Fergal Hartley & Co’s Patrick’s Day march. Ballygunner to win.

For full story see The Munster Express newspaper or
subscribe to our Electronic edition.

Leave a Comment