Revamped Gunners are looking good

Michael Kiely

Stephen Cunningham gets a grip of Philip Mahony during their Waterford SHC second-round clash at Walsh Park. | Photo: Michael Kiely

Ballygunner 4-12 Stradbally 1-11

Ballygunner made it two wins out of two with a convincing victory over Stradbally at Walsh Park last Sunday. Three years ago Stradbally scored a shock championship victory over the Gunners in Kill, but on this occasion Ger Cunningham’s side took to the field in a determined mood and a recurrence of that result was never on the cards.

Ballygunner played with the wind in the first half and took the lead in the second minute through a point from captain Alan Kirwan. This was cancelled out by a Shane Aheane free and Stradbally actually took the lead in the sixth minute through Michael Walsh.

Stradbally’s lead was short-lived and was cancelled out by a glorious Brian O’Sullivan point before a long-rage free from Tommy Power put Ballygunner into the lead after 10 minutes.

Stradbally equalised through a nicely-worked Michael Walsh point but a fine individual effort from Stephen Power put Ballygunner back in to the lead in the 13th minute.

A minute later Ballygunner extended their lead when Shane O’Sullivan found Alan Kirwan in acres of space 40 yards out. Kirwan made 20 yards before firing a shot at goal. Trevor Curran managed to get his stick to the ball but the force of the shot carried it over the line for the first goal of the game.

Ballygunner scored the next four points through two frees apiece from Tommy Power and Brian O’Sullivan.

Stradbally looked to have narrowed the gap close to half-time, through a Shane Ahearne free and a Niall Curran point. However, Ballygunner added two more points in injury time through Stephen Power and Andy Moloney and headed for the dressing-rooms 1-10 to 0-5 to the good.

Game over

Shane Ahearne scored the first point of the second half but the game was soon over as a contest when a loose ball ran to Barry Mullane and the Ballygunner full-forward made no mistake as he finished past Trevor Curran.

Frees from Michael Walsh and Shane Ahearne kept Stradbally in the game before Brian O’Sullivan found midfielder Shane Walsh unmarked 30 yards from goal. Walsh advanced before firing an unstoppable shot to the Stradbally net from 15 yards out.

Stradbally replied through two more placed balls from county star Michael Walsh, before lively corner forward Brian O’Sullivan kicked a ball to the Stradbally net from close range with three minutes left.

Shane Walsh tagged on another point for Ballygunner but Stradbally got themselves a consolation goal in injury time. A shot from Trevor Costelloe was saved brilliantly by Stephen O’Keeffe and substitute Chris Lawlor bundled the rebound over the line.

All in all this was a disappointing encounter. Stradbally really put it up to championship favourites Abbeyside seven days previously and the large attendance was expecting a close contest.

But despite fielding without Paul Flynn, Ballygunner had too much scoring power for the Covesiders. This new-look Ballygunner side has a nice balance to it. Willie Kiely had a steady game at full-back and his return from Australia gives a boost to this sector of the team.

Wayne Hutchinson had a fine game at centre-back while man of the match would have to go to his half-back colleague, Philip Mahony. Although still a minor, Mahony was very strong under the high ball and always found a colleague when in possession.

Shane Walsh, who scored 1-1 and David O’Sullivan shaded the midfield area and provided a good platform for their forwards. Brian O’Sullivan, with 1-2 from play, was the pick of the forwards on view and showed just why Ballygunner could afford to leave a player of the calibre of Gearoid O’Connor on the bench for 50 minutes.

After a good first-round performance, Stradbally will be disappointed with this display. Their star man was unquestionably Michael Walsh at midfield who reminded the watching Davy Fitzgerald of his ability in this area.

Ballygunner: S O’Keeffe, J Kearney, W Kiely, C Kehoe, P Mahony, W Hutchinson, T Power, D O’Sullivan, S Walsh, S O’Sullivan, A Kirwan, A Moloney, B O’Sullivan, B Mullane, S Power. Subs: G O’Connor for A Kirwan, JJ Hutchinson for S Power, V Molloy for C Kehoe.

Scorers: B O’Sullivan 1-4 (0-2f) A Kirwan 1-1, S Walsh 1-1, T Power 0-3f, B Mullane 1-0, S Power 0-2, A Moloney 0-1.

Stradbally: T Curran, K Coffey, E Rockett, T Walsh, O Costelloe, J Coffey, A Doyle, M Walsh, G Power, R Ahearne, S Cunningham, T Grey, N Curran, S Ahearne, G Walsh Subs: T Costelloe for T Grey, C Lawlor for R Ahearne.

Scorers: M Walsh 0-6 (0-2f 0-2 65), S Ahearne 0-4f, C Lawlor 1-0, N Curran 0-1.

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