The History Boys

Gunners in Drive For Five while the Villagers dream of first title

Brian Flannery Reports

This Sunday’s County Final at Fraher Field sees Ballygunner chasing a fifth Senior Hurling title in a row while opponents Abbeyside have a more modest if not equally important aspiration in seeking a first ever title.The odds are stacked high against the Villagers. Their last visit to the Final ended in a two-point defeat to De La Salle all of 10 years ago. They face a huge task against a Ballygunner side that thumped Passage by 25 points in their Semi-Final.Ballygunner will have no fewer than seven players in their starting line-up who have senior inter-county experience while the Abbeyside team which started last time out, hadn’t a single player with experience at the highest level.

Chasing glory: Ballygunner are aiming to secure a fifth successive Senior Championship this Sunday

Chasing glory: Ballygunner are aiming to secure a fifth successive Senior Championship this Sunday

Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan, Wayne Hutchinson, Philip Mahony, Shane O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony and Brian O’Sullivan have all represented Waterford at senior level with Richie Foley, a second half substitute against De La Salle is Abbeyside’s only player with senior inter-county experience. On that basis, it’s fair to assess that Ballygunner hold all the aces going into this game.
Mark Ferncombe is the star forward for Abbeyside so far this year with Conor Prunty pressing his case for promotion to the Waterford senior hurling team with a new Déise manager in situ.
David Collins and Darragh McGrath are good club hurlers as are Brian Looby and Sean O’Hare. Neil Montgomery is a former county minor and another capable of playing a big part in Sunday’s Final. Patrick Hurney, Richie Foley and John Hurney are more of the veteran variety and will need to produce the game of their lives if the title is to be won.
Abbeyside will need kamikaze levels of courage if they are to take the game to their vaunted opponents. I do hope whatever the result that by Sunday night all the Abbeyside players will be happy that they had a real go and have no regrets. County Finals don’t come around too often for most players, as Village stalwart Joe Power points out to Dermot Keyes inside (see Sport 6 & 7).
Gunners’ manager Fergal Hartley referred to the memory of their last final defeat to Passage in 2013 as a motivating factor in their semi-final victory. The presence of Peter Queally (Passage’s manager in 2013) on the Abbeyside line will presumably also stoke the fires of the Gunners this time round if there are any signs of complacency emerging.

It is difficult to make a case here for anything other than a comfortable Ballygunner victory. They have more players of experience and of superior quality. They have consistently played at a higher level than their opponents and don’t usually do complacency.Victory for Ballygunner will open the door to another assault on the Munster and All-Ireland crowns. A win for Abbeyside would represent a monumental achievement and reward for a club that has worked hard to sustain itself as the highest level at both codes.County Final Day, whether it’s your first or indeed last is a fantastic occasion. It’s just that little bit different. This Sunday, the teams will face off at Fraher Field. The preparations will be that little more meticulous with pre-match preparations choreographed with precision. Abbeyside may avail of home comforts to warm up on their own pitch while Ballygunner may prefer to use the back field at Fraher or may even opt to avail of the fantastic facilities available at the Dungarvan Club grounds.

Abbeyside seek to lift the News & Star Cup for the first time in their history.   | Photos: Noel Browne and Sean Byrne

Abbeyside seek to lift the News & Star Cup for the first time in their history. | Photos: Noel Browne and Sean Byrne

Dressing rooms are likely to be quiet and tense. Souvenir programmes only become that on victory days. The importance of the day can’t be downplayed. New gear and embroidered tops too are great if you win but often a bit naff if you lose. Hopefully the crowd will all be present and seated by the time the band sounds the march for the per-match parade. Once the National Anthem completed, you’re on your own. Best of luck to both teams.A word of congratulations and good wishes to the Junior hurlers of Tramore and Ballinameela who will also get their day in the sun on County Final Sunday.From 1.30pm this Sunday, there’s only one place to be if Déise Hurling sets your pulse racing. Hope to see you at Fraher Field for the biggest day in our club calendar.

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