Two sent-off following first-half flare-up
Ballygunner . . . 3-15; Ballyduff Lower . . . 2-8
In an amazing turnaround, Ballygunner, who were rocked to the foundations with two early second half Ballyduff goals, dramatically recovered their composure to eventually copper-fasten their first win in the group stages of the 2008 County Senior Hurling Championship.
There wasn’t a great deal between the teams during an interesting rather than spectacular opening half; whatever breeze existed favoured Ballyduff, but by and large they failed to make full use of it.
For most of the initial 30 minutes rank outsiders Ballyduff Lower, aided by the breeze, found themselves in front as both teams experienced difficulty into settling properly into the rhythm of championship hurling.
The losers had the distinction of opening the scoring as early as the second minute, thanks to a Pat Fitzgerald pointed free, and while the Gunner’s Gearoid O’Connor promptly equalised in the same minute, Ballyduff hit the front again just as quickly when a prodigious Neil Power effort out of defence found the opposing crossbar in the 3rd minute.
Both teams were guilty of some appalling poor finishing as the half wore on, yet the losers always managed to stay in front. Three points to two ahead on the quarter-hour mark, Ballyduff went two clear in the 17th minute, when a further super Neil Power clearance was finished over the bar in style by Ger Harris.
It continued point-for-point until the 20th minute when a totally unnecessary flare-up, causing a three-minute delay, led to the dismissal of both Shane Walsh (Ballygunner) and Neil Power (Ballyduff), yet one had a suspicion that the real culprit had got away off the hook.
Matters cooled down afterwards and the sides were tied for the second time in the 28th minute. However, De La Salle Colleges star Stephen Power from a free during added-on time succeeded in providing the Gunners with the lead for the very first time at the short whistle (0-6 to 0-5).
On the restart it was obvious that this game needed goals and after both sides had increased their wides tallies quite substantially, things really started to happen. In the 36th minute, a Jack Kennedy cross from the right was finished to the Gunners net by a well-positioned Paul Stephenson, and when the latter repeated the process a minute later, Ballyduff had opened up a five-point advantage, despite playing against the breeze.
Alas, this was as good as it got for the ‘Reds’ as Ballygunner came surging back into contention with a vengeance. A terrible defensive mistake enabled Michael Kearney to beat Brian O’Leary all ends up in the Ballyduff goal in the 41st minute, Gearoid O’Connor raised a white flag sixty seconds later, and when a 100-metre free from Stephen Power was mishandled badly by the losers’ custodian, the Gunners had regained their interval lead, and the possibility of another first round upset had dissipated
For the next ten minutes it was all one way scoring, as the winners Andy Moloney, Shane and David O’Sullivan Stephen Power and JJ Hutchinson rifled over a half-dozen points on the trot, and even though the tireless Jack Kennedy managed to stop the rout in the 55th minute, a second exceedingly soft second goal by Michael Kearney, soon followed by a third by the same player, wrapped this up as a contest a minute later, even though both sides managed two additional points each before the final whistle.
Early days yet perhaps, and there is room for a major all round improvement for both teams. But Ballygunner, when push came to shove, showed that extra bit of opportunism and know-how to get themselves out of what could have been a tricky situation.
The versatile Fergal Hartley steadied a defence in which Johnny Kearney, Colin Kehoe and Wayne Hutchinson also played well; the O’Sullivans, Shane and David, shaded matters in the middle of the field, with Michael Kearney and Gearoid O’Connor by far their most threatening forwards.
Defensive frailties undoubtedly cost Ballyduff heavily, and it is something they will have to work heavily on if they are to get back into the mainstream quickly. Still over the hour full marks to John O’Leary, Aidan Dunne and Conor Kenny, while elsewhere, Pat Fitzgerald, Paul Stephenson, and Jack Kennedy impressed most.
Teams and scorers
Ballygunner: Pat Haran, Johnny Kearney, Fergal Hartley, Colin Kehoe, Tommy Power, Alan Kirwan, Wayne Hutchinson, David O’Sullivan, Shane O’Sullivan, Andy Moloney, Shane Walsh, Stephen Power, Michael Kearney, J. J. Hutchinson, Gearoid O’Connor. Sub: Philip Mahoney for A. Moloney.
Scorers: Michael Kearney 2-2, Stephen Power 1-2 (0-2 frees), Shane O’Sullivan 0-5 (0-2 frees), Gearoid O’Connor 0-2, JJ Hutchinson 0-2, Andy Moloney, and David O’Sullivan 0-1 each,
Ballyduff: Brian O’Leary, Aidan Dunne, John O’Leary, Derek Van Veen, Stephen O’Leary, Conor Kenny, Neil Power, Pat Fitzgerald, Pat Matthews, Paul Stephenson, Jack Kennedy, Paul Kennedy, Niall Clifford, Ger Harris, Richard Barron. Sub: Padraig Murphy for R. Barron.
Scorers: Paul Stephenson 2-0, Jack Kennedy 0-4, Pat Fitzgerald 0-2, Neil Power and Ger Harris 0-1 each.
Referee: Domhnall O Murchadha (Rinn o gCuanach).
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