Michael Kiely

Soft going: Soft going: Brian OSullivan bravely slots the sliotar past De La Salle goalkeeper Kyle Sinnott during their U21 Eastern Hurling Championship semi-final at Walsh Park on Sunday. | Photo: Michael Kiely

Ballygunner 1-13; De La Salle 1-11

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Ballygunner dethroned the reigning County Under 21 Hurling champions on their way to earning a date with near neighbours Passage in the Eastern final. This was a terrifically exciting encounter with the outcome not decided until the very last puck of the game.

This was always going to be a close game between these old rivals and Ballygunner opened the scoring in the first minute with a point from play from Stephen Power. De La Salle replied straight away with a point from corner forward Seamus Richardson.

Both teams went point for point for the first 19 minutes of the game as no team was able to get more than one point ahead. Stephen Power grabbed 2 more points for the Gunners in this period while other players to score were David O’Sullivan, Shane Walsh, Paudie Mahony and Brian O’Sullivan. De La Salle were matching Ballygunner in every department of the field but were depending largely on the freetaking of Dean Twomey to keep the scoreboard ticking over. However, Jason Foran did grab a precious point form play in the 18th minute.

In the 23rd minute, we had the first major talking point of the game. De La Salle corner forward Eoin Madigan managed to find some space on the left hand side. Madigan fired a dangerous ball across the goal where his opposite corner forward, Seamus Richardson got a touch on it to send it past Stephen O’Keeffe in the Ballygunner goal. This gave De La Salle a 1-5 to 0-6 lead.

Ballygunner fought back straight away as a terrific Stephen Power point narrowed the deficit to a single point.

After 25 minutes a long delivery by Philip Mahony landed behind the De La Salle full back line. Goalkeeper Kyle Sinnott hesitated for a split second which was long enough for Brian O’Sullivan to dive full length to get a hurley to the ball before the goalkeeper. De La Salle defenders could only look on in anguish as the ball trickled through the mud and over their goal line. O’Sullivan followed up his goal with a point from play to put 3 points between the teams.

The final score of the half was a long range free from De La Salle’s centre half back Stephen Daniels which left it 1-8 to 1-6 in Ballygunner’s favour at half time.

Replay loomed

The beginning of the second half was a bit turgid as neither team was able to assert their authority on the game. It took a full seven minutes before we had a score on the board, and like London buses, two of them came along together. Unfortunately for Ballygunner, both scores were frees from Dean Twomey which levelled the scores.

A Paudie Mahony 65 put Ballygunner back into the lead but a neat Jason Foran point from play brought De La Salle back level again.

Paudie Mahony, this time with a terrific point from the left touchline put Ballygunner back into the lead again. This time it was Dean Twomey’s turn to bring De La Salle level, with a point every bit as good as Mahony’s. A Brian O’Sullivan free put the Gunners back into the lead but this time Twomey equalised from a free.

Just as Eastern Board officials were taking out their diaries to check where they could fit in a replay, Paudie Mahony with another well-taken point put Ballygunner back in front for the final time. A Brian O’Sullivan free closed the scoring to give Ballygunner a victory on a scoreline of 1-13 to 1-11.

Given the underfoot conditions this was an exemplary effort from both sets of players. Ballygunner just about deserved their victory and while De La Salle relied on Dean Twomey for the bulk of their scores, Ballygunner had more forwards capable of dissecting the posts at regular intervals. The impressive Paudie Mahony scored three excellent points from play and would probably shade any man of the match award. Other players in black and red to impress were Philip Mahony, David and Brian O’Sullivan.

For De La Salle, Dean Twomey was their best player on the day but was ably assisted by corner back Patrick Kennedy, wing forward Jason Foran and Seamus Richardson.

Ballygunner: S O’Keeffe, R Cunningham, B Coughlan, J Ruddle, V Molloy, Philip Mahony, S O’Keeffe, J Doran, D O’Sullivan, D Walsh, S Walsh, Paudie Mahony, C Power, B O’Sullivan S Power. Subs: S Lukeman for D Walsh, H Barnes for J Doran.

Scorers: B O’Sullivan 1-4 (0-2f), P Mahony 0-4 (0-1f, 0-1 65), S Power 0-3 (0-1f), S Walsh 0-1, D O’Sullivan 0-1

De La Salle: K Sinnott, C Sheehan, L Mulherne, P Kennedy, O Keevers, S Daniels, A O’Neill, E Barrett, K Gahan, E Casey, D Twomey, J Foran, S Richardson, P Farrelly, E Madigan. Subs: R Spencer for E Madigan, D Jacob for K Gahan.

Scorers: D Twomey 0-7 (0-6f), S Richardson 1-1, J Foran 0-2, S Daniels 0-1f