Ballyduff Upr 2-13; Ballygunner 0-16
Over the past few seasons these two sides have been amongst the best in the county and in this one they showed that at the end of current hurling championship they will both still be there or thereabouts.
Ballygunner fielded a much changed side from that which contested the county final and Munster club final of last year. No longer available are the likes of Paul Flynn and Andy Maloney who were so influential in pulling off the 2009 championship while another veteran, Fergal Hartley, prefers to watch from the sideline but will play if called from the subs bench.
Added to that, they have lost the services of brilliant young goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe who is expected to be out of the country for the next number of months and players like Willie Kiely, Wayne Hutchinson, Tommy Power, Colin Kehoe and Gearoid O’Connor who all lined out in last year’s county final were missing from the twenty three names listed in the programme on Sunday.
Playing with the aid of the strong wind which blew down into the road goal in the opening half Ballyduff, in the opening thirty minutes, were the better side and fully deserved a 1-7 to 0-6 lead at the break.
The goal for the westerners came with ten minutes played. Paddy Cooke making his championship debut for The Gunners between the posts pulled off a fantastic save from Brian Kearney and the lurking Shane Kearney had the simplest of tasks scoring, getting behind the debutant keeper to collect the loose ball and tap it over the line from close range.
The second half continued to be a close encounter and seven minutes in, Ballygunner had fought back to level matters and three minutes later took the lead for the second time when Shane O’Sullivan hit over a point from play.
The city side’s lead was a short lived one however as Brendan Hannon soon levelled matters once again and moments after being introduced as a sub, Kevin Casey rattled the Ballygunner net for his side’s second goal, giving the mid-westerners a 2-8 to 0-11 lead.
From there Ballyduff Upper never looked back.
The remaining time saw both teams cancel each other out, but the city side will rue missed chances in this one, as twice in the second half they were awarded twenty one metre frees, and twice Stephen Power went for goals, but both were saved by Adrian Power in the Ballyduff Upper goal, the final chance coming very late on in additional time at the end.