Ballygunner 4-17; Passage 2-7
It was billed as the clash of the titans and with the promise of a tumultuous battle in store, a large crowd flocked to Walsh Park. Observers who had predicted an incredulous battle were proven to be half-right, because one team hurled with purpose, skill and panache while the other simply did not turn up on the day and left their “A” game at home.
Passage probably tried to be too cute in this game as they placed Noel Connors at wing-back instead of at centre or full-back. When Ballygunner saw Connors isolated out on one side of the Passage defence, they attacked the other side with devastating circumstances.
Passage seemed to settle quickly but failed to capitalise on their early territorial advantage as Aaron Connors and John Whitty sent early point scoring opportunities wide.
They were made to pay as Ballygunner opened the scoring when senior star, Brian O’Sullivan slotted home the game’s opening score after three minutes.
Two minutes later, Brendan Fitzgerald was fouled when running through and referee, Jimmy Murphy gave Passage a 21 yard free. Owen Connors and stepped up to the free, and despite the presence of Stephen O’Keeffe in the goal, Connors managed to fire the ball to the net.
Ballygunner responded with a Brian O’Sullivan point before they were awarded a 21 yard free themselves in the ninth minute. Stephen Power, a second-half substitute in the senior final a week previously, stepped up and blasted the free to the back of the Passage net to give Ballygunner a lead they were never to relinquish.
Joint-captain, Shane Walsh added on a point before Brian O’Sullivan cut through the Passage defence to set up Stephen Power for his second goal in the 12th minute.
Owen Connors pointed a free for Passage but the deadly duo of O’Sullivan and Power looked dangerous every time the ball went anywhere near them.
In the fifteenth minute, another point from O’Sullivan put Ballygunner 2-4 to 1-1 ahead. Passage added two quick points through the impressive Thomas Connors and midfielder Killian Fitzgerald but Ballygunner came straight back at their near neighbours with another point from Brian O’Sullivan.
Stephen Power notched two points in as many minutes before Shane Walsh set up Power for his third goal of the half to effectively end the game as a contest. When referee, Jimmy Murphy blew the half-time whistle, Ballygunner led by 3-7 to 1-3!
If this game was to be any way competitive in the second half, it required an early Passage goal. Any intentions that Passage may have had of mounting a comeback were banished within seconds of the restart when Stephen Power, probably with one eye on the Munster club championship, swooped for his fourth goal. From that point on, it was only a matter of how much Ballygunner were going to win by.
Owen Connors did manage to score a goal from another 21 yard free but this did not make any inroad into the Ballygunner lead. The Gunners added on further points through Power, Pauric Mahony and David O’Sullivan. As manager, Fergal Hartley emptied his bench in the latter stages, even substitute; Neil Kirwan managed to get his name on the scoresheet.
This was an impressive and ruthless performance from Ballygunner who completely demolished their arch-rivals in a no-nonsense fashion. Many of the players on the team have been on the fringes of the senior team all year and Stephen Power in particular may have designs on regaining his position on the senior team for the Munster club championship. Power was simply devastating on the day and finished with an incredible 3-4 from play. Beside him, Brian O’Sullivan was at his menacing best and gave the Passage defence a torrid time. Further out the field, Ballygunner dominated possession with joint-captains, Shane Walsh and David O’Sullivan to the fore.
This was a day that Passage would rather forget. Anything that they tried seemed to go wrong and they probably made a few errors on the line that backfired badly. As already mentioned the positioning of Noel Connors at wing-back raised a few eyebrows beforehand and they may have been better served by having their best defender at full-back looking after Stephen Power. However, they may have needed a few more Noel Connors’ to keep the likes of Brian O’Sullivan and Pauric Mahony quiet. Earlier this year, Owen Connors looked highly impressive at wing-forward and was lethal from long-range frees. On Monday, Passage sited Connors at full-forward. For long periods, Connors was a virtual spectator as he watched the game going away from his team. That said, it probably would not have mattered what formation Passage employed as the Gunners were in one of those moods when they were simply unstoppable.
Ballygunner: S O’Keeffe, R Cunningham, B Coughlan, J Ruddle, V Molloy, Philip Mahony, S O’Keeffe, H Barnes, D O’Sullivan, D Walsh, S Walsh, Pauric Mahony, B O’Sullivan, S Power, C Power. Subs: J Doran for R Cunningham, R Fleming for H Barnes, S Lukeman for C Power, N Kirwan for D Walsh.
Scorers: S Power 4-5 (1-1f), B O’Sullivan 0-7 (0-2f), Pauric Mahony 0-2, D O’Sullivan 0-1, S Walsh 0-1, N Kirwan 0-1.
Passage: E Lynch, M Doherty, J Flood, M Wyse, N Connors, E Quann, I Power, K Fitzgerald, J Whitty, A Connors, T Connors, J McCleane, P Walsh, O Connors, B Fitzgerald. Subs: N Troy for E Quann, S Cummins for P Walsh, L Flynn for J Whitty.
Scorers: O Connors 2-3 (2-1f), T Connors 0-2, K Fitzgerald 0-1, N Troy 0-1f
Referee: Jimmy Murphy (Mount Sion).