Abbeyside 1-19; Ballyduff Upper 0-15
In 1969, Sean Lemass was Taoiseach, Richard Nixon was in the White House and Big Jack was standing tall in the middle of a league-winning Leeds United defence.
And an Abbeyside team featuring Tony Mansfield qualified for a Waterford senior hurling championship final. They’ve not been back there since – until now.
In bridging a 39-year gap, Abbeyside have delivered on the potential that many of their performances had promised in recent seasons.
And no-one could argue that they didn’t deserve their seven-point win at a sun-kissed Fraher Field, deposing champions Ballyduff Upper in the process.
Ballyduff, led brilliantly by captain Stephen Molumphy, didn’t go down without a fight and had it not been for a magnificent Daryl Ryan save seven minutes from time, another grandstand finish would surely have ensued.
Molumphy’s wonderful cross-field ball fell into the path of Jamie Kearney, who powerfully pulled on the sliothar from 12 yards only to be marvellously denied by the diving Abbeyside goalkeeper.
Thereafter, Abbeyside sealed the deal through three points from the outstanding Mark Gorman and a third monstrous free converted by centre-back Richie Foley.
On a day of high quality hurling, defying the potch-marked Dungarvan surface, several of the marvellously executed scores were as good as any seen in any hurling arena this year.
Make no mistake, the onlooking De La Salle management know they’re in for one hell of a battle at the same venue next Sunday.
Just a point separated the sides at the end of a pulsating first half, and despite holding so slender an advantage, Abbeyside ought to have led by considerably more at the interval.
Mark Ferncombe, a pre-match injury doubt for Abbeyside, was twice thwarted from close range courtesy of some terrific last-gasp Ballyduff interventions from Adrian Power and Patrick Molumphy.
Long balls rained in on the champions’ inside line and that they’d not leaked at least one goal before the break, given the low autumnal sun they also had to contend with, was a minor miracle.
Declan Fives, who replaced Ferncombe after 26 minutes, almost made an instant impact when rifling a well-struck drive towards goal.
But a great shot produced an even greater save from Ballyduff’s Adrian Power, who magnificently dived to his right to bat the ball out of play.
While not posing as potent a threat at the other end, Ballyduff could call upon the reliable free-taking skills of Brendan Hannon to keep the holders in touch and they never trailed by more than two points during the opening 30 minutes.
If Abbeyside required immediate inspiration upon the resumption of play, they duly got it thanks to a monstrous Richie Foley free from the halfway line.
Both sides traded scores until the 38th minute, when Foley landed another beast of a free from 70 metres to put two points between the teams.
Just a minute later, holding off two defenders competing for the incoming ball, Mark Gorman leapt highest before striking the game’s only goal to put Abbeyside into a lead they were not to relinquish.
Driving the ball low and hard, Gorman’s shot had too much pace for the excellent Power, who got a stick on the ball but not enough to stop it from resting in the net. Of Gorman’s 1-9, this was undoubtedly the most crucial score of the afternoon.
But Ballyduff rallied well and as they’ve done all season long, were not about to surrender their crown without serious resistance.
Thanks to Brendan Hannon’s free taking, they remained in contention and had it not been for a fine block by Abbeyside full-back Pat Lynch in the 47th minute, Stephen Molumphy would surely have found the net.
Without any comfort zone hurling, an Abbeyside unit inspired by Gorman, along with notable contributions from Patrick Hurney, Gary Hurney and Richie Foley were good value for their victory.
Stephen Molumphy, whose boots traced virtually every blade of grass over the hour, was truly magnificent, producing one of the great individual displays of this, or any championship. But it’s Abbeyside who march proudly into next Sunday’s final.
Abbeyside: Daryl Ryan, Tiernan Murray, Pat Lynch, Gavin Breen, John Hurney, Richie Foley, Eoin Enright, John Phelan, Sean O’Hare, Mark Fives, John Gorman, Patrick Hurney, Mark Gorman, Gary Hurney, Mark Ferncombe. Subs: Declan Fives for Ferncombe (26), Brian Scanlon for Phelan (49).
Scorers: Mark Gorman 1-9 (0-5f, 0-2 65″), Mark Fives (0-3), Richie Foley (0-3f), Patrick Hurney (0-2), Gary Hurney (0-1), John Gorman (0-1).
Ballyduff Upper: Adrian Power, Patrick Molumphy, Thomas Molumphy, Michael Drislane, John Twomey, Tom Feeney, Ger Feeney, Seamus Hannon, Kenneth Geary, Jamie Kearney, Shane Kearney, Sean Cunningham, Patrick Kearney, Stephen Molumphy, Brendan Hannon. Subs: Brian Kearney for Sean Cunningham (44).
Scorers: Brendan Hannon 0-12 (0-9 f 0-1 65″) Jamie Kearney (0-1), Pa Kearney (0-1), Kenneth Geary (0-1).
Referee: T O’Sullivan (Cappoquin).