So the door has closed shut on another hurling year for Ballygunner, with the only blot on the copybook worth noting being Sunday’s Munster Club Final defeat to Na Piarsaigh.
And for Gunners veteran Shane O’Sullivan, he conceded that Sunday last’s showpiece represented a missed opportunity for the Waterford senior champions.
“These days come around too often, and on reflection, I suppose they got some momentum in the first quarter of the second half, getting four or five scores, but then we got a goal and we hoped we’d get the run of play then. But Na Piarsaigh replied with a couple of points – they’re a well seasoned team and it’s going to be very hard to stop them in the All-Ireland campaign.”
Despite being minus the Mahony brothers, Shane, like his manager Denis Walsh, didn’t seek refuge in the absence of two of Ballygunner’s most luminous talents when reflecting on Sunday’s reversal.
“The players that we had (available), they came in, were really focused and we didn’t feel in any way sorry for ourselves coming into this game; we still believed we had a great opportunity win the game even if we didn’t have two of our club and county’s great servants. “Our focus, regardless, was on winning the game but in hindsight, if you look back on it, it would have been nice to have the two lads on the field with 10 minutes to go today.”
Was there anything Shane felt Ballygunner could have done differently during the third quarter of the match, when the tide turned decisively in Na Piarsaigh’s favour?
“It can be as simple as winning a puck-out, putting a ball over the bar or winning a free – we didn’t get a chance to do that, and those simple things that can turn games – they just didn’t happen for us, unfortunately.”
Despite Sunday’s disappointment, Shane O’Sullivan felt the young panel had “dealt with a lot of challenges this year – on and off the pitch – and we came through it strong”.
He added: “We’ve blooded a few new, good hurlers, that’s made the group stronger so in that sense it’s definitely been a positive year.”
As for next year? “We’re under no illusions; every club will be champing at the bit in Waterford, they’ll be fresher and hungrier next year; they might have learned a lot from this year too – holding onto the senior title is the goal, but the challenge will be massive.”
* With thanks to Brian Flannery