Ballygunner are Waterford’s Minor Hurling champions yet again, after they overcame the stubborn resistance of a plucky Cois Bhride side in Sunday’s replayed staged at Walsh Park.
For large parts of the drawn game, Cois Bhride looked like the better team and they came into last Sunday’s replay carrying the mantle of favourites.
Ballygunner, on the other hand came into the game, determined to add the minor crown to the senior title they had claimed two weeks previously.
In the early stages of the game, there was very little to choose between the sides with the star forwards of each side, Peter Hogan and Ryan Grey, trading points early on.
What was obvious from the very beginning of the contest was that Michael Mahony, wearing 12 was to be deployed in a deep position and from there, his industry and distribution were going to have a major influence on the outcome of the match.
Cois Bhride took the lead for the only time in the game in the ninth minute when Grey knocked over a free.
At the other end of the field, Jordan Henley started the game like a locomotive, putting his team on the front foot with a shore of ball he was claiming from across the half-back line.
But even the excellent Henley was powerless to stop Ballygunner adding points in the 12th and 14 minutes through Todd Loughnane and Mark Mullally which put them back into the lead.
The game’s critical score arrived shortly afterwards in the 21st minute.
A mishit shot from Patrick Lambe was batted away by Cois Bhride goalkeeper Davy Tobin but was bundled home by the onrushing Mark Mullally.
A free from Peter Hogan put the Gunners’ five points ahead and such was the extent of their peril, Cois Bhride were forced to bring Grey to centre-forward in an attempt to bring him into the game. In hindsight, with Mahony and Gus Flynn both patrolling this area, it was a move that always looked unlikely to succeed.
However, the men from the west did get two out of the last three points of the half to leave themselves just four points adrift at the break.
Cois Bhride started the second half well and two points from Grey brought them back into the proceedings but just shy of the 40th minute, Ballygunner had restored their four point advantages through excellent long-range points from Lambe and Harry Ruddle.
Two frees were added by Hogan and with Cois Bhride failing to trouble the Ballygunner goal, this replay began to take on a done and dusted look.
But to their credit, Cois Bhride didn’t let their shoulders sag. Henley moved to midfield where he continued to hurl well while his replacement at centre-back, Jake Neville, launched several attacks into Ballygunner territory.
They also managed to restrict the Gunners to a single Peter Hogan free in the final quarter as the McGinn Park side battened down the hatches to face the onslaught.
Inevitably, the Ballygunner backs gave away frees and on another day this indiscipline could have proven fatal but Ryan Grey didn’t have his best of days from placed balls. However, the fact that he still knocked over nine frees illustrates the number of opportunities he was given.
In the final five minutes, the game was mainly played in the Ballygunner half and Grey added three more points.
However, Cois Bhride’s quest for a goal was repelled time and again by the white helmeted duo of Mahony and David Cullinane with the latter walking away with a much deserved man of the match award.
Ballygunner: Darragh O’Keeffe; Michael Smyth, David Cullinane, Darragh Hogan; Nicholas Byrne, Gus Flynn, Shane Hannon; Billy O’Sullivan, Harry Ruddle; Alex Molloy, Patrick Lambe, Michael Mahony; Mark Mullally, Peter Hogan, Todd Loughnane;
Scorers: Peter Hogan (0-6; 0-4f), Mark Mullally (1-1), Todd Loughnane, Patrick Lambe and Harry Ruddle (0-1 each)
Substitutes: Chris Thomas for Todd Loughnane and David Dawson for Alex Molloy.
Cois Bhride: Davy Tobin; Darragh Mulcahy, Jake Beecher, Robbie Geary; Padraig Roche, Jordan Henley, Cathal Geary; Jake Neville, John Paul Lucey; Eddie Hynes, Kelvynn O’Farell, Dylan Mangan; Ian Beecher, Ryan Grey, Darragh Buckley
Scorers: Ryan Grey (0-10; 0-9f) and Eddie Hynes (0-1).
Substitute: Ed O’Neill for Ian Beecher.
Referee: Michael Wadding (Roanmore)