De La Salle 1-15
Brian Flannery Reports
New Waterford manager Liam Cahill was among the 2,500 in attendance at Walsh Park to witness Ballygunner win a sixth senior hurling title in a row in impressive fashion.
Among the players sure to have caught the eye of the new bannisteoir was man of the match Dessie Hutchinson. The former Brighton and Hove Albion soccer player, in his rookie year as a senior player, was outstanding throughout hitting 1-3 along the way which hugely influenced the destination of this season’s title.
The reigning Munster club champions dominated the both the opening and closing quarters to close out what was a comfortable victory by the time referee Michael O’Brien brought the game to a conclusion.The Darragh O’Sullivan managed ‘Gunners’ led by 1-7 to just 0-1 after fourteen minutes with the game already looking decidedly one-sided.
De La Salle rallied following an Eddie Meany goal to trail by just five points at the break. By the end of the third quarter the challengers had Ballygunner in their sights with the margin down to two points 1-15 to 1-13. However, eight points in a row from the soon-to-be six in a row champions dispelled any notions of an upset.A superb run and pass by Michael Mahony in the fifth minute allowed Dessie Hutchinson to shoot the game’s opening goal with a powerful angled drive, 1-2 to 0-1.
Ballygunner’s slick short-passing and possession game was in full flow with Conor Sheehan, Paddy Leavy and Barry O’Sullivan all showing up well with talisman Pauric Mahony unerring from play and placed balls.The champions were full value for their 1-7 to 0-1 lead after fourteen minutes with De La Salle struggling to win possession and keep in touch.
Jake Dillon pointed from close to the side-line on the bank side to lead the second quarter charge form Bryan Phelan’s men.
After twenty minutes Eddie Meaney reacted quickest when the Ballygunner defence failed to clear and the youngster’s quick feet allowed him to find just enough space to shoot past county custodian Stephen O’Keeffe for a badly needed De La Salle boost, 1-7 to 1-2. Mahony nailed a free from the puck-out after Paddy Leavy had been fouled for immediate response.
However further points from Eddie Meaney (2), Jake Dillon and Jack Fagan, with a single in the opposite direction from Tim O’Sullivan saw the margin down to just three points, 1-9 to 1-6 with half-time looming.
Unfortunately for the De La Salle faithful the men from Gracedieu leaked two late pointed frees with Ballygunner now significantly taking a five-point advantage to the dressing room, 1-11 to 1-06.The exchanges on resumption were robust with a delicate finish from Peter Hogan registering the opening point of the second half.
A brilliant catch from Jack Fagan with a strike to match for his second point of the game followed as De La Salle were matching the champions point for point without either side troubling the umpires manning the green flag. Ballygunner looked comfortable and commanding maintaining a significant lead, 1-15 to 1-9 with forty minutes on the clock. De La Salle had to come behind in their two preceding victories against Mount Sion and Roanmore and four points in four minutes from Cormac McCann (2), Shane McNulty (’65) and Eddie Meaney reduced the margin to just two points, 1-15 to 1-13 entering the final quarter. The hallmark of many great champions is their ability to respond when threatened and Ballygunner’s response here was immense. The soon-to-be six in row winners hit eight unanswered points, including two each from Peter Hogan and Pauric Mahony to confirm this victory. The accuracy and precision execution of their short passing and shooting was too perfect for their opponents to handle. Manager Darragh O’Sullivan had the luxury of being able to introduce substitutes J.J. Hutchinson, Wayne Hutchinson and Barry Power before the final whistle for the victory lap.
Jake Dillon pointed late for De La Salle before Pauric Mahony and Jack Fagan exchanged points in injury to complete the games scoring.Eddie Hayden, Conor Sheehan, Barry O’Sullivan and Peter Hogan all gave impressive displays for the winners with Dessie Hutchinson just edging Pauric Mahony for the man of the match award.
De La Salle struggled around the crowded middle third for large spells of this game and their poor start left them chasing a game where they needed more than the single goal to regain parity. Kevin Moran, particularly in the second period, and Shane McNulty defended well with Eddie Meaney, Jack Fagan, Cormac McCann and Jake Dillon all carrying the game to their opponents with some fantastic scores in a losing effort.