Na Piarsaigh 1-9
BALLYGUNNER’S ASPIRATION OF claiming three titles in a row in Munster remains on track and their consistency in reaching these provincial finals continues.
For the sixth season in succession, the Waterford champions will be present on Munster senior club hurling final day, they will pitch up against Clare’s Clonlara in a fortnight. They were full value for this progression against their major rivals of the last decade, Na Piarsaigh.
As a game it struggled desperately to ignite, in stark comparison to the free-wheeling classic the pair served up twelve months ago. Pauric Mahony’s assured striking yielded 0-11 for the winners, the Ballygunner centre-forward lifting his team above the scoring malaise that set in during the game. That input was needed to hold off a late rally by the Limerick representatives, which had an Adrian Breen goal as the centrepiece.
A string of Ballygunner points, six without interruption, between the 43rd and 52nd minutes, seemingly had put this contest to bed. But Na Piarsaigh sourced some late momentum, Ronan Lynch snapped over a pair of frees to cut the gap and then dropped a ’65 short with a minute left on the clock in normal time.
The goalmouth at the Ennis Road end was congested yet amidst a mess of bodies scrapping for possession, Breen prised open some room to whip a shot low to the bottom corner of the net. Suddenly there was an injection of doubt to the outcome and another scrum for the ball moments late almost delivered a levelling Na Piarsaigh goal, this time David Dempsey was unable to generate adequate power in his close-range shot and Stephen O’Keeffe gathered before clearing.
A Mahony free rounded off the scoring to push Ballygunner clear by four and the Waterford camp went home into the November evening content as their season was prolonged.
At half-time the score in that classic 2022 semi-final stood 2-11 to 1-9 in Na Piarsaigh’s favour, the 0-7 to 0-6 advantage Ballygunner enjoyed today at the interval was reflective of an encounter where defences locked down.
The match flared to life on a couple of occasions before the break, a rousing Will O’Donoghue catch and burst forward drew a free that Lynch pointed to leave just one in it. Then just as the half-time whistle was blown, Na Piarsaigh defender Vince Harrington was on the receiving end of a withering challenge that drew players from all sectors into a fiery crowd underneath the Mackey Stand.
Early goal chances arrived for both sides and were not capitalised on. Dessie Hutchinson had two sights of the net in the early stages, Shane Dowling reacted sharply to tip one around the post and Mike Casey blocked another to bail out team-mate Mike Foley who had seen a defensive pass intercepted.
David Dempsey evaded the rearguard to claim a delivery at the other end in the first half but Barry Coughlan stood up well to ensure the shot was smothered. Na Piarsaigh’s scoring struggles were more notable – Will Henn’s opening minute point, Breen’s 18th minute shot and the same forward’s last-gasp goal, proved their only efforts from open play throughout.
They remained within touching distance in the second half as a burst of attacking fluency eluded both teams. A Lynch free after 42 minutes trimmed the gap to 0-9 to 0-7 before the decisive phase of the game occurred.
Ballygunner hit their stride as Hutchinson, Ronan Power, Harry Ruddle and Mahony (3) split the posts. It was sufficient to get the job done, an early December Munster final beckons.
Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 0-11 (0-6f, 0-2 ’65), Dessie Hutchinson 0-2, Ronan Power 0-2, Harry Ruddle 0-1.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: Ronan Lynch 0-7 (0-6f, 0-1 ’65), Adrian Breen 1-1, Will Henn 0-1.
1. Stephen O’Keeffe (joint captain)
2. Ian Kenny, 3. Barry Coughlan, 4. Tadhg Foley
5. Shane O’Sullivan, 6. Philip Mahony (joint captain), 17. Ronan Power
8. Conor Sheahan, 9. Paddy Leavey
15. Mikey Mahony, 11. Pauric Mahony, 12. Peter Hogan
10. Dessie Hutchinson, 14. Kevin Mahony, 13. Patrick Fitzgerald
1. Shane Dowling
2. Emmet McEvoy, 3. Mike Casey (captain), 4. Cathal King
7. Vince Harrington, 6. Will O’Donoghue, 5. Mike Foley
8. Conor Boylan, 10. JJ Carey
12. Kevin Downes, 11. Peter Casey, 9. Ronan Lynch
14. Will Henn, 13. Adrian Breen, 15. David Dempsey
Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary)2023-11-19T17:36:07Z dg43tfdfdgfd