O'Sullivan: 'That late goal, that takes belief'
By Paul Keane
Harry Ruddle, a name that will forever be recalled whenever Ballygunner's spectacular AIB All-Ireland club hurling final win is mentioned.
Ruddle was only on the field a matter of minutes when he took on the responsibility to haul the Waterford and Munster champions back from the brink with a quite remarkable 64th minute goal.
Ballyhale Shamrocks, chasing a first ever three-in-a-row of titles, led by two points at that stage and it was literally the last play of the game when Ruddle waltzed through and blasted to the net. Magical stuff from a Ballygunner perspective.
"That late goal, that takes belief," said Ballygunner manager Darragh O'Sullivan. "Harry Ruddle, who had played every game in the local championship, but probably didn't get 15 or 20 minutes since then, for him to have the bravery to take that ball on, to run through the centre of the defence and finish like that is phenomenal. He was brought into a cauldron like that with 10 minutes to go, just fantastic. They're fabulous guys, a family of brothers. They work hard, stick together, back eachother up and they got us there in the end."
They'll talk for years at the club about Dessie Hutchinson's influence too, the former professional soccer player who has now played in All-Ireland finals for club and county since returning from the UK. He lost one with Waterford but helped his club get over the line with 1-3 this time.
"Ah listen, Dessie came back and he's been phenomenal," said O'Sullivan. "He's a professional athlete playing hurling. He was groomed as a professional athlete. You look at his movement and skill, it's unbelievable. He came back into the group and fitted in straight away."
O'Sullivan got a good luck message during the week from an old ally. It was a simple enough 'hang in there, stay in there' message that proved to be bang on the money because that's exactly what the eight-in-a-row Waterford champions did.
"That's all you can do," said O'Sullivan. "We spoke at half-time about how it's so hard to get to an All-Ireland final and just don't regret the 30 minutes we had left. If we were beaten and emptied ourselves then fair enough, we'd have our heads held high.
"When you look at the young lads there like Ronan Power and Paddy Leavey and Kevin (Mahony) and Tadhg (Foley), they're 19 and 20 years of age. They stepped up and drove the team on when it was in the melting pot, they have huge futures ahead of them.
"It's not even the hurling side of things, it's how good the lads are, how grounded they are, and what Ballygunner and Waterford means to them."
Naturally enough it was devastation for Ballyhale Shamrocks who may feel they were robbed of an All-Ireland win in the club's 50th anniversary year.
"Look, we've been on the right side of these for the last two years but still when you're in the 63rd minute and it's the last play out there, you just think it's going to go your way again and when that ball cut inside and beat Dean (Mason) inside in the goal, I was just heartbroken," said Shamrocks manager James O'Connor.