Ballygunner survive Ballyea test
AIB Munster Club SHC Semi-Final
BALLYGUNNER (WATERFORD) 2-26 BALLYEA (CLARE) 2-23
After two periods of extra-time
By Eoin Brennan at Walsh Park
Ballygunner finally progressed to their third Munster Senior Club Hurling Final in four years, but only after a titanic 90 minute battle with 2016 winners Ballyea in Walsh Park.
A goal at the end of either half from chief marksman Niall Deasy appeared to swing the momentum decisively in Ballyea's favour at the end of normal time only for a last gasp equalising goal from Philip Mahony to provide a valuable lifeline for the hosts that they would grasp with both hands.
Level again at the end of extra-time, this time thanks to a Deasy levelling '65 with the last puck, it was Ballygunner who kept their composure in the second helping of extra-time with points from Barry O'Sullivan, Pauric Mahony and substitute Conor Sheahan to relievedly prevail.
Locked on level terms on nine occasions over the 90 minutes, it was an inch-tight battle that neither side ultimately deserved to lose but in the end, Ballygunner appeared to just have the edge on stamina to get themselves over the line.
Five Pauric Mahony ponts had carved out a 0-7 to 0-4 advantage by the 18th minute, only for Ballyea to fire the next five, three from Deasy who also sandwiched two Ballygunner singles with a 29th minute solo goal to give his side a 1-9 to 0-9 interval advantage.
With the wind to come, Ballyea extended that margin to six through Tony Kelly, Martin O'Leary and Gary Brennan by the 40th minute. However, a Conor Power goal, his fourth in a many games, altered matters as the game entered the final quarter.
Pauric Mahony finally levelled up the tie by the 49th minute, with two more from the Waterford senior providing a 1-17 to 1-15 cushion nearing the hour mark. True to form, Niall Deasy threw his body at a hopeful Tadhg Lynch delivery to raid for his second goal in the 57th minute as Ballyea appeared set for a famous victory.
Philip Mahony's batted goal with virtually the last action forced extra-time, but as the additional periods wore on, a rejuvenated Ballygunner would increasingly gain the upper hand.
So while a brace of Deasy placed balls ensured a second period of extra-time, Ballygunner would never fall behind again as they finished with the last three points to set up another provincial decider against Na Piarsaigh.
Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 0-14 (8fs), Conor Power 1-2, Philip Mahony 1-0, Brian O’Sullivan 0-3, Barry O’Sullivan 0-2, Peter Horgan, Ian Kenny, Billy O’Keeffe, Conor Sheehan and JJ Hutchinson 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballyea: Niall Deasy 2-10 (5fs, 165), Martin O’Leary 0-4, Tony Kelly 0-3 (1 sideline), Tadhg Lynch, Gary Brennan, and Pearse Lillis 0-2 each.
BALLYGUNNER: Stephen O’Keeffe; Eddie Hayden, Barry Coughlan, Harley Barnes; Wayne Hutchinson, Philip Mahony, Mikey Mahony; Ian Kenny, Shane O’Sullivan; Peter Hogan, Pauric Mahony, Billy O’Keeffe; Conor Power, Brian O’Sullivan, Tim O’Sullivan.
Subs: Barry O'Sullivan for M. Mahony (HT), JJ Hutchinson for O'Keeffe (41), Stephen Power for T. O'Sullivan (60), Mikey Mahony for S. Power (ET), Stephen Power for M. Mahony (70), Billy O'Keeffe for W. Hutchinson (73, inj), Conor Sheahan for Hogan (77, inj).
BALLYEA: Barry Coote; Brian Carrigg, James Murphy, Joe Neylon; Brandon O'Connell, Jack Browne, Aonghus Keane; Tony Kelly, Gary Brennan; Eoghan Donnellan, Tadhg Lynch, Cillian Brennan; Martin O'Leary, Niall Deasy, Pearse Lillis.
Subs: Eoghan Donnellan for Griffin (53), Brian Murphy for Carrigg (57), Aaron Griffin for C. Brennan (60, inj), Cillian Brennan for A. Griffin (ET), Brian Casey for O'Connell (72), Aaron Griffin for C. Brennan (76), David Sheehan for Neylon (77).
REFEREE: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).