5 talking points after memorable Munster win for Ballygunner as Na Piarsaigh bow out
1. Ballygunner rewarded at last
Perseverance is rewarded. Ballygunner are no strangers to big Munster club hurling days, the issue has been in grasping silverware. This bunch of players have lost finals in 2015 and 2017, a few are knocking around from the 2005 and 2009 reversals, while in total the club has suffered eight final defeats to go with their solitary triumph (2001) before this afternoon.
That hardship made this success all the sweeter. This was a well-merited win, six points clear at the final whistle of reigning champions Na Piarsaigh after controlling the second half. It was a hard-earned Munster title, Ballygunner surviving stern tests at home to Midleton and Ballyea previously, but there can be no disputing their right to be labelled champions.
2. Na Piarsaigh’s remarkable run comes to an end
They are only competing at Munster level since 2011 but Na Piarsaigh have certainly made their mark on the province. Their level of success has been striking with four final wins over seven seasons, an unbeaten run stretching to 12 outings before this afternoon with a 2011 draw with Clare’s Crusheen the only time they had failed to triumph.
But the club’s 13th Munster hurling appearance saw them come unstuck as they went in search of that fifth title which would have propelled them to joint top of the roll of honour with Cork’s Blackrock. They were bettered by a Ballygunner team who hurled with a ferocious intensity and energy. Na Piarsaigh have been a formidable Munster force yet a prolonged campaign, which included March’s narrow All-Ireland reversal, closed out on a low note.
3. Experienced figures stand up for the new champions
If Ballygunner were to prevail this afternoon, the input of their most illustrious figures was always likely to be significant. The Waterford kingpins got the showings that they required from big names. Their stellar county trio of the Mahony brothers and Stephen O’Keeffe all stood up.
Philip mopped up possession frequently with his positioning and intelligence giving Ballygunner a solid defensive footing. Pauric ended with 1-6 to his credit, holding his nerve from frees after a tough day in that department 12 months ago and pulling the attacking strings in the second half.
O’Keeffe came up to shoot a penalty to the net at an important juncture for Ballygunner before the break and then repelled a Shane Dowling goal attempt as Na Piarsaigh chased the game in the final quarter. The long-serving soldiers were also influential with Shane O’Sullivan and Wayne Hutchinson, survivors from the 2005 Munster final loss, scrapping around the middle to build a strong platform for their side.
4. Na Piarsaigh attack is shut down
A shining feature of Na Piarsaigh’s play in recent times has been their glittering scoring displays. They posted 2-22 in this year’s county final victory in Limerick and 3-22 when cruising to a Munster semi-final success a fortnight ago. To see them amass 2-8 today was unusual, a drop off from their normal high standards.
They had accelerated into an early advantage, striking 1-4 by the 9th minute but could only match that tally for the rest of the game. Adrian Breen and Peter Casey, a pair of lethal weapons who have delivered so often for the Limerick outfit in big games, were held scoreless. That was a tribute to the defensive showing from Ballygunner and restricting Na Piarsaigh’s attack set them on the road to victory.
5. An All-Ireland opportunity for Waterford
After the weight of this Munster achievement has sunk in, Ballygunner minds will switch in the coming weeks to next spring’s All-Ireland series. It’s only the second time their club will contest the race, losing out previously in 2002 to Galway’s Clarinbridge, and the sixth time a Waterford outfit has competed.
De La Salle in 2009 and Mount Sion in 1982 are the previous Waterford sides to have featured in an All-Ireland final but the Tommy Moore Cup has never been lifted by a club from the county. Ballygunner are an ambitious side and after finally emerging from Munster, will be eager to make their mark. A collision with the Leinster champions, Ballyhale or Ballyboden, beckons.
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