Ballygunnar (Waterford) 1-18 Sixmilebridge (Clare) 1-17
By Michael Moynihan, Walsh Park
Ballygunner have qualified for the Munster club SHC final with a one-point win over Sixmilebridge in Walsh Park, Waterford.
Sixmilebridge opened with the breeze and a Jamie Shanahan pointed free: they had Ballygunner under pressure early on and even though they squandered some good chances, on 10 minutes they led by one, 0-3 to 0-2.
Pauric Mahony’s frees kept the home side in touch moving into the second quarter, veteran Niall Gilligan moving the Clare men two ahead before Mahony, inevitably, made it a one-point game, 0-5 to 0-4.
Ballygunner had a sniff of goal - Conor Power rounded his man and let fly, but Derek Fahy turned the ball around the post. Shanahan (free) and Shane O’Sullivan swapped points before Alan Mulready nudged Sixmilebridge two ahead. Again Mahony replied; again Shanahan made it a two-point game, 0-8 to 0-6 on 24 minutes.
Shanahan added another free, giving the visitors a three-point advantage for the first time. In the minute before the break he managed a long-range free for the sideline, and Gilligan curled over another, and suddenly it was 0-11 to 0-6.
Billy O’Keeffe got a point for Ballygunner immediately on the resumption and Alex Morey responded with a beauty. Peter Hogan hit the crossbar and JJ Hutchinson pointed the rebound, and the game livened up considerably. Another Mahony free and the gap was three, 0-12 to 0-9, with Ballygunner’s forwards far livelier.
Hutchinson hit another and a Mahony free cut Sixmilebridge’s lead to one on 36 minutes; by the 39th Mahony had levelled with his first from play.
The Clare side responded - Shane Golden’s shot for goal was beaten back by Stephen O’Keeffe: Cathal Malone pointed from the rebound, and Mahony equalised in turn from free: 0-13 each on 44 minutes.
Billy O’Keeffe nudged Ballygunner one ahead turning into the last quarter and the signs looked ominous for Sixmilebridge.
They rallied, however: Shanahan hit a free and Brian Corry nudged them one ahead - only for Mahony to tie it up once more.
David O’Sullivan saw a chance of goal then for the Gunners but Fahy turned it aside: Mahony pointed the 65 but a Shanahan snap shot levelled matters, and then the same man put his side ahead with four minutes left.
Then Hutchinson struck for the vital goal, crashing home a loose ball in the Clare side’s square, with O’Keeffe adding another before Hutchinson again pointed.
There was time for Seadna Morey to surge upfield for a late ‘Bridge goal, but Ballygunner had done enough for the win.
Scorers for Ballygunner: P. Mahony (0-11, frees, 0-1 65); JJ Hutchinson (1-3); B. O’Keeffe (0-3); S. O’Sullivan (0-1).
Scorers for Sixmilebridge: J. Shanahan (0-9, 0-6 frees); S. Morey (1-0); N. Gilligan (0-2); S. Golden, A. Dunleavy, B. Corry, A. Morey, C. Malone, C. Deasy (0-1 each).
BALLYGUNNER: S. O’Keeffe, E. Hayden, B. Coughlan, I. Kenny, P. Mahony, W. Hutchinson, S. Walsh (jc), H. Barnes, S. O’Sullivan, P. Hogan, D. O’Sullivan, P. Mahony (jc), C. Power, JJ Hutchinson, B. O’Keeffe.
Subs: B. O’Sullivan for S. Walsh (41); D. Walsh for Hogan (59)
SIXMILEBRIDGE: D. Fahy, N. Purcell, S. Morey, B. Fitzpatrick, A. Quilligan, C. Morey, E. McInerney, J. Shanahan, C. Deasy, C. Malone, N. Gilligan, S. Golden, B. Corry, A. Morey, A. Mulready.
Subs: K. Lynch for Dunleavy (53); B. Carey for McInerney (55).
Referee: J. Murphy (Limerick)