The seven point margin that separated the sides at the end does less than justice to Ballygunner’s brave challenge, but on a day when they sorely missed the silken skills of the suspended Paul Flynn, they fell short in their determined bid to topple the champions.
With the strong wind to their backs in the opening half, the Gunners needed to build up a decent lead, but they came unstuck as their forwards failed to make serious inroads into a Mount Sion defence, so superbly marshalled by Man of the Match Browne, who had sterling allies in John Cleere on his right and skipper Anthony Kirwan on the fringe of the square.
The opening goal came on 14 minutes and it was a score Ballygunner defender Stephen Frampton will have nightmares about. A Sion attack should have been dealt much more effectively by him and a player of Eoin Kelly’s class didn’t need a second invite as he swept the ball to the back of Ray Whitty’s net. But if anyone thought the Gunners would crumble under this setback they came back with the most telling of responses. Colin Kehoe pointed, the outstanding Andy Moloney scored an even better one, and when Tommy Power found the range from a free they were back on level terms.
Paul Foley, dangerous throughout, edged the Gunners in front with a goal brilliantly set up for him by Gearóid O’Connor in the 26th minute, and when Moloney scored an even better on the half-hour they had the cushion of a four-point advantage.
Then tragedy befell them. Mere seconds of the half were remaining when Seán Ryan’s point was wiped out by the referee, who awarded the champions a 20-metre free instead. Ken McGrath stepped up and drilled the ball past the defensive wall to leave them just the minimum adrift, 2-4 to 2-3 at the break.
It was just what the doctor didn’t order as far as the Gunners were concerned, and in seven sensational second half minutes Sion turned this final on its head. In between a brace of Ken McGrath points, Tony Browne’s lengthy delivery out of defence deceived advancing goalkeeper Ray Whitty and ended up in the back of the net. It gave them a lead they never again relinquished.
Seán Ryan’s 41st minute goal widened the gap to seven points, 4-8 to 2-7, and with Ken McGrath and Eoin Kelly now imposing their influence in a major way, it seemed that only the margin of their victory remained to be determined. The introduction of Fintan O’Shea was also reaping a handsome dividend for them, and his influential input began with a superb point from 80 metres.
Two goals in three electrifying minutes threw it all back into the melting pot, with Tommy Power lashing a 20 metre free to the net in the 48th minute and Colin Kehoe doing likewise from play on 49 minutes to slash the deficit to three points, 4-10 to 4-7.
In true champions style, however, Sion regained the initiative with a great Michael White point, and then further disaster for the Gunners with the red car dismissal of defender Niall O’Connor in the 51st minute following the only dust-up of an otherwise sportingly waged final.
O’Shea tacked on his second point in the 55th minute and the Gunners’ last realistic chance of saving the game disappeared two minutes later when
goalkeeper Ian O’Regan denied Power with as good a save as any county final has seen. Further points by Ryan and Brian Greene were the icing on the cake for the champions.
: Mount Sion: K. McGrath (1-3); E. Kelly (1-2); S. Ryan (1-1); T. Browne (1-0); B. Greene (0-2); M. White (0-2); F. O’Shea (0-2); E. McGrath, M. Frisby (0-1) each. Ballygunner; P. Foley (1-2); A.Moloney (1-1); C. Kehoe (1-1); T. Power (1-0); S. O’Sullivan (0-2); G. O’Connor (0-1).
: I. O'Regan; J. O'Meara, A. Kirwan, K. Flynn; J. Cleere, T. Browne, B. Flannery; R. McGrath, E. McGrath; E. Kelly, K. McGrath, B. Greene; M. White, M. Frisby, S. Ryan. Subs: F. O/Shea for Frisby; K. Stafford for Flannery; B. Browne for Ryan.
: R. Whitty; N. O’Donnell, A. Kirwan, R. O’Sullivan; S. Frampton, F. Hartley, W. Hutchinson; S. O’Sullivan, T. Fives; C. Kehoe, P. Foley, A. Moloney; G. O’Connor, B. O’Sullivan, T. Power. Subs: M. Kearney for B. O’Sullivan; G. Cullinan for Fives; P. Carroll for Frampton.
: Tommy O'Sullivan, Cappoquin.