It was an historic day for Fourmilewater, who were appearing in the penultimate round of the championship for the first time. Sadly, however, the occasion proved too great and they struggled throughout to find the form that surprisingly brought them into the last four in the title race.
Ballygunner did little more than was necessary to garner the spoils, but they will need to step up several notches on a largely lethargic performance if they hope to regain the title they last held in 2001.
The hurling was pedestrian throughout a first-half almost totally dominated by the Gunners. For all their territorial possession, however, they never seriously threatened a goal, and they had to rely on the accuracy of Paul Flynn and Paul Foley for most of their scores.
Fourmilewater failed to raise a flag in those first 30 minutes, and they were left with a mountain to climb when they retired at the interval break 0-8 to 0-0 in arrears.
The introduction of former senior star Pat Walsh four minutes into the second half brought a major improvement in the Fourmilewater performance. Not risked because of a leg injury, he galvanised his side into action and made one wonder why he wasn’t gambled on from the start.
Their opening score didn’t come until the 35th minute when Declan Spellman pointed from what was an excellent goal chance, and when Spellman and Shane Walsh tacked on further minors there was just a glimmer of hope for the underdogs.
That hope all but evaporated with the Gunners’ first goal in the 46th minute, and a real gem it was too. The spade work was done by the outstanding Andy Moloney in the middle of the field and his pinpoint pass found Paul Foley who rattled the net from close range. Game, set, and match to all intents and purposes.
There was still more agony to come for the losers, however, with further goals from Fergus Flynn in the 52nd minute and Shane O’Sullivan in the 59th minute.
His brother, Billy, and Paul Flynn were involved in a fine build up for that third goal, and the teenager sealed a fine individual performance with a peach of a point seconds before the end.
Scorers: Ballygunner: P. Foley (1-2); S. O’Sullivan (1-2); P. Flynn (0-5) F. Flynn (1-0); F. Hartley (0-1); B. O’Sullivan (0-1).
Fourmilewater: P. Walsh (0-3); D. Spellman (0-2); S. Walsh (0-2); T. Flynn (0-2); A. O’Gorman (0-1).
BALLYGUNNER: R. Whitty; N. O’Donnell. A. Kirwan. R. O’Sullivan; S. Frampton. F. Hartley. C. Kehoe; T. Fives. A. Moloney; S. O’Sullivan. P. Foley. F. Flynn; B. O’Sullivan. D. O’Sullivan. P. Flynn; Subs T. Power for O’Donnell (inj); M. O’Mahony for D. O’Sullivan (inj); P. Power for Kehoe; T. Carroll for Moloney (inj).
FOURMILEWATER: O. Wall; J. Moore. A. Ryan. J. Walsh; M. Walsh. I. Walsh. L. Walsh; B. Wall. A. O’Gorman; D. Ryan. R. Rice. S. Walsh; G. Walsh. D. Spellman. T. Flynn; Subs; P. Walsh for D. Ryan; A. Lawlor for G. Walsh.
Referee: M Wadding, Roanmore.