With their backs to the wall in Group 2, they out-muscled their opponents throughout the field to put themselves back in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages. The game was put to bed early in the second half when Mark Ferncombe flicked Mark Gorman’s delivery to the net and they galloped 15 points clear entering injury time. In a bizarre finish, Ballygunner scored three consolation goals to disguise the gap between the two teams.
Abbeyside’s appetite was evident from start to finish and selector Neil Moore admitted. “We treated it as a knockout match. We knew if we were beaten tonight, we were gone out of the championship. Ballygunner maybe had the cushion of an earlier win so we were going that bit harder for the win.”
The aerial threat of Gary and Patrick Hurney, down the central spine of the forward line, gave the Gunners problems all evening. “In fairness to the lads playing with the county football team, it inhibits our training in one way but it also definitely helps their physical strength. They are playing a lot of competitive matches at a high level so coming back into the team, it’s a good benefit.”
Moore also revealed that the Villagers earned a slice of history as well as two precious points. “The historians might tell me otherwise, but I think that’s our first win over Ballygunner in the senior hurling championship. It’s definitely our first win in a long time. Any win gives the team confidence and we have a lot of new, young lads in the team this year and they will be delighted with the performance.”
The 2008 finalists made the brighter start but Barry O’Sullivan’s goal in the 12th minute nudged the favourites in front (1-2 to 0-4). Undeterred by that setback, Abbeyside outscored their opponents by 10 points to one for the remainder of the half. The full-forward trio of Mark Ferncombe, Patrick Hurney and Mark Gorman accounted for 11 points between them as they departed with a 0-14 to 1-3 lead.
Mark Ferncombe nipped in ahead of Stephen O’Keeffe for the decisive goal on 36 minutes. Mark Fives struck another single before Ballygunner full back Barry Coughlan received his marching orders. Brian O’Sullivan’s smart finish and a brace of Stephen Power goals from placed balls merely papered over the cracks for the Gunners.
Scorers for Abbeyside: M Gorman (0-9, 4 frees); M Ferncombe (1-2); G Hurney (0-4); M Fives (0-3); P Hurney (0-2); M O’Halloran (0-1).
Scorers for Ballygunner: S Power (2-0, 1-0f, 1-0 65’); Brian O’Sullivan, Barry O’Sullivan (1-0 each); Pauric Mahony (0-3, 3 frees); D O’Sullivan (0-2); S Walsh (0-1).
ABBEYSIDE: S Enright; E Collins, S O’Hare, J Power; C Hickey, J Gorman, J Hurney; R Foley, D Collins; M Fives, G Hurney, T Hanrahan; M Ferncombe, P Hurney, M Gorman.
Subs: M O’Halloran for E Collins (35); S Crotty for Hanrahan (41); S O’Donovan for Ferncombe (57); E Enright for P Hurney (59).
BALLYGUNNER: S O’Keeffe; I Kenny, B Coughlan, S O’Keeffe; S Walsh, W Hutchinson, A Kirwan; H Barnes, S O’Sullivan; G Molloy, D O’Sullivan, Barry O’Sullivan; JJ Hutchinson, P Mahony, Brian O’Sullivan.
Subs: S Power for JJ Hutchinson (38); C Kehoe for Barnes (51).
Referee: J Condon