Dungarvan’s Patrick Curran tries to break away from Ballygunner’s Alan Kirwan at Fraher Field.
In the fading light at Fraher Field, the two form teams of this year’s championship collided in an absorbing spectacle that was in the balance until the very last puck. Dungarvan substitute Liam Ryan had a glorious chance to bury the Gunners in injury-time but his shot just whistled past the right-hand post and wide.
Last year’s beaten finalists looked in deep trouble when Ryan Donnelly squeezed in a goal and the classy Patrick Curran drove Dungarvan three points clear entering the last quarter (1-12 to 0-12).
Centre-forward Pauric Mahony stood up when the chips were down as Ballygunner nailed five unanswered points to tee up a tasty final meeting with familiar foes Mount Sion. Mahony accounted for four of those points (three frees and one from play). Seventeen year-old substitute Peter Hogan also knocked over an uplifting solo score during that spell on his very first appearance at senior level.
Ballygunner had edged a high quality first-half by ten points to nine. Fergal Hartley’s side set a blistering pace from the throw-in, six-points tallied in the opening ten minutes through six different sources. A Patrick Curran free was Dungarvan’s sole response. Pauric Mahony dictated the tempo for the Gunners from centre-forward as he roamed into space.
It took Dungarvan 14 minutes to register from open play, Gavin Crotty obliging. The young Blues steadied after a shaky start, however, and three Patrick Curran frees closed the deficit to two. With Jamie Nagle getting a grip, James O’Connor’s charges grew in stature as the half progressed. They started to mix it in the physical stakes with Aaron Donnelly and Darragh Lyons rising to the challenge in defence.
Four points in-a-row raised the noise levels among the locals as Dungarvan nudged 0-9 to 0-8 ahead. Patrick Curran skated past Alan Kirwan, Gavin Crotty boomed his third from 60 metres and Ryan Donnelly also got in on the act before Curran added another free.
Ballygunner didn’t panic and calmly slotted two points before the break through Pauric Mahony and Brian O’Sullivan. They amassed seven wides but still departed with a point in hand.
The second half exchanges were keenly disputed, with little to choose between them. Two Mahony frees, one from his own 65-metre line, stretched Ballygunner’s lead.
This pair had scored 27 goals between them beforehand yet chances for green flags were rare. A glaring chance was presented to Cathal Curran but Stephen O’Keeffe stretched full length to save. They made no such mistake on 45 minutes when Cathal Curran played in Ryan Donnelly and he slipped a shot past Stephen O’Keeffe at the near post. Patrick Curran then turned on the style with a sensational score over his right shoulder (1-12 to 0-12).
The Gunners swiftly equalised as Hartley’s gamble on Hogan also yielded a return. The county minor set off on a mazy run from one wing to the other before splitting the posts. That score was sandwiched between two Mahony frees (1-12 to 0-15). Mahony then produced a fantastic fetch and point before winning a free that he assuredly converted.
They just about survived the late, late drama at the other end.
Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony (0-9, 0-8 frees); Brian O’Sullivan (0-2); S Walsh, Barry O’Sullivan, JJ Hutchinson, S Power, C Power, P Hogan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dungarvan: Patrick Curran (0-8, 0-5 frees); R Donnelly (1-1); G Crotty (0-3).
BALLYGUNNER: S O’Keeffe; S O’Keeffe, B Coughlan, A Kirwan; Philip Mahony, W Hutchinson, S Walsh; H Barnes, S O’Sullivan; S Power, Pauric Mahony, Barry O’Sullivan; JJ Hutchinson, Brian O’Sullivan, C Power.
Subs: D Walsh for S Power (HT); P Hogan for Barnes (41 mins).
Dungarvan: D Duggan; A Donnelly, K Daly, C Sheridan; D Lyons, J Nagle, E Healy; K Moore, Colm Curran; R Donnelly, Cormac Curran, M Kiely; P Curran, G Crotty, Cathal Curran.
Subs: S Kearney for Moore (44 mins); L Ryan for Cormac Curran (50).
Referee: M O’Brien.