Brian O’Sullivan’s goal on 24 minutes proved the crucial score. The champions imposed their precise short passing game to inflict 1-9 during the second quarter and develop an unassailable 11-point interval lead.
“We just turned a switch and we were quite clinical,” explained Gunners’ manager Denis Walsh. “The goal gave us a good platform. All of a sudden it was 1-10 to 0-4 and it knocked the stuffing out of them.”
Full-forward O’Sullivan proved a nuisance for the hour and hit 1-5 from general play. Pauric Mahony had nine points and pinged accurate deliveries inside. Stephen O’Keeffe and Philip Mahony organised affairs at the back and held firm in the second half when Sion briefly threatened a comeback
Ken McGrath’s team kept plugging away led by persistent centre-forward Stephen Roche. They sent over four consecutive points on the resumption but could only get within seven of the leaders. Eleven wides didn’t help.
This win sets up a Waterford final with Passage on Sunday at the same venue. It represents a repeat of the 2013 showdown when their neighbours pipped them in thrilling fashion.
The wind assisted Gunners raised four white flags by twelve-minute mark, two from Mahony and one apiece courtesy of Billy O’Keeffe and Tim O’Sullivan. Sion hit three early wides but managed to keep within striking distance initially.
For the closing ten minutes, Ballygunner’s quality operators came to the fore. Pauric Mahony collected a pass from Philip and floated over a point from the stand sideline.
With six minutes left in the opening half, he sprayed a ball across to Brian O’Sullivan and he finished low to the far corner for his sixth goal of this campaign. Three further points by Mahony, Brian O’Sullivan and Shane O’Sullivan made it 1-13 to 0-5 at the break.
Sion settled on a double switch at halfway and dug their heels in. Stephen Roche, Michael Gaffney, John Dee and Stephen O’Neill all claimed singles to trim the deficit to seven. They never threatened Stephen O’Keeffe’s goal however with Philip Mahony on duty in front of the full back line.
Two Pauric Mahony frees took the sting out of the Sion recovery. The Gunners were in cruise mode for the final quarter. David O’Sullivan manufactured another point for his brother Brian and the number fourteen obliged again from close to the sideline. Twelve matches without defeat and another win will place them alongside the great Ballygunner teams of the sixties and nineties.
Pauric Mahony 0-9 (6fs); Brian O’Sullivan 1-5; P Hogan, S O’Sullivan, B O’Keeffe, T O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
M F O’Neill 0-4 (3fs); S Roche 0-2; M Hoban, S O’Neill, J Dee, M Gaffney, O Whelan 0-1 each.
S O’Keeffe; E Hayden, B Coughlan, I Kenny; H Barnes, Philip Mahony, S Walsh; B O’Keeffe, D O’Sullivan; S O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony, C Power; T O’Sullivan, Brian O’Sullivan, P Hogan.
M Mahony for Hogan (36); J McCarthy for T O’Sullivan (47); Barry O’Sullivan for B O’Keeffe (56); JJ Hutchinson for Power (56); W Hutchinson for Walsh (58).
I O’Regan; P Penkert, C Ryan, A Coady; S O’Neill, A Gleeson, J Dee; M Gaffney, O Whelan; M Hoban, S Roche, M F O’Neill; E Curran, S Ryan, J Broaders.
P Kelly for C Ryan (H-T); M Daykin for Curran (H-T); I Galgey for Broaders (43); C O’Regan for Gaffney (60).