Newtown weather Ballygunner fightback

Newtownshandrum (Cork) 2-11 Ballygunner (Waterford) 2-9

Newtownshandrum (Cork) 2-11 Ballygunner (Waterford) 2-9

Cork's Newtownshandrum won the AIB Munster Club Senior Hurling Championship for the first time in 2005, surviving a furious late rally from Waterford champions Ballygunner at Semple Stadium.

1-7 to 0-4 ahead at half-time and with the wind behind them, Newtown looked to be coasting to their third provincial title in seven years when Jamie Coughlan fired home their second goal just minutes after the break.

But Phil Noonan’s side failed to put Ballygunner to the sword, clocking up a hatful of wides before the Deise men staged a storming comeback in front of a 2,876-strong crowd.

They scored goals in the 49th and 51st minutes to put the final right back in the melting pot, with substitutes Stephen Power and Barry Mullane both finding the net.

Former Waterford ace Paul Flynn then took his tally to 0-8 by landing four successive placed balls, the last of which tied up the game at 2-9 apiece with four minutes remaining.

The 35-year-old showed admirable accuracy from frees in difficult conditions, but Ben O’Connor, one of Newtown’s inter-county stars, proved once again to be the Cork club’s match winner.

He fired over a free to edge Newtown back in front at 2-10 to 2-9 and then, in the first minute of injury-time, man-of-the-match Pat Mulcahy lifted the siege and passed through for O’Connor to slot over from 70 yards out.

Although Ballygunner tried desperately to hit back, O’Connor’s fifth point of the afternoon was enough to see Newtown secure the prized provincial silverware and march on into the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Ballygunner had started in business-like fashion as Brian O'Sullivan opened the scoring for them at the start of a scrappy first quarter.

Conditions were particularly cold and a blustery wind blew down from the Killinan end, favouring the Waterford side in the opening half.

Flynn doubled Ballygunner's lead with his first free in what was the 46th Munster final - 16 of the previous 45 had been won by Cork clubs.

Newtown suddenly clicked into gear after that. Jerry O'Connor picked out PJ Copse for the Cork outfit's opening point and four swifly followed, one from Ryan Clifford and three from Ben O'Connor.

Flynn and Clifford traded scores before Newtown broke through for a 25th minute goal - Jamie Coughlan cut in from the right and found full-forward James Bowles who deftly turned onto his right before blasting a rising shot to the net.

There was some excellent stick work from Newtown as the first half wore on, their half-back line, marshalled by Pat Mulcahy, was totally on top and the movement of the forwards left Ballygunner's defence exposed time and again.

A smashing run and run from Jerry O'Connor put seven points between the sides, but Flynn closed it back to 1-7 to 0-4 in first half injury-time.

The game was almost over as a contest when Noonan's men rammed home a quick-fire 1-1 at the start of the second half.

Cathal Naughton scored a point and then a Ben O'Connor ball in was fired to the net by Coughlan.

Ballygunner reacted by introducing Barry Mullane, a goal-scoring hero from the recent win over Cratloe, and Newtown's spiralling wide count suggested that the game was still there for the taking.

A brace of frees from Flynn sandwiched a Naughton point from distance, leaving nine points between the sides with little over twelve minutes remaining.

Nonetheless, Ballygunner showed their tenacity with a fantastic surge of scoring.

Gearoid O'Connor was involved twice in the build-up before substitute Power nipped through to slot home a goal which lit the touch paper for the Ger Cunningham's side.

Three minutes later, Flynn went for goal from a close range free, his effort was blocked on the goal-line and Mullane reacted quickest to scramble it home on the rebound.

Three more pinpoint strikes from the increasingly influential Flynn incredibly brought Ballygunner level and the momentum was all theirs.

Step up Ben O'Connor, the experienced Cork forward with nerves of steel. He converted a timely free on 57 minutes and after going wide from a '65', he sounded the death knell for Ballygunner when he found the target in injury-time.

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