Ballygunner’s Munster club match-up against Sixmilebridge has the makings of a thriller

Last Sunday they won the Waterford SHC for the sixth year on the spin and now progress to meet Sixmilebridge at a Clare venue in the provincial quarter-final on November 3.

Ballygunner’s Munster club match-up against Sixmilebridge has the makings of a thriller

For sheer consistency alone, Ballygunner have to be up there as one of the great club hurling teams of recent years.

Last Sunday they won the Waterford SHC for the sixth year on the spin and now progress to meet Sixmilebridge at a Clare venue in the provincial quarter-final on November 3.

Centre-forward Pauric Mahony hit 0-12 in total as Ballygunner had nine points to spare over De La Salle in the county final.

The Déise club kings tallied 1-24 and will advance to the Munster championship in the rudest of health, especially in psychological terms, buoyed by yet another county title success.

Ballygunner, of course, are the defending Munster champions having seen off Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh in the decider last year, 2-14 to 2-8, in Semple Stadium.

That was their third Munster final appearance in four years and they will be keen to retain their provincial crown with a view to attacking the All-Ireland series again.

Dessie Hutchison, to complement Pauric Mahony’s contributions, scored 1-3 in open play against De La Salle and both of those players will have to be equally sharp for Ballygunner’s forthcoming trip to the Banner county to face a Sixmilebridge outfit which is jointly-managed by Davy Fitzgerald and Tim Crowe.

Yet, it will not faze Ballygunner in the slightest, the fact they will have to travel for such an assignment.

They have displayed their character in abundance, time and again, and did so last Sunday, too, as their manager, Darragh O’Sullivan explained afterwards.

Billy O'Keeffe of Ballygunner, centre, celebrates winning a free with team-mates Barry Coughlan, left, and Pauric Mahony during the Waterford County Senior Club Hurling Championship Final match between Ballygunner and De La Salle. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Billy O'Keeffe of Ballygunner, centre, celebrates winning a free with team-mates Barry Coughlan, left, and Pauric Mahony during the Waterford County Senior Club Hurling Championship Final match between Ballygunner and De La Salle. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“It’s massive for us,” said O’Sullivan. “You saw how deep we had to go in that second half - we were nine points up and they brought it back to two, and they were playing with the elements.

When you question these lads, they really dig deep - you saw the performance they gave in the last 20 minutes, it was inspiring for all of us.

“We were under no illusions, we knew we’d have to dig deep today - they’re a phenomenal side too, in fairness, and you can see how strong they’ve become in the last 12 months. They’ll be back - De La Salle will be back.”

Ballygunner’s meeting with Sixmilebridge has the makings of a thriller.

However, the Waterford champions will fancy themselves to reach another Munster semi-final as they will be aware of the fact Cratloe had plenty of opportunities to potentially defeat Sixmilebridge in the Clare SHC final, also played last Sunday.

In fact, Cratloe hit 12 wides, a few of which were scoreable frees, and so against Ballygunner, particularly with Pauric Mahony in their ranks, it is unlikely Sixmilebridge will be as fortunate in the provincial showdown should they cough up such opportunities to O’Sullivan’s charges.

Given Ballygunner’s success-rate within their own county, and their obvious capacity to be more than competitive in the provincial sphere, they will be anxious to retain the Munster title if they can, to ensure they maximise the use of the talents they presently have in their squad.

Ballygunner, understandably, cannot look further than Sixmilebridge. It would be foolish to do so.

However, in the back of their minds, they might feel like going on this season to compete in an All-Ireland final is their true aim.

Of course, it is every club’s objective, but for Ballygunner, it is a realistic aim.

And they clearly have the panel required at least make a decent stab at retaining their Munster title and seeing where that takes them.

Regardless of how that adventure turns out this term, they have proven themselves to be a truly brilliant outfit.

Sticking with the theme of consistency, albeit on a less obvious scale, Duhallow are back in another Cork SFC final where they will meet Nemo Rangers.

The north Cork divisional unit were beaten in the showpiece last year by St Finbarr’s, but even prior to that final appearance, they have been reaching the business end of the Cork SFC on a relatively regular basis.

And their manager, Pádraig Kearns, revealed after they overcame Newcestown, 0-12 to 0-7, last Sunday in their semi-final, that getting back into the final again was a genuine goal from the start of this campaign.

“At the start of the year, all we wanted to do was get back to the final, whatever way possible,” Kearns explained.

We haven’t fixed last year yet, we’re just back to where we were and we have to drive on now.

“It wasn’t a great game but I thought the referee did well, he let the play go on. Newcestown are a good team, they were always going to give us a game. They’re hardy boys, they nearly beat Imokilly last year in the hurling. I wouldn’t take anything away from Newcestown’s performance, they were well-drilled and they’re a good team.”

Duhallow are a proper team, are unified in the way a club side are and will be formidable opponents for Nemo next Sunday week.

Yet, Paul O’Donovan’s men were quite impressive in the way they brushed Douglas aside in the other semi-final.

Unexpectedly, Nemo devoured the Douglas defence to win by 14 points, 3-12 to 0-7, and it could have been an even greater margin.

Paul Kerrigan hit 2-1 including two palmed efforts to the net while Luke Connolly registered 0-4 (0-2 frees, 0-1 45).

Nemo, on the basis of what they produced against Douglas, will start as favourites against Duhallow.

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