Experienced heads will help Ballygunner carry favourites' tag lightly says Mikey Mahony

"1/10 on seems to be regular enough with us, so we’re kind of used to carrying that weight"
Experienced heads will help Ballygunner carry favourites' tag lightly says Mikey Mahony

Ballygunner hurler Mikey Mahony pictured ahead of his side's AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final against Slaughtneil of Derry. This Sunday, January 23rd, sees another weekend of thrilling club action in store in the AIB GAA Club Championships as the final four teams remaining in the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championships prepare to lay it all on the line for a place in the final at Croke Park. The first of the semi-finals will get underway at 1:30pm when Waterford champions, Ballygunner face Slaughtneil of Derry at Parnell Park, Dublin, while it's a 3.30pm throw-in for Galway champions, St Thomas’ against current holders, Ballyhale Shamrocks of Kilkenny at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Both games will be broadcast live on TG4, with coverage of the first semi-final getting underway at 1pm, while coverage of the second semi-final will start at 3:10pm. This year's AIB Club Championships celebrate #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games - those who keep going and persevere no matter what, and this Sunday’s showdowns are set to be no exception. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ballygunner’s Mikey Mahony says he and his colleagues will be trying to repeat their five-star performance in beating Kilmallock in the Munster club final.

The Waterford side face Slaughtneil of Derry this weekend in the All-Ireland club final. Asked if they need to reach the heights of the Kilmallock game again, Mahony said: “Of course. The way we are looking at it would be that if we don’t improve as a panel or in competition for places there’s probably not going to be the outcome we want.

“But I don’t think this team get bogged down in things like that, we go out and stick to the process, do the simple things right, and please God the result will follow then.” 

Ballygunner can call on plenty of experience, of course.

“The dynamic of the team has progressed a lot in the last year. I don’t want to say we are an old team but there is a lot of guys around that 28, 29 bracket, the likes of Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan... Shane O'Sullivan is into his 30s.

“In the last two years we feel like we’ve improved a lot. There was definitely something different this year I felt, in terms of belief. We probably said we believed we’d win it in years gone, but this year there probably was a real belief there. That belief was there this year, that was probably the difference.

“I’m not sure if it’s age or more so experience. I went into the Borris-Ileigh game (2019 Munster club final) probably not basically knowing what to expect. We had won quite easily in the quarter- and the semi-final of that year, so I probably hadn’t played in a game as intense as that one.

“That was probably the standard-bearer for me going forward, and I could use that experience going into this year. Maybe experience is more the difference now as opposed to age.” 

The experience extends to family, too. There are four Mahony brothers on the panel - Kevin 20, Mikey 23, Pauric 29, Philip 31 - while manager Darragh O’Sullivan and selector Rory O’Sullivan are uncles, corner back Tadhg Foley is a cousin while uncle Shane O’Sullivan is in the half-backs (“And there are one or two cousins on the extended panel,” he adds).

Pauric and Philip are big influences: “They really would have shown us the right way to do things, even simple things, coming home from training and they’re eating the right foods, go to sleep at the right time, naturally you are going to follow that and of course they were always there for a bit of advice as well.” 

And Sunday’s opponents?

“I watched Slaughtneil’s last two games,” says Mahony.

“I probably paid more attention to the Ballycran game, so I would be quite aware of them.

“There’s a number of them in with the Derry football squad as well so I would have a small interest in that as well. I’d be quite aware of them, I’ve seen a bit of them.

“To be honest I wouldn’t really be reading into that (favourites tag) too much. We’ve seen how strong Slaughtneil are in the video work we’ve done. We seem to be going into a lot of games with that favourite tag, 1/10 on seems to be regular enough with us, so we’re kind of used to carrying that weight.

“I don’t think that will have any effect on the outcome on Sunday.”

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