Ballygunner became the first club in 23 years to win successive Munster senior hurling titles with this composed victory over Ballyea in FDD Semple Stadium.
Tony Kelly’s 11 points, eight of them coming in the first half, weren’t enough as Patrick Fitzgerald once again underlined his talent with a personal haul of 1-4 while Pauric Mahony produced 10 points.
Watched by a crowd of over 2,500 in Thurles, the All-Ireland champions left Ballyea in their wake in the middle of the second half and outscored the Clare winners by six points to one from the 49th minute onwards.
Goal opportunities were plentiful after the resumption but Fitzgerald hit his first attempt wide and his second was parried by Barry Coote. Between those chances, Aaron Griffin fizzed a shot beyond Stephen O’Keeffe’s far post in the 34th minute.
Ballygunner pushed five clear on the back of Dessie Hutchinson and Tadhg Foley points in the 46th minute. Kelly, so good in the opening half, hit two wides in the second period as well as a shot dropped short and Ballyea’s belief began to wane.
Ballygunner’s indiscipline around the middle had been their most costly fault in the first half as Tony Kelly repeatedly punished it, finishing the half with four frees, all of them from distance. Paddy Leavey was booked for committing of those fouls on Kelly himself.
Ballygunner led 0-5 to 0-2 after 11 minutes before Ballyea scored five of the next six points to go ahead, all of them from Kelly’s bas.
Ballygunner hadn’t scored for seven minutes when Patrick Fitzgerald fired the opening goal of the game in the 20th minute. Pauric Mahony had soloed intently towards the Ballyea posts before offloading to Fitzgerald whose low drive wasn’t touched.
James Murphy hit back with a quick point for Ballyea to cut the difference to a point and a solitary score remained between them in the 28th minute prior to a splendid Fitzgerald score. Seconds later, Mikey Mahony became the final Ballygunner forward to score from play.
Niall Deasy saw out the half’s scoring to bring Ballyea to within three, 0-11 to 1-11.
Pauric Mahony (0-10, 6 frees, 1 65); P. Fitzgerald (1-4); D. Hutchinson (0-4); K. Mahony (0-2); P. Hogan, M. Mahony, T. Foley (0-1 each)
T. Kelly (0-11, 6 frees, 1 65); N. Deasy (0-2); P. Lillis (0-2); J. Murphy, M. Gavin (0-1 each).
S. O’Keeffe; I. Kenny (j-c), B. Coughlan, T. Foley; S. O’Sullivan, Philip Mahony, R. Power; C. Sheahan, P. Leavey; M. Mahony, Pauric Mahony, P. Hogan; D. Hutchinson (j-c), K. Mahony, P. Fitzgerald.
H. Ruddle for K. Mahony (55); B. O’Keeffe for P. Hogan (57); T. O’Sullivan for P. Fitzgerald (59); T. Gallagher for R. Power, D. O’Keeffe for M. Mahony (both 60+2).
B. Coote; B. O’Connell, P. Casey, P. Flanagan; J. Murphy (c), J. Browne, G. O’Connell; T. Kelly, S. Lineen; P. Lillis, G. Brennan, C. O’Connor; M. Gavin, N. Deasy, A. Griffin.
C. Brennan for P. Flanagan (temp 38-44); M. Garry for C. O’Connor (42); M. O’Leary for A. Griffin (48); C. Brennan for S. Lineen (53); C. Doohan for M. Gavin (56).
M. Kennedy (Tipperary).