Ballygunner secured impressive victory over Clarecastle in this Munster club championship semi-final.
Not for the first time, Paul Flynn was hugely influential in steering Ballygunner to the Munster final showdown with Cork champions Newtownshandrum on Sunday week.
The winners trailed by three points, 1-3 to 0-3, after 10 minutes when Tyrone Pearse scored a gem of a Clarecastle goal, but inside another three minutes they were on the receiving end of a piece of pure Flynn magic. He fastened onto a delivery from outstanding midfielder Andy Moloney, rounded his marker and John Casey’s net was rattled with the ferocity of his shot.
Corner-back Mark McNamara disputed a refereeing decision that awarded the Gunners a free, and the result was that the ball was moved to the 20 metre line and dead straight in front of goal. Flynn country, and though Clarecastle deployed a seven-man wall, none of them saw the ball as it rocketed past them. Now a commanding seven points in front, 2-7 to 1-3, Clarecastle were left with a mountain to climb.
Important though Flynn had been, the real springboard for their mastery was provided by a magnificent half-back line in which Fergal Hartley controlled the centre with Wayne Hutchinson, probably the man of the match, and Alan Kirwan equally outstanding on the flanks.
Andy Moloney was rampaging at midfield, Paul Foley gave Clarecastle key man Conor Plunkett at centre- back a right old roasting, and Shane O’Sullivan was playing great stuff on the left wing.
To their credit, Clarecastle came out with all guns blazing on the restart and the Gunners were reduced to 14 players when corner-back Rory O’Sullivan was dismissed for a second yellow card offence.
Worse was to follow for the Gunners when Derek Quinn’s goal effort was blocked from the resultant semi- penalty, but Seanie Moloney lashed the rebounding ball to the net. They narrowed the deficit still further with a Sheedy point on 38 minutes to leave just a goal between the sides.
The Ballygunner response was magnificent and they delivered the crucial blow when Shane O’Sullivan gave goalkeeper John Casey no chance in the 39th minute of keeping out his piledriver.
The Gunners went on to rifle over some quality scores, none better than Flynn’s effort in the 47th minute, and they could even afford the luxury of withdrawing both Flynn and Foley in the closing minutes.
Clarecastle never threw in the towel and had fine scores from a tireless Jonathan Clancy, John Pyne, Pearse and Quinn.
But it was never going to be their day and the Gunners ended on a high with another brace of super points from Foley and substitute Shane Walsh.
: Ballygunner; P. Flynn(2-3, 1-0 penalty, 0-2 frees); S. O’Sullivan(1-1); P. Foley(0-4); G. O’Connor(0-2); A. Kirwan, A. Moloney, S. Walsh(0-1) each. Clarecastle; T. Pearse(1-1); D. Quinn(0-4, 0-2 frees); S. Moloney(1-0); J. Clancy(0-2); J. Pyne, S. Sheedy(0-1) each.
: P. Haran; N. O’Donnell. W. Kiely. R. O’Sullivan; W. Hutchinson. F. Hartley. A. Kirwan; C. Kehoe. A. Moloney; B. O’Sullivan. P. Foley. S. O’Sullivan; T. Power. P. Flynn. G. O’Connor; Subs; S. Walsh for Power (45thmin); M. Kearney for B. O’Sullivan(52nd min); D. O’Sullivan for Foley (57th min); B. Mullane for Flynn(58th min).
: J. Casey; M. McNamara. M. Sheedy. G. Canny; J. O’Connor. C. Plunkett. O. Plunkett; J. Pyne. J. Clancy; T. Pearse. S. Sheedy. E. Flynn; S. Moloney. D. Scanlon. D. Quinn; Subs; G. Griffey for Scanlon(45th min); A. Griffey for Moloney(53rd min); G. Barry for O. Plunkett(58th min).
: Diarmuid Kirwan, Cork.