Ballygunner ready to grab second chance after last year’s final meltdown

Ballygunner came out the wrong side of the craziest finish to a Waterford county final against Passage last October.

On the home straight they loosened their grip on a seven-point lead with seven minutes left. A flurry of 2-4 floored them and their neighbours celebrated an unthinkable maiden title.

“The manner of the defeat was very difficult for the players,” admitted team selector Padraig Connolly.

“The way we approached it was that we moved on. We just said that it’s done and we parked it. At the end of the day, the best team won and there is no doubt about that. There’s no point in us thinking otherwise. Passage won because they played until the end.

“Our objective was to move on and to see whether we could put in as good or bigger effort this year and make sure something like that doesn’t happen again. Sunday will tell.”

With that issue off the agenda, the Gunners hit the ground running under new manager Fergal Hartley. They have won all seven championship games so far, scoring 13 goals and 145 points in the process.

“It wouldn’t be unfair to say that morale was a little brittle and it was important we started well. We got a number of wins under our belt and we gathered momentum. Our first objective was to win our first two games,” said Connolly.

Their rehabilitation programme nears completion. A gritty semi-final success over Dungarvan tested their mental toughness as they recovered a three-point deficit in the last quarter. Connolly believes there is more to come.

“In some respects, we were happy to come out of it but in other aspects we were disappointed. We started very well but we allowed Dungarvan come back into the game. They were always going to have a purple patch and they have dangerous forwards. We outscored them by five points to nil in the last 10 minutes so that part is pleasing, but certainly still a lot to work on.”

Ballygunner defeated final opponents Mount Sion by 0-20 to 1-9 during the group stages back in early August but Connolly discards that result given the raft of changes to the Sion starting 15 over the knockout rounds.

“It’s a massive challenge. I saw the De La Salle match and anyone who was watching could see that they were a totally different team than what we played eight weeks ago. In their last two games, they haven’t conceded a goal. An important point to remember is that they were short one or two players when we played them.

“In particular, Ian O’Regan, and we all saw his worth against De La Salle in terms of his saves and his puck-outs and what he brings to them. We have a huge task on Sunday.”


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