Ballygunner 4-20 Passage 1-12: The memory of the late Pat Flynn was honoured in style by his Ballygunner clubmen as they claimed a thoroughly convincing third consecutive senior county title in front of a disappointing 3,811 Walsh Park crowd.
Former Waterford goalkeeper Flynn, father of Paul, passed away on Thursday. His funeral takes place in the parish’s St Mary’s Church this morning where there will be smiles as well as tears as the current side replicated what Flynn’s team accomplished in the late 1960s.
On a weekend where recently-deceased bastions of clubs in Munster sport were celebrated with victories, Flynn’s grandson was the team mascot. And how Flynn would have been proud of the outrageous save made by Stephen O’Keeffe from Conor Carey in the 42nd minute. Had the ball made its way past O’Keeffe, Passage may have made a better fist of upsetting Ballygunner.
Instead, the defending champions notched up the next four scores to add to the four unanswered points they had registered prior to O’Keeffe’s denial. Cillian Fitzgerald eventually brought a halt to Passage’s barren spell that amounted to 17 minutes but Ballygunner’s coup de grace came in the form of substitute Stephen Power’s 51st-minute goal, O’Keeffe providing the assist with a huge wind-aided restart.
Seconds later and man-of-the-match Pauric Mahony had added another goal to stretch Ballygunner’s advantage to 13.
A Thomas Connors goal in the 54th minute brought some respectability to the scoreboard only for Passage’s opponents to reel off the last six points of the game.
In this mood, they could go all the way to Croke Park on March 17, particularly if the Mahony brothers continue the form they have demonstrated for most of 2016. Philip was excellent in the opening stages when Passage, backed by the wind, were posing more of a threat while Pauric was simply talismanic in how he brought his team-mates into the game while helping himself to scores here and there.
Both sides were fortunate not to lose a man in the third minute when a nasty row broke out after Barry Coughlan and Eoin Kelly became embroiled in a ground tussle. Michael O’Brien, after consulting with his umpire, chose to yellow card the pair but it was a let-off given that there had been at least one punch thrown and in the subsequent melee players struck with hurleys.
In the hurling stakes, Passage were out of the blocks quicker as was expected considering the breeze at their backs. Three of their first five scores came from defence as they made the most of the conditions in their favour.
Ballygunner eventually settled but were four points down when Tim O’Sullivan found the net in the 18th minute although it appeared Peter Hogan had fouled his marker in the build-up.
assage almost cancelled it out immediately when Eddie Hayden managed to block Thomas Connors but Ballygunner were celebrating a second goal three minutes later as Billy O’Keeffe shot low and true past Eddie Lynch following a blinding turn of pace by Hogan.
With a Fitzgerald free, Passage narrowed the deficit to a point, which would be the difference at half-time (2-5 to 0-10) but they looked naive in contrast to Ballygunner. Even with such a bellowing force in their favour, they were dicing with death by leaving Ballygunner’s two-man inside line in one-on-one situations with so much space to exploit.
With the two goals, all of Passage’s good work was undone and while they knocked over the last three scores of the half their task facing into the wind was always going to be onerous. Kelly, with a 20-metre free, did level matters four minutes into the second half but what followed was a period of Ballygunner dominance that ended the game as a contest to truly put to bed their defeat to their neighbours at this stage three years ago.
Scorers for Ballygunner:
Pauric Mahony (1-11, 0-7 frees); S. Power (1-1); T. O’Sullivan, B. O’Keeffe (1-0 each); B. O’Sullivan (0-4); P. Hogan (0-3); D. O’Sullivan (0-1).
Scorers for Passage:
K. Fitzgerald (0-4, 3 frees); T. Connors (1-1); O. Connors, E. Kelly (0-2, 1 free each); N. Connors, A. Roche, J. Roche (0-1 each).
S. O’Keeffe; I. Kenny, B. Coughlan, E. Hayden; H. Barnes, Philip Mahony, S. Walsh; D. O’Sullivan, B. O’Keeffe; S. O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony, C. Power; T. O’Sullivan, B. O’Sullivan (c), P. Hogan.
Subs for Ballygunner:
W. Hutchinson for B. Coughlan (blood 5-8); W. Hutchinson for B. O’Keeffe (43); S. Power for H. Barnes (48); M. Mahony for C. Power (52); J. Hutchinson for T. O’Sullivan (54); J. McCarthy for P. Hogan (55).
E. Lynch; J. Flood, N. Connors, D. Lynch; A. Roche, J. Roche, S. Mason; P. Walsh, S. Hogan; O. Connors (c), K. Fitzgerald; T. Connors, E. Kelly, G. Cullinane.
Subs for Passage:
J. Whitty for G. Cullinane (h-t); R. Hurley for C. Carey (54); C. O’Neill for K. Fitzgerald, P. Flynn for S. Mason (both 60); P. Donnellan for A. Roche (60+1).
M. O’Brien (Portlaw).
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