Sunday, 19th November 2017
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Gunners continue to fire

On Sunday last in Walsh Park, Waterford Senior Hurling Champions, Ballygunner kept their unbeaten record intact with a 1-21 to 1-19 win over Thurles Sarsfields in the Munster Club quarter final. This was a pulsating game and would surely stand with any game in recent years in the Provincial competition. The Waterford representatives have been in competitive mode for six straight weeks but far from being jaded and tired it appears that the "glut of games" has battle hardened the Knockboy outfit. Bainisteoir Fergal Hartley and his management team must be delighted with the response from their charges as they motor forward from their four in a row County title win.

Of course opponents Thurles Sarsfields were also on a winning run and having annexed their domestic championship were in fact the fancy of many pundits both inside and outside Tipperary to go on and add a Munster and perhaps an All-Ireland club title to their long list of achievements.

Before the game the Tipperary representatives brought county start Ronan Maher to the edge of the square, mindful of the pace of the Gunners attack while Ballygunner gave Eddie Hayden the man marking job on former player of the year Lar Corbett. The visitors with the aid of the wind, had the better of the opening exchanges with Corbett, Aidan McCormack and Stephen Lillis giving them an early 0-4 to 0-2 lead. The Waterford scores coming from the superb Pauric Mahony who was once again pinpoint accurate from dead ball situations. In a tough encounter the Waterford representatives always looked that little bit more dangerous and with the afforementioned Mahony along with the pacey Brian O'Sullivan tacking over points there was still little to seperate the sides after twenty minutes with Lar Corbett and Pa Bourke adding points for Sarsfields.

However, the tide turned towards Ballygunner on 21 minutes when Pauric Mahony hit a free from out wide which deceived the Thurles defence and slipped through the fingers of Padraig Maher and into the net. The Knockboy outfit capitalised on this and points followed from Davis O'Sullivan and Conor power to see them 1-7 to 0-6 ahead. In a game as tight and competitive as this a four point lead could seem like a "Mountain" to climb but Lar Corbett and Denis Maher saw shots split the uprights and the lead was back to two 1-7 to 0-8. Ballygunner goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe was called into action to clear an effort from Billy McCarthy just before Pauric Mahony again claimed a score with another super point to leave the Gunners ahead 1-8 to 0-8 at the break.

The opening ten minutes of the second half saw both teams seek the "high ground" with Pauric Mahony for Ballygunner and Pa Bourke and Lar Corbett doing likewise for Thurles. The Gunners citadel finally fell in the 41st minute as a goal bound effort from Billy McCarthy was blocked away by Stewphen O'Keeffe but Conor Stakelum was quick to react and stick the ball in the net. A point between the sides 1-12 to 1-11 and the Gunners were dealt another blow as the very dangerous Brian O'Sullivan was forced to retire with what looked a shoulder injury. Ballygunner reorganised and Pauric Mahony and David Walsh added points 1-14 to 1-11. However points from Peter Hogan for Ballygunner and Thurles Sarsfields through Pa Bourke, Lar Corbett, Stephen Cahill and Denis Maher saw the game level again (seven times) 1-15 apiece as referee Colin Lyons called a halt and we faced into extra time.

The early exchanges of the extra time saw Ballygunner on the offensive. Despite facing the wind Pauric Mahony (2) and David O'Sullivan edged them three points ahead but a late strike from Aidan McCormack saw the Waterford champions lead by just two 1-18 to 1-16 at half time in extra time. Padraig Maher brought the lead back to the minimum on the resumption with a superb effort. Barry O'Sullivan and McCormack had a point for each side before Padraig Maher levelled for the seventh time with just a little under three minutes on the clock.

In those final minutes it was Ballygunner who clinched a terrific victory as JJ Hutchinson and Padraig Mahony added the points which saw the Fergal Hartley outfit through to the Munster semi-final against Clare champions Sixmilebridge on Sunday next at the famed Keane's Road venue. The representatives from the Banner will be a tough "nut to crack"with the likes of Jamie Shanahan, Niall Gilligan, Seadna Morey and Shane Golden in their starting fifteen but I will be surprised if the

Waterford kingpins cannot edge another tight game and so set themselves up for a crack at the Munster final.

Incidentally opponents, Sixmilebridge came through their domestic final with a pretty comprehensive 1-20 to 1-14 win and will relish the prospect of facing the in form Gunners. For the Knockboy outfit it appears games cannot come quickly enough. It will take a huge effort from the Clare champions if they are to breach the Ballygunner defence so brilliantly marshalled by county star Philip Mahony. Up front the lightening pace of the attack allied to the accuracy of the afforementioned Pauric Mahony make this Gunners side really formidable. Another thriller in prospect in Walsh park on Sunday at 2pm and with a little luck we will all be looking forward to moving on to a Munster Final

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