Ballygunner catch fire in second half to beat Sixmilebridge
Waterford side overcome five-point half-time deficit in Walsh Park thriller
Ballygunner’s JJ Hutchinson celebrates scoring a goal in the AIB Munster Club SHC semi-final at Walsh Park. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Ballygunner (Waterford) 1-18 Sixmilebridge (Clare) 1-17
A magnificent second-half rally saw Ballygunner overturn a five-point half-time deficit to overcome Sixmilebridge in a gripping Munster Club semi-final at Walsh Park on Sunday.
JJ Hutchinson, scorer of 1-3 during the Gunners’ second-half recovery, rifled a 58th-minute goal though a mass of limbs to edge Fergal Hartley’s side two points clear before a 2,492-strong crowd.
And when Billy O’Keeffe, followed by Hutchinson landed further superb points in additional time, one felt Ballygunner had done enough to secure their place in the provincial decider. But as the game trickled into its third extra minute, redeployed centre back Seadna Morey slammed the sliotar past All Star goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe to hand Sixmilebridge a lifeline. But time ran out for the Claremen, who had dominated the opening half, going in 0-11 to 0-6 up at the break.
Mahony and Shanahan exchanged further frees in the 10th and 12th minutes, before Sixmilebridge took control of the half, dominating both the individual and sectoral battles between then and the interval.
Mahony turned over a 13th-minute free before 41-year-old Niall Gilligan landed a superb point, to the delight of the travelling support. Mahony’s frees kept Ballygunner in touch while Shanahan’s accuracy over the dead ball pulled the Claremen four points clear before Gilligan landed his second point in additional time.
Whatever oracle was worked in the Ballygunner dressingroom did the trick at half-time and they’d drawn level by the 39th minute thanks to points from Billy O’Keeffe, JJ Hutchinson (2) and Pauric Mahony (2).
Over the next 20-plus minutes, the sides slugged it out, with Shanahan turning over two superb points for Sixmile in the closing stages, but the qualities exemplified by Mahony, O’Keeffe and Hutchinson ensured the day was Ballygunner’s. They’ll face Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh in the provincial decider on Sunday week.
BALLYGUNNER: S O’Keeffe; E Hayden, B Coughlan, I Kenny; Philip Mahony, W Hutchinson, S Walsh; H Barnes, S O’Sullivan (0-1); P Hogan, D O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony (0-11; eight frees, one 65); C Power, JJ Hutchinson (1-3), B O’Keeffe (0-3).
Subs: B O’Sullivan for Walsh (42 mins) and D Walsh for Hogan (59 mins).
SIXMILEBRIDGE: D Fahy; N Purcell, A Quilligan, B Fitzpatrick; C Morey, S Morey (1-0), E McInerney; J Shanahan (0-9; six frees), C Deasy (0-1); C Malone (0-1), N Gilligan (0-2), A Morey (0-1); B Corey (0-1), S Golden (0-1), A Mulready (0-1).
Subs: K Lynch for Mulready (54 mins), B Carey for McInerney (55 mins).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick).