Ballygunner send out Munster message with Ballyea thrashing

Waterford champions blitz Clare champions to set up Loughmore-Castleiney semi-final

A flare is thrown onto the pitch behind Ballyea’s Niall Deasy as he’s tackled during his side’s heavy defeat to Ballygunnre. Photograph:  Ken Sutton/Inpho

A flare is thrown onto the pitch behind Ballyea’s Niall Deasy as he’s tackled during his side’s heavy defeat to Ballygunnre. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

 

Ballygunner 3-20 Ballyea 2-6

Ballygunner’s enduring mission to expand their domestic dominance into Munster was certainly given an early jolt when overpowering hosts Ballyea in Cusack Park, Ennis on Sunday afternoon.

The eight-in-a-row Waterford champions, chasing their fourth-successive provincial senior club final, laid down an early marker of their intent when leading from start to finish to book their place in the last four against dual-Tipperary champions Loughmore-Castleiney.

Nine different scorers contributed to a surprisingly facile victory considering that it had to take two bouts of extra-time before Ballygunner edged matters against the same opposition in Walsh Park only three years earlier.

Pauric Mahony’s assurance from placed balls, the return of joint-captain Philip Mahony from injury and three timely goals ensured that the result was beyond any doubt long before the final whistle.

On the flip side, without talisman Tony Kelly for the past three outings as the current All Star recuperates from an ankle surgery, Ballyea unquestionably felt his absence most on Sunday as they required a spark or even some relief from the incessant siege.

The home side, off the back of their third Clare crown in six years, welcomed the conditions for the opening half but would find themselves firmly on the back foot, especially after Mikey Mahony raided for the first goal from point blank range after being put through by the ever-threatening Dessie Hutchinson at 1-3 to 0-2.

Five further points without reply followed through Pauric Mahony (three) and midfielder Conor Sheahan (two) but the damage would have been much more devastating were it not for home goalkeeper Barry Coote, who expertly repelled stinging efforts from Hutchinson and Pauric Mahony either side of the first water break.

Ballyea also passed up the opportunity of a pre-interval boost when Aaron Griffin’s teasing cross was missed by Cathal O’Connor before Mossy Gavin could only find the side-netting at 1-8 to 0-3 by half-time.

Niall Deasy’s fourth dead ball on the restart wouldn’t be the catalyst to kickstart a lacklustre Ballyea challenge as aside from county senior defenders Paul Flanagan and captain Jack Browne allied to goalkeeper Coote, there were very few redeeming performances on a forgettable afternoon.

Instead, Ballygunner, despite being eight weeks without a competitive match, eased seamlessly through the gears with a 1-9 unanswered rally capped off by Billy O’Keeffe’s clinching goal in the 49th minute at 2-17 to 0-4.

Conor Sheahan, Shane O’Sullivan and three Mahony bothers Kevin, Mikey and Pauric all got in on the scoring action in that scorching 17 minute purple patch that catapulted the ‘Gunners 19 points clear.

Remarkably, Ballyea bounced off the ropes with a brace of goals in as many minutes when Gary Brennan was fouled for a penalty that Niall Deasy coolly dispatched before substitute Martin O’Leary fired to the right corner of the net in the next passage of play.

However, even that mini-revolt would be unceremoniously quashed as within a minute, Ballygunner had responded with 1-1 including a second goal for Billy O’Keeffe before their bench finished the job through Conor Power and Harry Ruddle.

It was a perfect start to their latest provincial quest which will inevitably ramp up a few notches when welcoming the all-conquering Tipperary hurling and football winners Loughmore-Castleiney to Walsh Park at the semi-final stage in a fortnight’s time.

Ballygunner: S O’Keeffe; T Foley, B Coughlan, I Kenny; S O’Sullivan (0-1), Philip Mahony, R Power; C Sheahan (0-3), P Leavey (0-1); M Mahony (1-2), Pauric Mahony (0-8, four frees, three ’65s), P Hogan; B O’Keeffe (2-1), D Hutchinson, K Mahony (0-1). Subs: E Hayden for Power (51 min), H Ruddle (0-1, ’65) for K. Mahony (51m), C Power (0-2) for Hutchinson (53m), B O’Sullivan for Leavey (56m), J Foley for Pauric Mahony (60m).

Ballyea: B Coote; C Meaney, P Flanagan, P Casey; J Murphy, J Browne, B O’Connell; G Brennan, S Lineen; C O’Connor, P Lillis (0-1), C Brennan; A Griffin, N Deasy (1-5, 1-0 Pen, four frees, one ’65), M Gavin. Subs: M O’Leary (1-0) for Gavin (half-time), A Keane for O’Connor (44 min), R Griffin for Lineen (48m), B Murphy for Meaney (48m).

Referee: J O’Halloran (Limerick).

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