Club provides Pauric Mahony with perfect lift after frustrating period out of action

Sharp-shooter will be hoping Ballygunner can take Munster honours on Sunday

Very bad timing is how Pauric Mahony diplomatically puts it. He could probably use more agricultural language to sum up two years of championship hurling thieved from him by a knee injury but at this stage, but what's the point? The former Waterford captain is happy just to be back playing again with Munster club finalists Ballygunner, who take on Limerick's Kilmallock in Sunday's decider at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Mahony was due to skipper Waterford in the championship for the first time in late October 2020 but suffered a cruciate ligament injury a fortnight beforehand in a challenge game with Wexford.

Remarkably, he didn’t miss a minute of the serious club stuff as he was fit again for local duty in 2021 but didn’t make it back in time for the earlier intercounty games between June and August. Intercounty careers are short enough without two seasons being stolen. They weren’t just any seasons either with Waterford contesting Munster and All-Ireland finals in 2020 and making it to the last four in the All-Ireland series in 2021.

“It was only when I started doing the maths after the [2020] All-Ireland final that December that I realised, ‘I’m going to fall short here again for 2021’,” winced Mahony. “I was one of the only people in the country hoping last season would be delayed again because of Covid. Sure look, I suppose I’m out the other side of it now, thank God.”


As with any cruciate recovery, the journey back was a long one. It helped that the free-taker had stacked his home with free weights and gym equipment a few months earlier, when the first lockdown kicked in, so much of his rehab work was done at home. But he can’t recall too many other positives about that period.

“We had an in-house game in Ballygunner and I played 10 or 15 minutes of that with no one marking me,” recalled Mahony of his eventual return. “Then you have someone marking you in the first challenge match. And so on.”

By county final day last October, he was back to something close to his old self, popping points and converting frees for fun.

He lined out again in Dungarvan last month for the provincial semi-final defeat of Loughmore Castleiney. It was a wet and windy day and the pitch was heavy but the Gunners dug deep to overcome the Tipperary men.

Afterwards, Loughmore manager Frankie McGrath cried foul about various aspects of the day and about individual incidents, like Noel McGrath’s dismissal for a shoulder to the chest of a Ballygunner player who hit the turf theatrically.

The truth, of course, is that you don’t win eight Waterford titles in a row, and go 43 county championship matches unbeaten, without being able to dabble in the dark arts on occasion.

“I think there’s a saying, ‘nice boys win nothing’,” said Mahony, careful not to refer to any particular incident. “From our side, we’re very much focused on our hurling. In the weeks and build-up to every game, we’re very much concerned with, ‘Have we got our tactics right? Have we ticked all the boxes?’ After that, we’re just focused on the performance. The last day, against Loughmore, the conditions were extremely tough. So we would have had to change our game plan mid-game. I think every game, you have to treat it as it comes.”

Mahony’s sister, Emily, will be in action for Gailltir tomorrow in the AIB All-Ireland camogie club intermediate final. They play St Rynagh’s of Offaly in Thurles.

“She’s the quiet one of the family,” said Pauric. “Hopefully they can start the weekend off on a high.”