Sensational second-half from Ballygunner blows the Glen away

Déise champions performance after half-time leaves Rovers gasping for air

To the bafflement of even their supporters in a meagre if symmetrical crowd of 1,414 at rain-lashed Walsh Park, Waterford champions Ballygunner mounted a second-half recovery of such magnitude that it appeared to blow away the foul weather both literally as well as figuratively.

They out-scored Cork champions Glen Rovers in the second half by 0-16 to 1-1 to run out comfortable winners and reach their first AIB Munster club hurling final in six years.

By local reckoning it was as well as they’d played all season, after an uninspired county championship and a first half on Sunday in which Cork visitors Glen Rovers looked as well set as any side could want to be going in at half-time.

Time to step up

“By general consensus we hadn’t played well all year,” echoed the winning manager and former Cork manager

Denis Walsh

. “We won the county and just got over line in a lot of games. We knew we had to step up. We said it at half-time, too, that now is the time to step up.

“We gave a very good controlled performance in the conditions and got the two or three points after half-time and straight away that ate into the lead and that was crucial. Ten minutes into the second half we had gone a point or two points ahead.

“I thought in the first 20 minutes we played very well. Then you had the sending-off and you had the wind factor. We lost everything [in midfield], but I said to the lads we had played some great hurling in defence, but it hadn’t stuck above with Tim [O’Sullivan] and we needed to do that again. We didn’t want to be playing Hail Mary stuff. They did that, they are very good that way and in the conditions it was tough, but they did it.”

Walsh had a point in that for the first 20 minutes Ballygunner held firm. Their defensive set-up was succeeding in stifling Glen Rovers – although the Cork side’s wides’ count was even more helpful – but it left them few options up front.

Whatever about hitting long ball into space for nimble but isolated forwards on fine days with a hop in the pitch, lamping it out of defence into a deluge and onto a gloopy surface didn’t pose much of a threat.

Ballygunner have had an unfortunate year – losing their most influential forward Pauric Mahony back in May – and by half-time they had sustained further losses. Mahony’s brother Philip, their defensive keystone, was sent off for striking after a 25-man melee had erupted as curiously as a fight in a queue for Santa, in the 20th minute.

Half-time lead

Glen’s

Dean Brosnan

was also red-carded and the match settled again with the Cork side winning the remaining exchanges before half-time by 0-5 to 0-1 to lead 0-8 to 0-3 with fine points from

Graham Callanan

,

Conor Dorris

and

David Cunningham

, plus accurate frees from

Patrick Horgan

.

There had been further woe for the Waterford champions when minor star Peter Hogan, their most threatening forward, went off with the recurrence of a hamstring injury after 14 minutes. His loss was sufficiently serious for the player to be put through his paces at half-time to see if a return might be possible.

It wasn't but his team-mates did manage a miracle recovery. Half of the 16 points came from Brian O'Sullivan, who missed just one free out of a variety of shots. In a killing sequence of 10 unanswered scores, including some excellent points from play by Shane O'Sullivan, Billy O'Keeffe and Tim O'Sullivan, Ballygunner stayed on track even when their free-taker was off the field – Stephen Power stepping up to fire over a 65.

At the same time the Ballygunner defence was excellent. The tide was against the Glen but Barry Coughlan and Harley Barnes led the way in making sure the Cork side was shut out.

Horgan scored a fabulous goal – volleying in a line ball from Dave Noonan – in the 50th minute to give the visitors hope but within six minutes Ballygunner had the three points back.

On the hour, full-forward Power summed up the difference, pelting back after Adam O’Donovan and dispossessing the Glen replacement before concluding the passage of play by sweeping the ball over the bar from around 65 metres.

Glen Rovers selector Des Cullinane had no excuses afterwards. “In fairness to them, they were back within a point of us four minutes into the second half. We never really got going; they were winning all the ball. The ball was dirty, but they were coming out of it most of the time. That was the winning of the game.

“We can’t blame the conditions; it was the same for both teams. They adapted better. We had prepared well and we’d thought we’d go better.”

Ballygunner will face Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh or Thurles Sarsfields in the final, but are likely to be missing Philip Mahony, as Walsh appeared to accept afterwards.

BALLYGUNNER: S O'Keeffe; E Hayden, B Coughlan, I Kenny; S Walsh, P Mahony, H Barnes (0-1); D O'Sullivan, B O'Keeffe (0-1), P Hogan (0-2), S O'Sullivan (0-2), Barry O'Sullivan; C Power, T O'Sullivan (0-1), Brian O'Sullivan (0-9, seven frees, one 65). Subs: S Power (0-2, one 65) for Hogan (14 mins), JJ Hutchinson for T O'Sullivan (45 mins), Seán O'Sullivan for Power (59 mins), C Sheahan (0-1) for O'Keeffe (61 mins).

GLEN ROVERS: C Hickey; B Murphy, D Dooling, S McDonnell; G Moylan (0-1), B Moylan, G Callanan (capt; 0-1); D Cronin, D Noonan; D Brosnan, P Horgan (1-5, three points frees and a 65), D Cunningham (0-1); C Dorris (0-1), B Phelan, D Busteed.

Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times

READ MORE