Mahony and Ballygunner turn sights on new Tipp kingpins

Munster champions will be eager to cement their status against Borris-Ileigh

Patrickswell’s Thomas Nolan is tackled by Ballygunner’s Pauric Mahony during the Munster club hurling semi-final at Walsh Park. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

The last thing Pauric Mahony or anyone else on the Ballygunner team will admit is that a Munster club hurling final against Tipperary’s champions Borris-Ileigh carries such strong county currency. Only of course it does.

Given Waterford’s tame exit at the round-robin stage of the Munster championship back in June, the chance to take out the club of the All-Ireland champions on Sunday week can’t be undervalued.

Indeed Mahony does admit to already watching Borris-Ileigh as they claimed their first Tipperary title since 1986, the year they also went on to win their first and only Munster club title.

“I actually watched their county final,” he said. “Not looking ahead but I just sat down last Sunday and had it recorded. Look down through their team, the spine is made up of inter-county players.


“Again it’s going to be a huge challenge for us but it’s great to be in these positions. We have to knuckle down and get as much work as we can into the next two weeks.”

Clearly liberated by last year’s long-coveted Munster title, Ballygunner took out an equally inter-county star studded Patrickswell at Walsh Park on Sunday, the Limerick champions unable to handle their range of scorers – just as Clare champions Sixmilebridge found out the week before.

Mahony was among them with his 0-4 in what was also a man-of-the-match performance, while younger brother Michael also earned plenty of plaudits with his 0-4 too.

“The conditions are tough at this time of year so it’s important to get the fundamentals right. We kind of strayed a bit away from our game plan for five or ten minutes in the first half and we paid the price for it. Thankfully half-time came at the right time and we were to refocus and go again for the second half.

“And we all know what Mikey is capable of. We were delighted for him. He was worked pretty hard over the last number of years and thankfully this year he is really nailing down his place.

“He’s the third and my sister Emily plays camogie with Gaultier and they’d a great win on Saturday in the Munster final. Sometimes at home, we take all the plaudits but she’s a good girl herself and a handy camogie player. They won the Munster intermediate title so plenty of celebrating.

“It’s different people who have to step up in every single day. It was Dessie Hutchinson the last day against Sixmilebridge. Michael did it this time. In fairness, Dessie scored 0-5 from play. In fairness to everybody it was a solid team performance, everybody worked hard and we’re just delighted that we have another game to play.”

Close-knit group

Part of the desire with this Ballygunner team is to go further than last year, having exited in the All-Ireland semi-final last year to eventually champions Ballyhale Shamrocks.

“Our first game of the year this year after the Ballyhale Shamrocks game was against Clonea. That’s where we set our tone that day.  Every day we go out that’s it we’re just trying to get better and work harder for the team. As you can see we are a close-knit group and it is easy to do it when you are playing with your friends.

“We’re probably looking over our shoulder too. There are a lot of young lads coming through. We have to keep working hard and continuously improve that’s what we have this year – the younger lads there, the 17- or 18-year-olds are really driving and trying to get into the team and that gives us the older lads an edge to keep going.”

Given the fact they also scraped over the line on a few occasions last year, namely against Midleton and Ballyea, they appear better equipped this time too.

“I’m not too sure. It’s not something we’ve thought about. We probably had a lot of work done last year. The fact that we were going until February meant we were able to follow that through so maybe we didn’t take a step back the way you might do over the pre-season. We were able to continue to work through. We’re 18 months, nearly two years on the road now as a group so maybe that stands to us.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics