Bal­ly­gun­ner still stand­ing af­ter epic

Clare cham­pi­ons on brink of vic­tory but lose af­ter two pe­ri­ods of ex­tra time Bal­ly­gun­ner 2-26 Bal­lyea 2-23 Af­ter two pe­ri­ods of ex­tra time

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Seán Mo­ran at Walsh Park

Should Bal­ly­gun­ner go on to win the Mun­ster ti­tle in two weeks’ time they’ll have done it the hard way. The for­mi­da­ble Lim­er­ick cham­pi­ons Na Piar­saigh, who beat them in last year’s fi­nal, await but yes­ter­day’s semi-fi­nal against 2016 All-Ire­land fi­nal­ists Bal­lyea was a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they out­lasted the Clare cham­pi­ons over two pe­ri­ods of ex­tra time.

No one was quite sure when Water­ford wing back Philip Ma­hony had pre­vi­ously – if ever – scored a goal, but in the fren­zied full-court press that Bal­ly­gun­ner gen­er­ated deep in in­jury time, he was there to touch in a ball fired across goal by Conor Power af­ter Bal­lyea looked to have re­pelled the last as­sault.

Tac­tics

They were lucky. Man­ager Fer­gal Hart­ley said af­ter­wards tac­tics and sys­tems go out the win­dow when a con­test is as close as this epic turned out to be and he was cor­rect, as he also was to be proud of his team, who had to re­trieve the match twice.

Bal­lyea took time to set­tle but with the quick­sil­ver in­flu­ence of Tony Kelly and a ram­pag­ing dis­play by Niall Deasy at full for­ward they as­serted con­trol in the five min­utes be­fore half-time, outscor­ing the Water­ford cham­pi­ons 1-2 to 0-2 – the goal a deft one-handed fin­ish af­ter Deasy had run Barry Cough­lan ragged com­ing in from the right cor­ner.

Trail­ing by a goal at half-time Bal­ly­gun­ner found them­selves for the sec­ond week run­ning – af­ter the pre­vi­ous week’s scare against Mi­dle­ton – fight­ing a rear­guard ac­tion in the sec­ond half. Mat­ters were made worse when Bal­lyea swag­gered out af­ter half-time and rat­tled off three points to dou­ble their lead. Kelly with a point and then a neat line-ball to Gary Bren­nan for an­other sand­wiched one by Martin O’Leary.

The match was turned around in three min­utes be­tween the 39th and 42nd by full for­ward Conor Power, who shot 1-2 in that time, round­ing the de­fence and ar­row­ing the ball into the net in be­tween points and sud­denly there was only a point in it, 1-13 to 1-14.

Bal­lyea took re­me­dial ac­tion by switch­ing Jack Browne back and the im­me­di­ate slide was halted. Al­though they huffed and puffed a bit, Bal­ly­gun­ner did kick on and wrest back the ini­tia­tive so that when Pau­ric Ma­hony – whose mam­moth to­tal of 0-14 in­cluded six from play in an ex­cep­tional per­for­mance – pushed them 1-17 to 1-15 ahead with four min­utes left the day looked done.

Deasy im­pact

There were just two min­utes of nor­mal time left when Deasy struck again, get­ting the vi­tal con­tact to open the very real pos­si­bil­ity of Bal­lyea win­ning and when O’Leary and Pierse Lil­lis tacked on points that hard­ened to a like­li­hood, as they were roared on by an an­i­mated trav­el­ling sup­port.

Philip Ma­hony’s late de­liv­er­ance still left Bal­ly­gun­ner with a match to win but al­though they had moved two ahead with just a cou­ple of min­utes to go, Deasy in­ter­vened once more with points from a free and a 65, the lat­ter pos­si­bly avoid­able when goal­keeper Stephen O’Ke­effe might have let a ball go.

The mo­men­tum was with the home cham­pi­ons. In the sec­ond pe­riod of two five-minute halves, with the “shoot-out” loom­ing, Bal­lyea were un­able to score again, whereas the win­ners landed three points from Barry O’Sul­li­van, re­place­ment Conor Shea­han and ap­pro­pri­ately Pau­ric Ma­hony, squeez­ing in one in be­tween. “We got the rub of the green,” was win­ning man­ager Hart­ley’s hon­est re­ac­tion, “Bal­lyea will prob­a­bly feel very hard done by on that ba­sis. It was flick of a coin stuff. I know it’s a cliché but no one should have lost that.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: INPHO

Bal­ly­gun­ner’s Pau­ric Ma­hony watches his shot go over the bar and the Bal­lyea side­line re­acts dur­ing the Mun­ster Club SHC semi-fi­nal at Walsh Park.

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