Saturday, 18th November 2017
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Favourites through to the final

Last weekend saw the completion of the JJ Kavanagh sponsored Waterford Senior Hurling Championship and while results went more or less as expected there was some nervous moments among the Ballygunner and De La Salle supporters before the conclusion of both games. From the outset of the competition the bookies had both semi-final winners, Ballygunner and De La Salle, at the head of the markets and throughout the campaign it always looked pretty much as though they would have a major bearing on the destination of the Waterford News and Star Cup. However what the records will not say is how preciously close both teams came to the "exit door" as both Passage, against De La Salle, and Lismore, against Ballygunner put up heroic performances before succumbing at the death.

On Sunday afternoon in horrenduous conditions De La Salle and Passage put their championship aspirations on the line in Walsh Park. The men from the fishing village were the first to creak the door as Liam Flynn in the 7th minute had the first goal of the game. Passage were making most of the running but they would surely bemoan the wide count as they missed the target on several occasions. Hurler of the Year contender Kevin Moran was struggling with an injury and was deployed to the full forward position, a move which later paid rich dividends. Aaron Connors had a second goal for Passage as he capitalised on a rebound from De La Salle goalkeeper Shaun O'Brien who did well to keep Killian Fitzgerald's effort from hitting the net. Points from Thomas and Aaron Connors and Killian Fitzgerald seemed to give Passage the momentum but John Mullane, Tom Moran and Jake Dillon kept the Stephen Street outfit right in the game. Domiciled at full forward Kevin Moran had the opening goal for De La Salle just before the break and it was then left to veteran John Mullane to tie up the score 2-4 to 1-7 at half time.

The second half still saw precious little between the sides but Shane Ryan and Moran kept the scoreboard ticking along as they edged ahead 1-12 to 2-5. Four points ahead in a game so close and with very few chances of scores, Passage left a few efforts drift wide. However the introduction of former county star might just have turned the game. Conor Carey had a point for the men from the fishing village and when a Killian Fitzgerald delivery landed in front of goal, Kelly snapped it but was pulled down. Referee Pat Casey had no hesitation in making the call for a penalty and Aaron Connors despatched the ball to the net. From four points down and time running down, Passage had levelled.

However De La Salle never panicked, although some of their supporters were nailbiting, and a point from Jack Fagan deep in additional time saw Owen Dunphy and his troops into a final for the first time in five years. There was one last scare for De La Salle but corner back Michael Doherty cleared the danger in the last seconds.

No doubt there was great relief in the Stephen Street ranks after the game but there will also be great concern about the fitness of centre back Kevin Moran and also full back Ian Flynn who had to leave the field during the course of the sixty odd minutes.

GUNNERS LEAVE IT LATE

It was bravehearts time in Fraher Field on Sunday evening as quite a sizable crowd turned up at the Old Boro venue to see Ballygunner, the Senior Hurling Champions of 2016 against Lismore, the Intermediate Champions of 2016. For those in attendance this was a real thriller. The Gunners going for four in a row were raging hot favourites to come through. Indeed the men from Knockboy were a very short price to annex the competition outright before a ball was hit this year. Lismore on the other hand had shown really good form throughout the group stages but most pundits thought that perhaps this was a little early for them to be looking for the ultimate prize. The Cathedral Town were looking to relive the golden days of 1991 and 1993 when they took the Cup across the Blackwater and were quickly on the offensive as Jack Prendergast landed a point in the first minute.

Ballygunner however have seen it all before and they opened up six unanswered points in the following eight minutes. Brian O'Sullivan and Shane Walsh had edged the Gunners ahead. Paudie Mahony followed with a free and Billy O'Keeffe fired over number four. The city team also hit a number of poor wides before Conor Power collected in the corner and raced through. His effort however flashed over the bar and was followed by another from Brian O'Sullivan. Corner back Ian Kenny was deployed as a covering defender for Ballygunner and this was working well as he cleared a number of situations which could have been dangerous. Maurice Shanahan was always a threat to the Ballygunner defence and he had three points in a five minute spell (0-6 to 0-4) but it was Ballygunner who raced five ahead with three from placed balls from Pauric Mahony. It all appeared to be going the way of the defending champions but they were rocked "back to earth" as Dan Shanahan capitalised on a back pass from Ian Kenny to flick the ball past Stephen O'Keeffe 0-9 to 1-4. Incidentally this was goal number nine for "Big Dan" during this championship year, a truly remarkable scoring feat from the veteran. The goal rocked Ballygunner as they hit two more scoring chances wide before the break.

The opening minutes of the second half were remarkable as shortly after referee Michael O'Brien got proceedings underway Dan Shanahan collected and pointed. A minute later Ray Barry and Maurice Shanahan played a one two for the former to score and level 1-6 to 0-9. Ballygunner hit wide number seven as Conor Power saw his goal effort smothered by the Lismore defence. Ace freetaker Maurice Shanahan landed a brace of points for Lismore and when Dan hit another on 39 minutes the game had taken a mighty swing, Lismore ahead 1-9 to 0-9. Were we going to see one of the upsets of this championship?

Some indiscretion in midfield gave Pauric Mahony the opportunity and he landed two points in as many minutes as Billy O'Keeffe saw wide number ten on the board. Mahony then tied the game with a point. Brian O'Sullivan had a brace of points within minute and normal business was resumed or was it? A long distance effort from Paudie Prendergast sailed over as Maurice Shanahan was wide with an effort from well inside his own half. Pauric Mahony hit another free and substitute Michael Mahony saw another white flag raised.

Lismore however were not going to go away and a superb catch from Maurice Shanahan saw him claim a point. This was followed by another from a free. One point between the sides 0-16 to 1-12. With the clock moving into additional time Jordan Shanahan sent John Prendergast through for an equalising point 0-16 to 1-13. Deep into the added two minutes of additional time a Conor Power run saw him split the posts to put the champions ahead. The same player then set up JJ Hutchinson for another point but Lismore to give them credit had one last effort from a line ball which drifted wide and the champions had held their nerve and their crown.

What a final in prospect next weekend. Ballygunner versus De La Salle and from the outset of the competition they were the two at the head of the markets.

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