— The GAA (@officialgaa) August 30, 2020
Waterford gap widens, but all Ballygunner can do is look after their own standards
Waterford SHC Final: Ballygunner 1-23 Passage 0-9
Report by Michael Moynihan for the Irish Examiner newspaper
Business as usual for Ballygunner in Waterford as they cruised to a seventh title on the trot. A sun-splashed Walsh Park hosted their brisk dismissal of a game Passage side, with 17 points between them at the end.
All of Ballygunner’s vast experience, gathered from years of dominance, was on show — from Philip Mahony and Barry Coughlan tying up the Passage attack at one end to Pauric Mahony’s accuracy at the other.
Passage tried hard but once Kevin Mahony jinked through for a ‘Gunner goal after the first-half water break, they just were trying to stay in touch.
Watch the full-time highlights of Ballygunner v Passage in the Waterford SHC Final here on GAANOW. pic.twitter.com/3a0tUNVB1s
— The GAA (@officialgaa) August 30, 2020
The Gunners started well and never let Passage get a foothold in the game. All part of the plan, said manager Darragh O’Sullivan when asked about their bright beginning.
“That’s what we do. That goal absolutely soaked the energy out of the Passage, but they’re a young team. They’ll be back again.
“We’re thrilled, it’s a phenomenal achievement for that group of players and it’s down to hard work, the standards that they set themselves.
“They’re easy to deal with and they drove themselves on, a capable pair of hands is all they need.”
The champions took an early lead once they found their range from out the field. Conor Sheahan linked the play well as Ballygunner left Des Hutchinson isolated up top.
Pauric Mahony’s ninth-minute free made it 0-5 for the Gunners before Mikey Cummins opened Passage’s account with a free and Gary Cullinane added another.
Cummins (free) and Kevin Mahony swapped points before the water-break: 0-6 to 0-3.
Ballgunner resumed with three quick points before Kevin Mahony struck the fateful goal his manager alluded to.
That made it 1-9 to 0-3 on 22 minutes and Passage were just trying to hang on.
Cummins managed two frees for Passage but Peter Hogan and Pauric Mahony kept Ballygunner ticking over: the latter’s last free made it 1-13 to 0-5 at the half.
The Gunners resumed with five points in a row inside the opening nine minutes, and in truth the game was over as a contest: 1-18 to 0-5 with over 20 minutes left.
The obvious question to put to Darragh O’Sullivan at the final whistle was whether or not the result was good for Waterford hurling.
Ballygunner have dominated the club scene in the county utterly in recent years, and their dominance goes down the age groups. Yet O’Sullivan’s counterpoint was a compelling one — that Ballygunner could only look after themselves, but they were raising standards within the county.
“I think we’re raising the bar every single year we go out, and it’s up to the other teams to get to that level.
“I know how hard they’re working. I see some of the teams this year, they absolutely made ground.
“Fourmilewater, absolutely made ground. Lismore, absolutely made ground. Ok, last week they were blitzed by us but, look, they’ve made ground and they have to keep working at that and try and close the gap.
“We’re under no illusions. On any given day you can be beaten by any team and if we drop our standards and drop our intensity and our workrate we can be found wanting, and that’s the reality of it.”
O’Sullivan was left rueing the fact that the Gunners won’t get the chance to test themselves in provincial action, but he made a plea for the GAA not to rule out a championship, even if that has to played early next year.
“There may be something at a later point when they get inter-county out of the way — maybe there’ll be something and I’d like to think that there possibly could be, because not just us but other clubs that win their county title deserve an opportunity to represent their county in Munster and we mustn’t lose sight of that.
“Look, hopefully the GAA might come to something. They’ve a lot to deal with at the moment and I don’t think putting something else on their table at this point in time would make any sense.
“They want to get the club championships finished first and then intercounty and hopefully then we can get on top of this thing.
“Maybe early next year they would be able to play something from a provincial perspective.”
O’Sullivan would support that kind of rescheduling: “I would. The reality of it is we’ve earned the right to represent Waterford and other teams the right to represent their counties.
“Hopefully the GAA can see some chink of light. I’m realistic in that I don’t think they’re going to at the moment but things can change and change quickly so I wouldn’t be drawing a line through it.
“The fact that it’s postponed at the moment is the way to leave it — not cancelled but postponed and let’s see where the next few months take us.”
With that he was back to his charges, who were congregated in a corner of the field. In the new dispensation, everything has changed when it comes to the surrounding pageantry, but for Ballygunner the outcome remains the same.
Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony (0-8, 5 frees); K. Mahony (1-3); P. Hogan, D. Hutchinson (0-4 each) C. Sheahan(0-2); C. Power, B. O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Passage: M. Cummins (0-5 frees); O. Connors (0-2 frees); G. Cullinan, L. Flynn (0-1 each).
BALLYGUNNER: S. O’Keeffe, I. Kenny, B. Coughlan (jc), T. Foley, B. O’Keeffe, Philip Mahony (jc), S. O’Sullivan, C. Sheahan, P. Leavey, D. Hutchinson, Pauric Mahony, M. Mahony, T. O’Sullivan, K. Mahony, P. Hogan.
Subs: B. O’Sullivan for M. Mahony (45); C. Power for T. O’Sullivan (47); E. Hayden for B. O’Keeffe (54); JJ Hutchinson for Hogan (57); D. O’Keeffe for C. Sheahan (58).
PASSAGE: E Lynch (c), D. Lynch,, N. Connors, D. Jones, A. Roche, Callum O’Neill, Ciaran O’Neill, G. Cullinane, K. Fitzgerald, S. Lynch, O. Connors, P Flynn, J. Roche, L Flynn, M Cummins.
Subs J. Whitty and T. Connors for A. Roche and S. Lynch (HT); J. Burke for Cullinane, E. Reilly for P. Flynn (both 47); M. Hutchinson for Ciaran O’Neill (58 inj.).
Referee: T. Walsh (Modeligo)