Ballygunner 2-14 Na Piarsaigh 2-08
Ballygunner were crowned Munster champions for the first time since 2001, after a deserved six point victory over 2017 kingpins Na Piarsaigh, with the Waterford side delivering an outstanding performance to claim victory.
Ballygunner had lost four finals since claiming their maiden title 17 years ago, suffering defeat to Na Piarsaigh in the 2017 decider and Paul Beary’s charges did not perform anywhere near their potential on the day
Having claimed the Limerick county title and comfortably overcoming Tipperary champions Clonoulty-Rossmore in the semi-final, one may have expected a much better performance from the Limerick city side but it was not forthcoming, in contrast to Ballygunner who were magnificent, with Peter Hogan man of the match for the champions.
Na Piarsaigh were dominant in the early stages and were in complete control of their own puck-outs, however the game appeared to change when Ballygunner pushed up and did not allow Padraig Kennedy go short with the restarts, with the Waterford champions controlling midfield.
Na Piarsaigh started the game superbly and the ball was in the Ballygunner net with just two minutes on the clock, courtesy of Kevin Downes.Downes received an excellent pass from Shane Dowling, got past his marker Barry Coughlan and finished to the back of the net.
It was a superb solo goal and Na Piarsaigh had built up a five point lead with just nine minutes played, but Ballygunner responded well, as only a fantastic save from Padraig Kennedy to deflect the ball over the bar denied Brian O’Sullivan a goal.
Ballygunner were well on top in the closing stages of the first half and were awarded a penalty when Brian O’Sullivan was fouled with 27 minutes played.
Waterford goalkeeper Shane O’Keefe made no mistake with the penalty, sending his opposition counterpart the wrong way to level procedures and a Pauric Mahony free on the stroke of half time gave Ballygunner a 1-7 to 1-6 interval advantage.
Ballygunner registered the first four points of the second half to build up a five point advantage and the crucial score came in the 47th minute, with a long range free from Pauric Mahony somehow making it’s way into the net.
It was a goal which could have easily been avoided, with the sun facing the Na Piarsaigh defence, but Ballygunner will care little, as it gave the victors an eight point lead, which was increased to nine after another free from Mahony moments later.
Shane Dowling found the net from a free to reduce the deficit to six and remarkably three of the four goals came from place-balls, with Na Piarsaigh squandering two goal chances in the final ten minutes.
Shane O’Sullivan delivered the captains speech at the end of the game and it was O’Sullivan who sealed the victory with an excellent point, as seven points was always going to be a massive deficit to claw back for Na Piarsaigh with less than five minutes to play.
Referee Nathan Wall blew for full time much to the delight of the Ballygunner contingent, as Fergal Hartley’s side held out to claim the title and face the Leinster champions in the semi-final.
Ballygunner: Stephen O’Keefe (1-0, 1-0 pen); Eddie Hayden, Barry Coughlan, Ian Kenny; Phillip Mahony, Wayne Hutchingson, Harley Barnes; Billy O’Keefe (0-1), Shane O’Sullivan (0-1); Barry O’Sullivan (0-2), Pauric Mahony (1-6, 1-5f) ,Peter Hogan; Tim O’Sullivan, Brian O’Sullivan (0-3), Conor Power (0-1).
Subs: Mikey Mahoney for T O’Sullivan (58), JJ Hutchingson for Conor Power (60 + 2).
Na Piarsaigh; Padraig Kennedy; Jerome Boylan, Michael Casey, Thomas Grimes; Ronan Lynch (0-2), Will O’Donoghue, Cathal King; Alan Dempsey (0-1), Gordon Brown; David Dempsey (0-1), Shane Dowling (1-4, 1-3f), Conor Boylan; Adrian Breen, Kevin Downes (1-0), Peter Casey.
Subs: Michael Foley for O’Donoghue (32, temp), Will O’Donoghue for Foley (33), Tadhg Foley for Grimes (42), Conor Houlihan for Breen (50).
Referee: Nathan Wall (Cork).