Ballygunner 3-20 Ballyea 2-06

Ballygunner issued an early statement of intent in Munster after overpowering Clare hosts Ballyea in front of 1,615 in Cusack Park, Ennis this afternoon.

Chasing their fourth consecutive provincial final, the 2018 champions made light work of Ballyea's lacklustre challenge that sorely missed talisman Tony Kelly through injury.

Having taken two bouts of extra-time to separate the sides in Walsh Park only three years ago, Ballygunner couldn’t have foreseen how dominant they would be this time around as they brushed off the home side with little resistance.

Indeed, nine different scorers helped a rampant Ballygunner to build up a 19-point cushion entering the final ten minutes.

An eighth minute goal for Mikey Mahony following good work from Paddy Leavey and Dessie Hutchinson settled the eight-in-a-row Waterford winners into their stride at 1-3 to 0-2, with further leakage prevented by home goalkeeper Barry Coote who denied both Hutchinson and Pauric Mahony with expert saves either side of the first water break.

Ballyea’s best chance at a revival arrived in the 25th minute when a teasing Aaron Griffin cross was met by Mossy Gavin whose back post pull could only find the side-netting.

Still, with Mahony’s frees and a brace of Conor Sheahan points, Ballygunner would ease 1-8 to 0-3 clear by half-time despite playing into the slight conditions.

Niall Deasy opened the second half scoring with a free but it would be a further 20 minutes before the Clare champions would score again, by which time Ballygunner were out of sight following a 1-9 unanswered blitz.

Six different scorers stretched the visitors’ cushion before Kevin Mahony offloaded to Billy O’Keeffe to fire to the net in the 49th minute at 2-17 to 0-04.

Ballyea did produce a mini-revival late on when a foul of Gary Brennan saw Niall Deasy convert a penalty past goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe followed almost immediate by a second goal for substitute Martin O’Leary.

However, within a minute, Ballygunner had raided for their third goal, again through Billy O’Keeffe, with replacements Conor Power and Harry Ruddle also getting on the scoresheet in a facile win that tees up a last four showdown with either Thurles Sarsfields or Loughmore Castleiney in a fortnight’s time.

Ballygunner: Stephen O'Keeffe; Tadhg Foley, Barry Coughlan, Ian Kenny; Shane O’Sullivan (0-01), Philip Mahony, Ronan Power; Conor Sheahan (0-03), Paddy Leavey (0-01); Mikey Mahony (1-02), Pauric Mahony (0-08, 0-04f, 0-03’65), Peter Hogan; Billy O’Keeffe (2-01), Dessie Hutchinson, Kevin Mahony (0-01).

Subs: Eddie Hayden for Power (51), Harry Ruddle (0-01, 0-01’65) for K. Mahony (51), Conor Power (0-02) for Hutchinson (53), Barry O’Sullivan for Leavey (56), Jake Foley for Pauric Mahony (60)

Ballyea: Barry Coote; Cian Meaney, Paul Flanagan, Peter Casey; James Murphy, Jack Browne, Brandon O’Connell; Gary Brennan, Stan Lineen; Cathal O’Connor, Pearse Lillis (0-01), Cillian Brennan; Aaron Griffin, Niall Deasy (1-05, 1-00 Pen, 0-04f, 0-01’65), Mossy Gavin.

Subs: Martin O’Leary (1-00) for Gavin (HT), Aonghus Keane for O’Connor (44), Ryan Griffin for Lineen (48), Brian Murphy for Meaney (48)

Referee: John O’Halloran (Limerick)