*Seadna Morey & Podge Collins. Photograph: Willie O’Reilly (Burren Eye Photography)
It was a day to forget for Sixmilebridge as their Munster club campaign came crashing down at the hands of a far superior Ballygunner.
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge
Though it wasn’t as scarring as their 2013 Munster final eighteen point defeat to Na Piarsaigh, Sixmilebridge’s lacklustre twelve point loss to Ballygunner is going to hurt over the winter and will take some gloss of an otherwise very positive year for their senior side.
With the bonus of home advantage, O’Garney Park was expected to be a battle arena that Sixmilebridge would make the most of. Far from it. They were beaten all over their field and played catch up from the get go.
Inside the opening ten minutes, Ballygunner had seven points on the board, showing no ill effects from their 153km journey. The three twenty four year olds, Alex Morey, Conor Deasy and Brian Corry all pointed for The Bridge in the first quarter to keep them within four points.
No team in Clare exposed The Bridge defence like the Waterford champions did. On several occasions they eased through their spine with corner forwards Dessie Hutchinson and Peter Hogan causing severe damage inside, the duo amassed 1-05 from play by the sounding of the half-time whistle.
Hutchinson’s goal coming as Barry Coughlan waltzed through unchallenged for over 100m and adding insult to injury flicked the sliotar over the head of Caimin Morey. Derek Fahy pulled off a save to deny Coughlan a green flag but his defenders were caught flat footed as Dessie pounced to control the rebound and stick it to the net. Tim O’Sullivan pointed on their next attack to give the visitors a six point cushion at half-time.
Sixmilebridge reduced the deficit to four points within five minutes and Seadna Morey got in a vital block on Hutchinson but for reasons unknown, a self-belief was glaringly absent from the hosts.
From here, Darragh O’Sullivan’s charges kept the scoreboard ticking with eight points, double the amount tapped over by the Bridge.
Winning a club championship is special and that was the reward for Tim Crowe’s Sixmilebridge in 2019. They had aspirations of progressing in the province but were completely outclassed by a balanced Ballygunner. Even within their club they had their doubters at the beginning of 2019 but by claiming Canon Hamilton, they answered them. On a day that they equalled Newmarket-on-Fergus’ record of playing 26 games in the province, to bow out without a fight in Munster in their own backyard will take time for Sixmilebridge to recover from. Conor Deasy who didn’t start the county final can be happy with his outing over the hour as can Seadna Morey.
By far, Ballygunner are the dominant team in Waterford with six senior titles in a row plus a thirty three game unbeaten run. How much they can take from this trip to Clare is unclear. They cleaned up on breaking ball, they won 71 percent of their own puckouts while their opponents lost 62 percent of their own puckouts. Losing the All-Ireland semi-final last year hurt the Gunners, they are out for redemption and certainly took a step in the right direction. Dessie Hutchinson, Paddy Leavy, Conor Sheahan, Barry Coughlan, Peter Hogan and Michael Mahony impressed from the winners.
Scorers Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony (0-10 9f), D Hutchinson (1-02), P Hogan (0-03), C Power (0-02), M Mahony (0-01), C Sheahan (0-01), T O’Sullivan (0-01), B O’Keeffe (0-01 1f)
Scorers Sixmilebridge: A Morey (0-05 4f), C Deasy (0-03), C Morey (0-02 1f 1’65), B Corry (0-01), J Shanahan (0-01)
Ballygunner: Stephen O’Keeffe; Eddie Hayden, Barry Coughlan, Ian Kenny; Shane O’Sullivan, Phillip Mahony, Billy O’Keeffe; Conor Sheahan, Paddy Leavy; Barry O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony, Michael Mahony; Peter Hogan, Tim O’Sullivan, Dessie Hutchinson.
Subs: Conor Power for Hogan (37) (Inj), JJ Hutchinson for T O’Sullivan (55), Wayne Hutchinson for Pauric Mahony (59) (Inj), Kevin Mahony for Leavy (59), Tom Gallagher for Sheahan (63).
Sixmilebridge: Derek Fahy; Brian Carey, Barry Fitzpatrick, Noel Purcell; Pa Mulready, Caimin Morey, Seadna Morey; Shane Golden, Evan McInerney; Paidí Fitzpatrick, Conor Deasy, Jamie Shanahan; Brian Corry, Cathal Malone, Alex Morey.
Subs: Cathal Lynch for Carey (29), Alan Mulready for McInerney (HT), Jason Loughnane for Corry (54).
Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary)