BALLYGUNNER won their third Munster club title and signaled their intentions for a first all-Ireland with a “special” 14-point win over Limerick’s Kilmallock over Gray Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Waterford forward Dessie Hutchinson shined again 1-5 after the game, Billy O’Keeffe beat 1-3 and Kevin Mahony also raised the green flag as the men in red and black made up for the final loss to Boris-Ileigh two years ago.
Pauric Mahony scored seven points as all six of Ballygunner’s forwards scored from the game in the 36th minute and in the 36th minute Stephen O’Keeffe made two stunning saves in the second half from Conor Hanley.
Gunners coach Darragh O’Sullivan beamed: “It’s special – it’s special because they played so well from start to finish.
“They are extraordinary. People question if we can play in winter stoning – it was foggy enough and dirty enough and the boys were really on track.
“They can be so proud. They got what they deserved. It’s no secret to the success we’ve had, these guys come out and they work really hard. That’s it.”
O’Sullivan agreed it was the best performance this group has produced, adding: “It has to be. When you go up against a force like them – you see what they did to Midleton, you see how they won their district championship and you see the players they have all over the field.
“To be able to do what we’ve done, to do it to that extent is extremely gratifying. They showed how good they are on the hurdles field. ”
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Graeme Mulcahy and Robbie Hanley put Kilmallock up two points in minutes before Ballygunner conceded them 1-6 with no response.
After a brave save by Pauric Mahony off the field, Hutchinson found the bottom corner of the net, while Mahony conceded four dead balls as they led 1-6 to 0-3 on the first break.
Ballygunner opened a nine-point lead from 1-11 to 0-5 as Mahony finished the half 0-6 while Billy O’Keeffe scored two more from the match.
Kilmallock lost influential striker Micheal Houlihan to injury in the 25th minute.
A Hutchinson brace on the re-start boosted the score to 11. Then, six minutes into the second half, Mahony’s free kick was shortened but his brother Kevin was on hand to beat it home.
Billy O’Keeffe conceded his third goal after defender Tadhg Foley was denied by Barry Hennessy.
O’Keeffe then made a spectacular save from Conor Hanley’s volley and an incredible save from the same player as sub Kilmallock unleashed a bullet from a tight angle.
Hanley scored a consolation goal for the home team from one minute of injury time but his team’s race had already been started.
Next up for Ballygunner is the All-Ireland semi-final against Slaughtneil on January 23 at Parnell Park.
BALLYGUNNER: S O’Keeffe; I’m Kenny, B Coughlan, T Foley; R Strength, Philip Mahony, S O’Sullivan; C Sheahan, P Leavey 0-2; M Mahony 0-1, Pauric Mahony 0-7, 4f, 1’65, P Hogan 0-2; D Hutchinson 1-5, K Mahony 1-0, B O’Keeffe 1-3. Sub: C Power for Hogan 54 minutes; E Hayden for S O’Sullivan 56; H Ruddle for B O’Keeffe 57; B O’Sullivan for Pauric Mahony 59; J Foley for Hutchinson 59.
KILMALLOCK: B Hennessy; L English, M O’Loughlin, D Joy; P O’Brien, C O’Connor 0-1, Philip O’Loughlin; R Hanley 0-2, A Costello; M Houlihan 0-1, O O’Reilly 0-1, D Woulfe; G Mulcahy 0-1, G O’Mahony, K O’Donnell 0-3, 2f. Subs: Paddy O’Loughlin for Houlihan 25 minutes; C Hanley 1-1, 1-0f for Philip O’Loughlin ht; P O’Reilly 0-1 for Woulfe 44; R Egan for O’Mahony 44; K Hayes 0-1 for Costello 51.
REFEREE: C Lyons (Cork).
https://www.thesun.ie/sport/8179981/ballygunner-kilmallock-waterford-win-munster-title-all-ireland/ Ballygunner 3-20 Kilmallock 1-12 – Waterford champions win third Munster title as attention turns to all-Ireland glory