Outclassed Sars put no dent in Gunners' armour

This Ballygunner team doesn’t do suspense. They don’t do thrillers or tight margins. They do processions and waltzes and double-digit winning totals.
Outclassed Sars put no dent in Gunners' armour

SWALLOWED UP: James Sweeney of Sarsfields is tackled by Ronan Power of Ballygunner during the AIB Munster GAA Hurling Senior Club Championship quarter-final match between Ballygunner and Sarsfields at Walsh Park in Waterford. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Munster Club SHC quarter-final; Ballygunner 2-20 Sarsfields 0-9 

Two minutes into injury-time at the end of this Munster club quarter-final, an announcement came from the public address system that “all exit gates are now open”.

The information was redundant and not required. A chunk of the 2,596 attendance had already located their nearest departure route and headed for home. They didn’t need to hang around for curtain fall to know the conclusion. This was a Munster club quarter-final without suspense.

This Ballygunner team doesn’t do suspense. They don’t do thrillers or tight margins. They do processions and waltzes and double-digit winning totals.

Yesterday was Ballygunner’s sixth championship outing of the 2023 season. Three of those ended in double-digit victories. Of the three that didn’t, eight points was as close as anyone stood of them at the finish.

After Peter Hogan’s 11th-minute goal put Ballygunner six in front, five was as close as Sars came  thereafter.

For the third autumn in a row, the eight-week gap between Ballygunner’s latest Waterford win and their opening provincial bout proved no impediment at all. For the third successive autumn, they opened their Munster campaign with a 17-point hammering.

Their controlled dismissal of the flat-footed Cork champions gives a firm pulse to their three-in-a-row provincial bid. The team bus that will bring them to Limerick to renew pleasantries with Na Piarsaigh had no dent or scrape left on it here.

Their engine, even on Walsh Park’s heavy sod, continues to hum.

“We brought a lot of intensity to the first quarter. It dropped a bit in the second quarter but look, you have to be happy,” said manager Darragh O’Sullivan.

“The lads were very fresh coming into it. People go on about the eight-week break, but it might freshen us up. We've worked it well over the last few years.” 

Sars’ reintroduction to Munster fare after nine years away was to face both Ballygunner and the elements in the opening half. As if Ballygunner alone wasn’t enough of a Rubik's cube for Johnny Crowley’s charges, throwing the breeze in on top of them too was unnecessarily harsh.

Come half-time, the Cork champions were close to having their last rites delivered. 1-12 to 0-6 scoreline.

Ballygunner’s approach to the breeze at their back was to go route one early and often. A simple approach. An effective one too.

It was this lumping of long ball in on top of Dessie Hutchinson and his apprentice Patrick Fitzgerald that delivered the opening goal.

After Cathal McCarthy opened the Sars account on 11 minutes, Stephen O’Keeffe’s ensuing restart landed below on the opposition 20-metre line. Hutchinson, as he did throughout, snapped up the break, offloaded to Peter Hogan and he buried.

Hogan’s goal added to the early four-in-a-row from Pauric Mahony (0-3, two frees) and Hutchinson had the Waterford maestros six in front.

Sars were for the most part composed in playing short restarts through the lines. Their difficulty was the final product. And securing clean possession within range of O’Keeffe’s posts to make sure the final product stuck.

Their runners Cian Darcy and Jack O’Connor were stood up and either sent sideways or backwards. They hadn’t encountered such physicality on the local stage.

In the closing light of the first half, McCarthy and Aaron Myers struck back-to-back wides. In the play following Myers’ missed 65, Dessie clipped his third point.

It was a metaphor for the half just gone and would prove a metaphor for the half still to come: the scores just came so much easier to the Waterford champions. They didn’t need to expend half as much energy or thought into engineering white flags.

Mikey Mahony’s 29th-minute contribution meant all six Ballygunner forwards were on the board. The repeated refrain from the Sars management was “touch-tight”. Among the many boxes that the Cork champions failed to tick, that was one of the more basic ones.

The rain poured in the second half. So did the misery for outclassed and outmuscled Sars. Ballygunner allowed them to make no early second-half inroads. They mercilessly killed this fixture.

Hutchinson, Fitzgerald, and a pair of Mahony frees saw the reigning Munster champions outscore the visitors 0-4 to 0-1 in the seven minutes after half-time. An interval gap of nine stretched out to 12.

Sars, despite the elements behind them, managed only three second-half points. Kevin Mahony’s goal on 56 minutes left them 16 points adrift.

Their failure to remotely trouble Ballygunner extends Cork’s horrendous record in the Munster Club SHC. One win - Glen Rovers in 2016 - against 13 defeats since Newtownshandrum went the distance in 2009.

Chastening, bleak, and whatever you’re having yourself.

Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony (0-7, 0-6 frees); P Fitzgerald (0-5); D Hutchinson (0-4); K Mahony (1-1); P Hogan (1-0); C Sheahan, M Mahony, B O’Keeffe (0-1 each).

Scorers for Sarsfields: A Myers (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘65); Cathal McCarthy, D Hogan, C Darcy (0-1 each).

BALLYGUNNER: S O’Keeffe; Philip Mahony, B Coughlan, I Kenny; S O’Sullivan, T Foley, R Power; C Sheahan, P Leavey; P Hogan, Pauric Mahony, M Mahony; K Mahony, D Hutchinson, P Fitzgerald.

Subs: H Ruddle for Philip Mahony, B O’Keeffe for Leavey (both 55); C Power for Pauric Mahony, S Harney for Kenny (both 56); A O’Neill for Fitzgerald (58).

SARSFIELDS: D McCarthy; P Leopold, C Leahy, Cathal McCarthy; L Elliott, E Murphy, B Murphy; D Kearney, C O'Sullivan; J O’Connor, L Hackett, A Myers; D Hogan, C Darcy, Colm McCarthy.

Subs: B Nodwell for Hackett (HT); L Healy for Leopold (37); J Sweeney for Colm McCarthy (40); S O’Regan for Kearney (45); D Long for Hogan (56).

Referee: C Doyle (Tipperary).

Your home  for all the latest news, match reports, features, opinions and expert analysis from the Cork Club Championships.


Your home  for all the latest news, match reports, features, opinions and expert analysis from the Cork GAA Club Championships.

Cork GAA crest

More in this section

Sport Push Notifications

By clicking on 'Sign Up' you will be the first to know about our latest and best sporting content on this browser.

Sign Up

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Brand Safety FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Examiner Echo Group Limited