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'I thought I was going to have a heart attack on the pitch in the last seconds'

Ballygunner’s star forward reflect on Saturday’s memorable success.

Billy O'Keeffe and Dessie Hutchinson (right) after Saturday's game.
Billy O'Keeffe and Dessie Hutchinson (right) after Saturday's game.
Image: Ken Sutton/INPHO

THIS WAS THE type of euphoric moment to justify Dessie Hutchinson’s life-changing decision.

Three years ago when Ballygunner and Ballyhale had previously crossed paths, Hutchinson was watching on. He had only just rejoined his club hurling team, working his way back into the game.

A soccer career had been parked after a few seaons with Brighton in England, there was a role with the Waterford footballers about to be pursued.

And then hurling has taken over, consuming his focus as he nailed down a starting spot for Liam Cahill’s Waterford side and has become the attacking figurehead for Ballygunner.

Saturday represented the culmination of all that work. Man-of-the-match, scorer of 1-3 and All-Ireland senior club hurling winner.

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack on the pitch in the last seconds. I couldn’t catch my breath, people jumping on you. It was absolutely brilliant. Just walking across the pitch then, going into the dressing room, you just embrace it all and take a good look around you. It’s phenomenal. We’re so privileged to be there and inspire young kids in Ballygunner to come up and do this year in, year out.

“Watching in that day (at the 2019 All-Ireland club semi-final), it gave me a huge drive to get back and play them again because we wanted to turn them over. They are the pinnacle in the country for four or five years. We knew we were good but we just wanted our chance to play them again.

“People mightn’t like this but I said it to Pauric Mahony on the pitch after that game (the 2020 All-Ireland senior final with Waterford) we have to be up there with Ballygunner. Thankfully, we were up there and it’s absolutely incredible.”

darren-mullen-and-dessie-hutchinson Dessie Hutchinson (right) in action against Darren Mullen. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The second half was a tale of two Ballygunner goals. The first when Hutchinson cracked home a 48th minute shot to give his team the lift they needed.

“It was just a long ball in and I managed to grab it and I was close enough to the goal. I had to go for it especially with the time in the game it was. They are the big minutes you have to chase and thankfully it went in. It brought us back to two points (one) so yeah I was absolutely delighted.”

Then the match-winner from Harry Ruddle to provide a fairytale ending.

“I was after making a little run to the side and there were so many bodies and I think it was Kevin Mahony who puts his arms in the air and started running out the way so I knew it was in then and it was just crazy.

“I was just hoping it would go in but Harry played a massive part all through the Waterford championship and I’m absolutely delighted for him today because we knew there was somebody who was going to step up in a big moment and thankfully it was Harry.”

Hutchinson’s brothers Wayne and JJ were pillars of Ballygunner hurling sides for a long time and he got to share in the celebrations after with them.

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“They managed to make their way onto the pitch somehow so I got a good few embraces and hugs and it was absolutely unbelievable. With your friends and family in Croke Park, it was just so special.

“At times… I hit the post myself with a shot and then they went up and got a goal and we hit the post in the first half. We probably hit some uncharacteristic wides in the game and sometimes that might creep in a little bit.

“But we have been so mentally drilled in the last six months on our process and what we were going to do because All-Ireland finals, that’s what happens in the last few minutes. We were so drilled in the scenarios that could come up and thankfully it all paid off.”

BTL 5

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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