Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Ken Sutton/INPHO Tony Kelly in action for Ballyea against Ballygunner.
# the Gunners
Brilliant Ballygunner reign in Munster again as Tony Kelly hits 0-11 for Ballyea
Nine points separated the teams in Semple Stadium.

Ballygunner (Waterford) 1-23

Ballyea (Clare) 0-17

THE GAP CLOSED but just not by enough to change the complexion of the Munster club hurling landscape.

Ballygunner ran riot when they met Ballyea twelve months ago, victors by a whopping 17 points. The Waterford and Clare champions renewed acquaintances today, Ballygunner again triumphant and yet the presence of Tony Kelly in their team bolstered the Ballyea challenge to make this a contest for long stretches.

There was no doubting who was going to succeed in the last quarter though. Much like their classic semi-final tussle with Na Piarsaigh, Ballygunner had the wherewithal to power to the finish line and hold off their opponents.

They outscored Ballyea 0-8 to 0-2 in the final quarter. Pauric Mahony pointed the way with 0-10 in an exhibition of supreme ball-striking. Teenager Patrick Fitzgerald caught the eye most with his sparkling showing to yield 1-4 from play. His addition has embellished an attack that had earlier this year reached the peak in Munster and All-Ireland club hurling.

dessie-hutchinson-and-ian-kenny-with-supporter-tom-mullane-raise-the-oneill-cup Ken Sutton / INPHO Dessie Hutchinson and Ian Kenny celebrate Munster final glory. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

It was not the first Munster hurling final of the year at the Thurles venue for Tony Kelly. His performance on the county stage in June was him at his dazzling best, amassing 0-13 in Clare colours. The Ballyea jersey didn’t stifle his impact here, he was in wondrous form in the first half in particular as he chalked up 0-8 and finished with eleven overall.

Ballygunner got to grips with his threat and had an array of scoring threats in Dessie Hutchinson, Kevin and Mikey Mahony up front, while Peter Hogan was hugely influential with his link role in the half-forward line.

The Waterford side became the first since St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield in 1999 to retain the Munster senior club hurling title. A fourth Munster win for the club, a third for this particular group and the defence of their All=Ireland title is still on track.

dessie-hutchinson-celebrates-with-pauric-mahony-and-philip-mahony Ken Sutton / INPHO Ballygunner players celebrate their victory. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

They were 1-11 to 0-11 to the good at half-time, Fitzgerald drilling a shot to the net in the 20th minute after Pauric Mahony had superbly broken the line, carried the ball forward with purpose and timed to perfection his offload to the lurking Fitzgerald.

It was remarkable that it transpired to be the game’s solitary goal. Ballygunner’s creativity was not an issue, their finishing was. Dessie Hutchinson and Kevin Mahony both had clear sight of goal from close-range in the opening period, Ballyea defenders performing rescue missions with hooks as the forward prepared to pull the trigger.

Fitzgerald twice seemed on the cusp of adding to his goal tally after half-time, a couple of scintillating runs punching holes in the Ballyea rearguard but he flashed one shot narrowly wide and saw another effort not pack the requisite power to get past goalkeeper Barry Coote.

paddy-leavey-and-niall-deasy Ken Sutton / INPHO Conor Sheahan in action for Ballygunner against Ballyea. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

Ballyea looked rocky in the early moments, trailing 0-5 to 0-2 by the 10th minute. But they grew in confidence, spearheaded by the irrepressible Kelly. By the 19th minute they were in front 0-7 to 0-6, a phase where the game turned into a personal highlights reel for the Banner hurling maestro.

Kelly’s eight first-half points featured a ’65, efforts from play off left and right, and five frees, potted from various angles. Pearse Lillis and Niall Deasy chipped in with quality efforts, while Gary Brennan’s hard running was another useful attribute for the Ballyea ranks.

The third quarter saw Kelly grab two terrific points from play and at one juncture Ballyea had trimmed the gap to one. They couldn’t maintain those standards though, Kelly’s radar went off as two frees tailed wide and a couple of other efforts dropped short.

A goal was desperately needed to inject some life into the West Clare camp, their best opening was early in the second half, Aaron Griffin shooting wide from a narrow angle under pressure.

The last quarter display was pure Ballygunner – formidable in defence, assured in possession and clinical in attack.

The red and black hurling machine rolls on.

Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 0-10 (0-5f, 0-1 ’65), Patrick Fitzgerald 1-4, Dessie Hutchinson 0-4, Kevin Mahony 0-2, Mikey Mahony 0-2, Peter Hogan 0-1.

Scorers for Ballyea: Tony Kelly 0-11 (0-6f, 0-1 ’65), Niall Deasy 0-2, Pearse Lillis 0-2, James Murphy 0-1, Mossy Gavin 0-1.


1. Stephen O’Keeffe

2. Ian Kenny (joint captain), 3. Barry Coughlan, 4. Tadhg Foley

5. Shane O’Sullivan, 6. Phillip Mahony, 7. Ronan Power

8. Conor Sheahan, 9. Paddy Leavey

11. Mikey Mahony, 15. Pauric Mahony, 12. Peter Hogan

10. Dessie Hutchinson, 14. Kevin Mahony, 13. Patrick Fitzgerald


17. Harry Ruddle for Kevin Mahony (55)

18. Billy O’Keeffe for Hogan (56)

21. Tim O’Sullivan for Pauric Mahony (58)

23. Darragh O’Keeffe for Mikey Mahony (62)

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1. Barry Coote

2. Brandon O’Connell, 3. Peter Casey, 4. Paul Flanagan,

7. James Murphy, 6. Jack Browne, 5. Gearoid O’Connell

8. Tony Kelly, 9. Stan Lineen

11. Pearse Lillis, 14. Gary Brennan, 12. Cathal O’Connor

13. Mossy Gavin, 10. Niall Deasy, 15. Aaron Griffin


17. Cillian Brennan for Flanagan (blood) (38)

18. Morgan Garry for O’Connor (41)

4. Flanagan for Cillian Brennan (43)

19. Martin O’Leary for Griffin (48)

17. Cillian Brennan for Lineen (53)

20. Cathal Doohan for Gavin (55)

Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary)