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Ballygunner survive Slaughtneil test to book first ever All-Ireland club hurling final

Billy O’Keeffe scored 2-3 for the Waterford kingpins.

Ballygunner's Billy O'Keeffe celebrates scoring the first goal of the game.
Ballygunner's Billy O'Keeffe celebrates scoring the first goal of the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ballygunner 2-19

Slaughtneil 1-17

BALLYGUNNER’S BID FOR All-Ireland glory continued as they booked a place in the final for the first time in the club’s  history.

They fell at both their previous two trips to the semi-final in 2002 and 2019, but made no mistake this time around against a battling Slaughtneil outfit.

Billy O’Keeffe hit both goals for the winning team in a heroic display and nailed three points at crucial stages in the second-half.

In a game that pitted the eight-in-a-row Waterford champions against the nine-in-a-row Derry winners, Ballygunner’s superior skill levels and score-taking saw them over the line.

In the tight confines of Parnell Park, Slaughtneil worked ferociously hard and never gave up, with a strong travelling support providing a cracking atmosphere. Ultimately, a poor start to either half proved costly for the Ulster side.

Take out the first three minutes of either half and Slaughtneil would have won this game. 

O’Keeffe’s goals in the third and 32 minutes gave Ballygunner a cushion their opponents couldn’t overcome. He finished with 2-3 and Dessie Hutchinson showed flashes of class with four scores, but this was an afternoon where the scores were spread around the Ballygunner forward line. 

Kevin Mahony hit 0-5, Peter Hogan landed 0-3, while Conor Sheahan added a brace. Pauric Mahony scored two frees but sent wide in succession during the second period and O’Keeffe eventually took over placed balls.

Ballygunner were quickest out of the traps, flying into a 1-2 to no score lead inside the opening three minutes. Peter Hogan set-up Billy O’Keeffe for the opening goal, and Hutchinson almost added a second when he pulled first time on a floating ball across the square but it was saved.

Slaughtneil responded impressively. They brought huge physicality around the field with Brendan Rodgers and Brian Cassidy causing problems in attack. Three scores in-a-row brought them back into the contest and the sides went tit-for-tat for the remainder of the half. 

shane-osullivan-and-se-mcguigan Ballygunner's Shane O'Sullivan hauls down Sé McGuigan of Slaughtneil. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Hutchinson was sharp for Ballygunner, scoring twice in the opening period despite the presence of a sweeper in front of him. Slaughtneil effectively played without a centre-forward, employing the towering Jerome McGuigan at wing-forward as a target for puck-outs. He fetched two deliveries from Oisin O’Doherty and fired over as they trailed by two the interval. 

Just as they did in the first-half, Ballygunner struck a killer blow at the start of the second. Kevin Mahony turned over Gerald Bradley and fed O’Keeffe for his second green flag to leave Ballygunner 2-9 to 0-9 ahead.

They surged eight in front by the 48th minute as Mahony, Peter Hogan and O’Keeffe added scores. Slaughtneil fired three scores in quick succession, the pick of them arriving via Rodgers from a tight angle.

They ditched the sweeper at that stage and had a sniff of a goal when Sé McGuigan  hauled down by Shane O’Sullivan. O’Doherty dispatched the free, though O’Keeffe quickly responded from play.

Pauric Mahony denied Slaughtneil a goal when he pulled down Shane McGuigan, who’d moved to full-forward and O’Doherty sent over the close range free. Hutchinson shot a quick-fire brace to seemingly make the game safe. However, Slaughtneil weren’t finished yet. 

Meehaul McGrath broke through and should have scored goal, forcing a good save from Stephen O’Keeffe. Minutes later Shane McGuigan struck the net to set-up a tense finale, but Ballygunner survived.

Scorers for Ballygunner: Billy O’Keeffe 2-3 (0-1f), Kevin Mahony 0-5, Dessie Hutchinson 0-4, Peter Hogan 0-3, Conor Sheahan and Pauric Mahony (0-2f) 0-2 each.

Scorers for Slaughtneil: Cormac O’Doherty 0-7 (0-6f), Brendan Rodgers 0-4, Shane McGuigan 1-0, Brian Cassidy 0-3, Jerome McGuigan 0-2, Sé McGuigan 0-1.

Ballygunner

1. Stephen O’Keeffe

4. Tadhg Foley, 3. Barry Coughlan, 2. Ian Kenny

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

8. Conor Sheahan, 9. Paddy Leavey

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

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10. Dessie Hutchinson, 13. Billy O’Keeffe, 14. Kevin Mahony 

Slaughtneil

1. Oisin O’Doherty

2. Karl McKaigue, 3. Sean Cassidy, 4. Paul McNeill

12. Gerald Bradley

7. Meehaul McGrath, 5. Shane McGuigan, 6. Conor McAllister

8. Cormac O’Doherty, Chrissie McKaigue

10. Sé McGuigan 11. Jerome McGuigan

13. Mark McGuigan, 14. Brendan Rodgers. 15. Brian Cassidy 

Subs

20. Peadar Kearney for Cassidy (51)

22. Jack Cassidy for Mark McGuigan (52)

Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin) 

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Parnell Park

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