Pauric Mahony's no-look pass sends Ballygunner to their first ever All-Ireland final 5 months ago

Pauric Mahony's no-look pass sends Ballygunner to their first ever All-Ireland final

Ballygunner 2-19 Slaughtneil 1-18

They're through to their first ever All-Ireland club final but don't be looking for bonfires in Ballygunner tonight.

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TG4's Marcus O'Buachalla asked Darragh Sullivan if it'll be a special couple of weeks down in Waterford ahead of the final but the Ballygunner manager stopped that one at the source. 'We'll have the same few weeks as we've had the last few weeks,' he said.

There's been a single-mindedness about the Waterford champions this year. They defeated Roanmore to win their 8th county final in a row back in November and while there were celebrations down in Walsh Park that day, there was also a sense that this journey was only beginning. They'd lost their last Munster final, back in 2019, in the spillings of muck, rain and dirt to Borrisoleigh but the conditions didn't suit Dessie Hutchinson that day.

He has two more years of hurling under his belt now. That journey ended in disappointment but as they hammered their way through Munster this year, eating Ballyea and Kilmallock for breakfast, Hutchinson looking like the in-form forward in the country, you could see that these boys had only one thing on their mind.

No Waterford team has ever won an All-Ireland club title but Ballygunner are men on a mission. Three Munster titles is a respectable tally by most standards for a club that has dominated Waterford like they have, it's a paltry return from outside their own county boundaries. They're only one step from landing the holy grail now.

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In many ways, it was a typical Ballygunner performance in this All-Ireland semi-final in Parnell Park. It was that vision, those slick passing moves and the team-work Darragh O'Sullivan always talks about that set Billy O'Keeffe up for his early goal and they nearly had another, twice as beautiful, two minutes later when Dessie Hutchinson doubled on Peter Hogan's brilliant through ball only for the Slaughtneil goalkeeper to pull off a brilliant save.

In setting up that first goal, Pauric Mahony's cross-field pass to Peter Hogan was Ballygunner at their best.

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From there, Slaughtneil recovered and they rallied with the brilliant Brendan Rogers showing once again that he'd make any team in the country. Shane McGuigan, who's the best football forward in Derry, marked Pauric Mahony out of the game but while Michael McShane's team will be disappointed to lose, they can once again be proud of a brave showing. In the end though, while they had the brilliant Rogers, they just didn't have the depth Ballygunner have with Kevin Mahony, Peter Hogan and Dessie Hutchinson and Billy O'Keeffe all on fire for the Waterford men.

They only have one hurdle to clear now but it's the biggest hurdle of all.

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