AS A YOUNGSTER Philip Mahony remembers the impression left by witnessing Ballygunner reach the Munster hurling summit back in 2001.
It was a feat he wished to emulate but didn’t envisage the struggle and disappointment that would ensue in his playing days as the Waterford champions made their foray in the province.
At the seventh attempt, Mahony saw a Munster campaign end on a joyous note on Sunday. After four final losses, he appreciated this win.
“It’s relief. If we never won Munster, it would have stuck with me until the day I die. If you knew how much we thought about winning this, you would say it’s not normal and not healthy. One thing we were always told when we were young is the easiest thing in life to do is give up.
“In the last five years we came back every year and we worked harder and harder, even when we thought we couldn’t work any harder. We managed to try and eke out another one or two per cent, and we got over the line today and it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life anyway. It really is.
“I remember being here in 2001, I remember exactly where I was standing and looking up at Billy (O’Sullivan) lift the cup. To fast forward 17 years and to look up and have the cup there again and back to Ballygunner tonight is just something I’ll never forget.
“I remember even back then, the spirit and the atmosphere around the club being something special. Being up in the school in 2001 when the lads brought the cup in – it literally was my dream that one day we’d be out and doing it.”
Mahony was responsible for a crucial intervention in getting Ballygunner to this stage, it took his overhead whip to the net to rescue the semi-final against Ballyea. That goal necessitated extra-time and Ballygunner seized the chance to win before getting the job done in Sunday’s final, to make amends for previous losses.
Philip Mahony celebrates his goal for Ballygunner against Ballyea.
Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO
“At the time it wasn’t really (a big moment), because we knew we had today. Now I can look back at it and say it was great.
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“Last year we went three points up just after half-time, we possibly got white-line fever. We made sure we learned a lesson from that. We took all the emotion out of it in terms of the build-up, what we wanted to do on the field.
“Take every single minute as it came. We did a lot of work, a lot of visualisation. To be in that situation this year, we drove it on. Probably got a fortuitous goal that put a little bit of a buffer between us.
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“I’ve been beating myself up about a ball last year in the final, myself and Ian Kenny came out to it, the two of us hesitated and they got a goal from it. That’s been chewing away at us for the last 12 months.”
Philip Mahony in action against Na Piarsaigh’s Conor Boylan.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
The supplier of that fortuitous goal was his brother Pauric, who amassed 1-6 on the day, and younger brother Michael came on as a late substitute. The bond in their squad was a key ingredient in Mahony’s view.
“Michael came on near the end, my other brother, and I’ve cousins and uncles as well. But it’s not really about that. One thing that’s underestimated, even from people in Waterford, is how close we are. For the last three or four months, we have been living out of each other’s pockets.
“I remember back in 2009, when I was 18 on the panel here against Newtownshandrum, we got into a position towards the end of the game where we could have won it. Again at the time, I thought we’d a very young team, a lot of success underage, and it might get a little bit easier.
“I don’t think there has ever been a team that has had to work as hard to win a provincial championship as we have. Seeing all the people around here today, how happy they are. I see David O’Sullivan over there, one of my best friends, who fought tooth and nail for years. This is for the likes of him. It’s a special moment.”
And there was also praise for Fergal Hartley, the man who guided them to glory.
Ballygunner manager Fergal Hartley.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
“He told us at the start of this year that he was going to come back, but he wouldn’t have been able to put in as much. We were saying any bit of Fergal whatsoever would have been brilliant for us, but he did the complete opposite.
“His wife and children must be fed up of him on the phone because he rings us 24/7 and he eats sleeps and drinks it. To see his face after is after making everything worthwhile, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
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