WHEN DESSIE HUTCHINSON left a career in professional soccer behind him to resume his hurling career with Ballygunner and Waterford, he surely dreamed of days like yesterday.
He fired over four points as Ballygunner advanced to their first ever All-Ireland club hurling decider, setting up a mouthwatering showdown with Ballyhale in three weeks’ time.
Having already appeared in an All-Ireland final with Waterford, to reach the showpiece game with his club represents another milestone on his remarkable journey.
“There was a lot of sacrifices made and things like that,” he remarked after the win over Slaughtneil.
“When you know you’re going to Croke Park in three weeks, it’s worth it every bit.
“It’s brilliant,” he said about reaching the final. “It gives such a buzz to the community. That’s all we were thinking coming up the road, how happy we are making people in the community.
“Especially, the kids, we’re driving them on, the next generation. It was really important we gave a good account of ourselves.”
He found space at a premium against a physical and well-organised Slaughtneil defence, who used a plus one at the back in the form of Gerald Bradley. Hutchinson clipped two first-half points and a pair at the death when his team really needed it.
On the tight confines of Parnell Park, Slaughtneil brought a complete different challenge to the Munster final against Kilmallock, which Ballygunner won easily. The Derry and Ulster champions scored 1-5 after the 49th minute to launch a comeback and were relentless in their work-rate.
Hutchinson was pleased with the manner of their battling victory.
“It’s the toughest game we’ve played. We knew we had to win the dirty possession, the dirty rucks, 50-50 battles all over the pitch. Thankfully we did in the end.
“I think we’re bringing a lot more to our game. I think we’ve had every type of game the last four games. We knew ourselves we were able to do that, maybe people on the outside didn’t. Maybe we’re starting to prove a few people wrong.”
Ballygunner manager Darragh O’Sullivan.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
After the Munster final, joint-captain Philip Mahony said the team were motivated by critics who said they weren’t a winter team.
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“People said that about us, I never felt that,” said ‘Gunner boss Darragh O’Sullivan.
“We’re as hard a working team as any other in the country, in my opinion, and the reality of it is when you come to winter hurling that’s what comes out. Some days, we didn’t win matches and other teams bet us and were better than us in bad conditions.
“Look at a day down in Dungarvan against Loughmore and a day like today, the surface today wasn’t really winter but it was very bumpy and that’s the reality of it. Whether it is Croke Park, Walsh Park or Fraher Field, we’re just delighted to be in an All-Ireland final.”
Looking ahead to the final against Ballyhale Shamrocks, he added: “You only get out of sport what you deserve and maybe we didn’t deserve to win one so far.
“If we win an All-Ireland final in two weeks the reality of it is we deserve to win. We try to take lessons from the past and try and get better and improve and that’s what we’ll try and get from today.”
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