Ken Hogan thinks Ballygunner could be the team to finally take out Ballyhale Shamrocks

Ken Hogan feels that Ballygunner’s time has come as they bid to make history while denying Ballyhale Shamrocks of it this weekend.

Ballygunner will become Waterford’s first ever All-Ireland club champions on Saturday should they see off Ballyhale, while the Kilkenny champions are looking to become the first club ever to win the three-in-a-row in what is their golden jubilee year.

Hogan nearly derailed Ballyhale’s ambitions in December as his St Rynagh’s side took them to extra time having conceded a heartbreaking equalising goal deep in injury time.

Bar a polished performance against Clough-Ballacolla in the subsequent Leinster final, Ballyhale have stuttered en route to the final, however, and Hogan feels that Ballygunner may be the side to finally tip them over the edge.

He said: “Let’s face it, I’d be straight about it – Ballyhale are not the force they were and that’s not anyone’s fault, it’s because of the fact that obviously they have huge mileage on the clock. They took a lot of hits against us. They played brilliantly in Croke Park [against Clough-Ballacolla], they took a lot of hits against St Thomas’s. It does take its toll.

“They need the Colin Fennellys, the Adrian Mullens, the Joey Holdens to be absolutely on top of their game but it’s just going into Croke Park for them is so natural. It’s like just another day’s work, bag on the back, they’ll hop into Croke Park, All-Ireland club final fever won’t really hit them.

“They won’t be intimidated, they won’t be sidetracked by anything that’s going on. The big thing for Ballyhale is they know they have to come up to the plate because they probably haven’t been playing top, top notch stuff throughout the 60 minutes.

“The Ballygunner thing, I feel it is their time but we said that before with teams in hurling and football that it is their time but I feel it is Ballygunner’s time.

“The strength in depth they have. I mentioned this before, with Stephen O’Keeffe playing the type of goalkeeping he’s doing, he’s playing at his best, his absolute best. He’s at his peak now, Stephen O’Keeffe, playing brilliantly in goals and if goals can be prevented, if Ballyhale’s forward line fail to produce a goal, well then Ballyugunner have a huge chance of winning.”

The former Tipperary goalkeeper has twice led Offaly clubs to All-Ireland finals, Birr in 1992 and Coolderry 20 years later, and there is a sense of what might have been after Rynagh’s came so close to seeing off the Shamrocks.

Ballyhale Shamrocks’ Eoin Cody runs through to score a goal

“I don’t think TJ scored until the 53rd minute from play but Ballyhale, just that confidence and belief in themselves that they can do something and I suppose that comes from experience of winning and winning and winning titles and they can come from behind like the tennis player, like Nadal was able to do, know they can finish the job.

“We have no regrets in the fact that we can’t blame outside sources. The ball, unfortunately, a miscommunication or whatever, went out for a 65, it shouldn’t have happened and when a ball lands in the square anything can happen then when you’ve the likes of Reid, Cody, Mullen, Colin Fennelly inside around there, these things can happen.”

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