Pauric Mahony shot 1-9 as All Ireland champions Ballygunner beat local rivals Passage 1-19 to 1-7 at a rainy Walsh Park on Saturday evening. The Gunners are now 44 games unbeaten in Waterford.
Darragh O'Sullivan went with the same team that started the All Ireland final against Shamrocks Ballyhale in February. Pauric Mahony hit the opener for the defending champions after just 25 seconds. Mahony then turned provider for Dessie Hutchinson. In the fifth minute, Passage defender Thomas Whitty sent over a sublime sideline in front of the stand. The Gunners led 10-2 after 21 minutes with Mahony accounting for five.
Passage got the next four as Eoghan Reilly pointed two frees, Mark Fitzgerald fired their first from play and Whitty converted another line ball. As the game ticked into injury time, Hutchinson shot his third from play. On 32 minutes, Mahony combined with Billy O'Keeffe before he batted the ball to the net (1-11 to 0-6).
As the rain continued to fall, Mark Fitzgerald flicked the ball just wide of the post after he beat Stephen O'Keeffe to a Reilly delivery. Mahony added two more to his tally at the other end. Passage sub Killian Fitzgerald made an instant impact with a trademark point.
On 45 minutes, Reilly found the far corner of the net after Mark Fitzgerald supplied him (1-13 to 1-7). Patrick Fitzgerald came on for his senior championship debut and assisted Mikey Mahony straight away. Fitzgerald then sent over a point of his own. Another Gunners sub Tim O'Sullivan saw his shot blocked by Eddy Lynch. The reigning champions raised the last six white flags of the contest to run out 12 point winners.
Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 1-9 (3fs, 1 65), D Hutchinson 0-3, M Mahony, P Fitzgerald 0-2 each, K Mahony, B O'Keeffe, T Foley 0-1 each.
Scorers for Passage: E Reilly 1-3 (3fs), T Whitty 0-2 (2 sidelines), K Fitzgerald, M Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
Ballygunner: S O'Keeffe; I Kenny, B Coughlan, T Foley; S O'Sullivan, Philip Mahony, R Power; C Sheahan, P Leavey; P Hogan, M Mahony, Pauric Mahony; D Hutchinson, B O'Keeffe, K Mahony.
Subs: T O'Sullivan for B O'Keeffe (43), P Fitzgerald for K Mahony (42), D O'Keeffe for Sheahan (55).
Passage: E Lynch; Ciaran O'Neill, Callum O'Neill, D Lynch; J Roche, G Cullinane, T Whitty; O Connors, K Cullinane; M Cummins, P Flynn, M Fitzgerald; M Hutchinson, L Flynn, E Reilly.
Subs: K Fitzgerald for P Flynn (38), E Walsh for Hutchinson (45), D Roche for Cummins (54).
Referee: T Walsh