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"You've got to be careful that it doesn't soften you" Darragh O'Sullivan on Ballygunner success

Munster and All Ireland champions Ballygunner are back for more.

The Tommy Moore trophy crossed Rice Bridge in Waterford for the first time in February but the Gunners remain grounded according to manager Darragh O'Sullivan.

"The group is very experienced," he told WLR Sport this week. "The main lads have probably been there ten or twelve years. We just take every match as it comes. Absolutely, winning the All Ireland gives us confidence. We know that we have the ability to get to the top. That gives us confidence but we've parked that a long time ago. You've got to be careful that it doesn't soften you. With the culture that's out there and with the young lads pushing to be on the team, if people get into the comfort zone, they won't find themselves on the field of play. That's a testament to the lads and how hard they work each other."

Ballygunner boast a 48-game unbeaten record in Waterford. Borris-Ileigh inflicted their last defeat of any description in the 2019 Munster final. Competition for places keeps them on their toes. Wing forward on the AIB Club Team of the Year Billy O'Keeffe lost his spot for the county final. All Ireland final hero Harry Ruddle hurled with the intermediate team this summer. "I had some difficult calls this week. We have a very strong panel and there's not much between an awful lot of them. The lads will play what role is asked of them. That may be coming from the bench as an impact sub, starting or not playing a part and just driving on the group. The lads are together in everything we do. There's no egos out there. They understand that it's all about the team. Harry is hurling really well as all of them are. Some of our internal games are better than some of the challenge games we get to be honest with you. They just hop off each other and that drives the standards."

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It's eight weeks since the Gunners completed nine in a row against Mount Sion at Walsh Park while Sunday's opponents Kilruane MacDonaghs played Kiladangan in a county final replay last weekend. The holders are used to dealing with such a long lay-off however. "It worked really well for us last year. The fact that we had the long break before we played Ballyea should stand to us. Certainly, they're going to come at boiling point and hopefully, we can meet that. The last two weekends, they had really tough games and showed a lot of grit and a lot of determination to get out."

O'Sullivan and company watched Kilruane capture their first Tipperary title in 37 years. "We were at the drawn game and we were at the replay. At half time in the replay, you would have thought there was only going to be one winner. They turned it around and they totally dominated Kiladangan in the second half of that match. The ferocity they brought to it, Kiladangan just couldn't meet. They're a very physical, really hard working team. We're going to have to be ready for that. If we're not, we're going to be undone, that's the reality of where we are."

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