Big guns fire super Sarsfields to promised land after battle royal

Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary) 1-21 De La Salle (Waterford) 1-16
The renowned Thurles Sarsfields club claimed their first Munster senior hurling club title at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday and the manner in which they did it in befitted the honour of being one of the year’s most outstanding displays of pure hurling.

Thrills and spills, tenacious tackling, ferocious defending, brilliant point-taking, a net-bursting goal each — the 2,433 who defied the pelting rain to make the journey to Cork got a game to remember.

From the start this was always going to be a very different match to the 2010 Munster final when these same two sides again met in Cork. On that bitterly cold and forgettable day much of the pitch was frozen solid and De La Salle won a low-scoring error-fest 0-9 to 0-8 with Thurles shooting 17 wides.

On this occasion, and despite all the recent rain, the Páirc Uí Chaoimh sod held up extremely well and two outstanding sides were able to fully display their wares.

Sars were fastest from the blocks and led 1-5 to 0-4 after 16 minutes, the goal coming in the fifth minute when veteran centre-forward Jim Corbett (no relation of Lar) was put through one-on-one on De La Salle keeper Stephen Brenner by a sublime Denis Maher pass.

Already some of the Sars big guns were beginning to fire. Lar Corbett scored a fine point and was working hard all over the pitch, his inter-county colleague Pa Bourke was causing chaos on the edge of the square, while in the half-back line Michael Cahill was already beginning to shine and scored the first point of the game.

For De La Salle it was it was their own fledgling county star Jake Dillon doing all the damage and he got all those four points including a sideline beauty.

In the second quarter De La Salle finally found their rhythm and though the Sars attack was still finding the target with some regularity (they would end the game with 13 different scorers), the Déise side were looking the better side as half-time approached.

Twice within a couple of minutes Dillon almost goaled, first in the 20th minute when his rasper came back off the far post, was cleared and resulted in a Sars point at the other end, then two minutes later when his close-range shot shaved the crossbar, screamed just over.

Finally however, in the 27th minute, they did break through. Powerful half-forward Paudie Nevin beat Padraic Maher for possession wide left, racing down on goal to give Patrick McCormack no chance with a rocketshot.

That goal was a major boost to the Waterford champions but it was followed by deflation, not by a Thurles score but by a straight red card for corner-forward John Keane. It seemed harsh for what seemed a harmless hit but it would have a huge impact.

De La Salle trailed at the break by two points, 1-9 to 1-7, but, given Thurles’ hard-running game, their 14-man team would be made to work hard in the second half and pay a price in the final minutes in the energy-sapping conditions. Thus it proved.

Showing great skill and spirit De La Salle took the fight to Thurles immediately on the resumption, tied the game in the 36th minute on 1-12 each after a hat-trick of points, two of those from the ever-dangerous Dillon. Indeed they would have taken the lead a couple of minutes later but for a superb save by McCormack from Nevin, and subsequently they twice more created clear goalscoring opportunities only to squander both.

They would pay a heavy price for that profligacy. Padraic Maher came thundering into the fray for Sars, corner-backs Stephen and David Maher were on top, Michael Cahill was doing a superb job on dangerman John Mullane and Denis Maher.

Padraic had some game and scored two big points but was involved in so much more and was the key to this win.

The seventh cavalry also made an impact, veteran Redser O’Grady especially with his high fielding and two points, Richie Ruth with another as Thurles finished by far the stronger side.

Rough justice on De La Salle but another fine win for Thurles Sars and finally, another big title, the Munster senior hurling championship, to add to their roll-leading 32 Tipperary crowns.

Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields: P Bourke 0-7 (2fs), L Corbett 0-3, J Corbett 1-0, M Gleeson, D Maher, G O’Grady 0-2 each, M Cahill, J Enright, M O’Brien, A McCormack, R Reid, 0-1 each.

Scorers for De La Salle: J Dillon 0-9 (5fs, 1 s/l), E Barrett 0-3, P Nevin 1-0, D Twomey, J Mullane, E Madigan, K Moran 0-1 each.

THURLES SARSFIELDS: P McCormack; S Maher, K O’Gorman, David Maher; D Kennedy, P Maher (c), M Cahill; J Enright, M Gleeson; Denis Maher, J Corbett, L Corbett; M O’Brien, P Bourke, A McCormack.

DE LA SALLE: S Brenner; S Daniels, I Flynn, C Watt; B Phelan, K Moran (c) E Madigan; J Kennedy, E Barrett; P Nevin, J Mullane, J Dillon; D Greene, D Twomey, J Keane.

Subs for Thurles Sarsfields: R Ruth for O’Brien (36), G O’Grady for J Corbett (36), S Cahill for Gleeson (59), R Maher for S Maher (inj. 60+1).

Subs for De La Salle: S McNulty for Greene (56).

Referee: S Hourigan (Limerick).