St Thomas 1-11 Gort 0-10: St Thomas manager John Burke insisted that his side have what it takes to go all the way to All-Ireland glory for the second time, after they were deserving winners of the Galway SHC title yesterday.
In a game that was never likely to reach its potential due to the inclement weather conditions at a sodden Pearse Stadium, Sean Skehill’s goal 14 minutes from time proved crucial as St Thomas finally claimed the lead their dominance deserved.
The 2012 winners were the better side before the interval, but still trailed by a point as Aidan Helebert led the Gort charge, but Conor Cooney edged him after the restart and his crucial frees and Skehill’s goal won the day.
History suggests that the Galway champions will have a big role to play in the eventual identity of the All-Ireland champions, with six of the last 11 titles going to clubs from the county, and Burke is keen to add a second to his club’s sideboard.
“We can go further but we will take it one step at a time. We will enjoy this and that’s important,” said the St Thomas manager.
“A local derby like that is going to be a hard one and Gort are a super team. They won two in the last four years, it could have gone any way we just hurled a little bit better on the day.
“It’s a great win, absolutely unbelievable. That bunch of players, I knew it was in them to come again. It was our first day today to have a full panel of players to pick from. I knew if we got a performance out of them they were good enough to win it.
“They are so passionate, it’s like one big family, and that’s the way they are. They are all like brothers out there. They are wonderful young lads and I am delighted for them, absolutely thrilled for them.”
Skehill was the goal scoring hero, but the match winner could well have come from the other side, had Michael Mullins’ goal not have been ruled out less than 60 seconds earlier due to a square ball.
Eventually, the umpires crossed their flags to indicate the score was ruled out, and seconds later David Burke picked out Skehill, who flicked past Gavin Lally to the net.
Lally had earlier denied Skehill midway through the first-half with a super save, but the first-half was all about the free takers, as Conor Cooney and Aiden Helebert kept the scoreboard ticking over.
James Regan and Bernard Burke pointed well from play for Thomas’ in the first-half, while a couple of Paul Killilea scores just before the interval meant Gort led 0-7 to 0-6.
A Conor Cooney free from his own 65, wide on the right, got St Thomas level early in the second-half and after he gave them the lead a couple of minutes later with another tough free Thomas’ never trailed again.
Helebert missed three crucial frees for Gort around that time as he struggled playing into the teeth of the wind, but once Bernard Burke landed his second after a good interception, and Skehill followed it up with the goal there was no way back.
Helebert managed to find his range with three late frees for Gort, but St Thomas held out easily for an historic win.
Scorers for St Thomas:
C Cooney 0-6 (6f), S Skehill 1-0, B Burke 0-2, Darragh Burke 0-1, J Regan 0-1, B Farrell 0-1.
Scorers for Gort:
A Helebert 0-8 (6f), P Killilea 0-2
P Skehill; F Burke, C Burke, E Burke; J Regan, S Cooney, D Cooney; B Burke, David Burke; C Cooney, Darragh Burke, D Sherry; B Farrell, S Skehill, K Burke.
G Kelly for Darragh Burke (52); Darragh Burke for Sherry (54); A Kelly for S Skehill (58); C Fallon for K Burke (64).
Gavin Lally; T Linnane, M McMahon, M Cummins; P Lally, G Lally, A Harte; S Og Linnane, Jack Grealish; P Killilea, A Mullins, A Helebert; R Cummins, M Mullins, Jason Grealish.
G O’Donoghue for A Mullins (36); W Walsh for G Lally (48).
Leonard Fay (Athenry).
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