Thurles Sarsfields honour fallen heroes

Tipperary SHC final - Thurles Sarsfields 0-27 Kiladangan 1-15: Just shy of a year ago, the Thurles Sarsfields club was plunged into grief when senior selector, Jack Griffin, died tragically.

He was a 47-year-old father of three young girls, a high ranking officer in the Defence Forces who was held in the highest of esteem.

His passing cast a pall over the club and town and in many ways, Sars didn’t have the heart for a Munster club campaign and lost to Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh.

Yesterday, Jack’s daughters Isabelle (8), Larragh (10) and Emma (5), went up the steps of the New Stand at Semple Stadium to help Pádraic Maher lift the Dan Breen Cup, as Sars were crowned county champions for a third successive year.

“A lovely thing that Pádraic brought them up,” smiled Sars coach Paddy McCormack.

“His (Griffin’s) mother-in-law was there today and his wife, too. The pain never goes away, we were all friends with Jackie, we all hurled with him coming up along.”

It was a poignant moment on a poignant day for the Sars, who learned just hours before throw-in that Mickey ‘The Rattler’ Byrne had passed away.

Byrne loved Thurles Sarsfields, won 14 county SH titles with the Blues, and his son Noel contacted local radio station Tipp FM on Friday night to put the word out that the Rattler wouldn’t be well enough to attend, but would be tuning in.

Sadly, but almost fittingly, he was taken early yesterday morning, at the age of 93, and a minute’s silence to honour his passing was preceded by warm applause.

McCormack added: “The Rattler, in our club, when we were growing up we heard so much about Mickey Byrne, 11 county finals in-a-row (winning ten) and that record 14 county finals (victories).

“So we were always looking up to them. When I started hurling myself when I was younger, The Rattler used to be in the dressing room telling great stories about hamstrings and various things.

“He used to be an entertainer as well as anything else when he finished up hurling as well.

“A great family, Paul and the lads give so much to hurling as well, we are very saddened by his death but it’s a celebration of a great life, a great man and a great Thurles Sarsfields man. We are delighted to win it today on this occasion.”

Griffin and Byrne would have loved this, Sars in their pomp and roaring to a 35th county crown. It’s the first time they’ve put three-in-a-row together since the 1960s and this one was done and dusted by half-time, with Sars 0-15 to 0-6 clear of Kiladangan.

Given the pre-match backdrop, there was no way that Sars were losing. Kiladangan arrived to Thurles in search of a romantic ending to their county campaign, looking forward to a first final since 1938.

But clinical Sars were in no mood for charity and led by 0-9 to 0-1 within 10 minutes, Richie Ruth accounting for four of those early scores.

Sars were irresistible when they turned it on and the challenge now is to push for Munster and All-Ireland crowns. With the talent in their ranks, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have a real crack.

Pa Bourke hit nine points yesterday, seven from frees, with Aidan McCormack and Ruth bagging 11 from play between them.

A damp afternoon, but decent conditions for hurling nonetheless, finished with Sars having eight players contributing to the final tally.

They were 12 points clear — 0-21 to 0-9 — midway through the second half before Joe Gallagher crashed home a consolation goal for Kiladangan.

It was one of a few bright spots on a day when they were cleaned out aerially by Sars, who dominated the puckout stats.

Kiladangan went long but where they had profited from that tactic in previous outings, they were up against the Maher brothers, Ronan and Pádraic, and Denis Maher under the aerial ball. Different kettle of fish entirely.

Ronan was man of the match and his 43rd-minute sideline cut that split the Town End posts from almost 70m was just brilliant, and the score of the game.

Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields:

P Bourke (0-9, 7 frees); A McCormack (0-6); R Ruth (0-5); R Maher (1 sl) & C Lanigan (0-2 each); S Maher, S Lillis & L Corbett (0-1 each)

Scorers for Kiladangan:

D Egan (0-6, 5 frees); J Gallagher (1-1); W Connors (0-3, 1 65); R Gleeson (0-2); J Horan, P Flynn & T Gallagher (0-1 each)

THURLES SARSFIELDS:

P McCormack; M Cahill, S Lillis, S Maher; D Maher, P Maher, R Maher; S Cahill, B McCarthy; T Doyle, A McCormack, P Bourke; C Lanigan, R Ruth, L Corbett.

Subs:

R Dwan for D Maher (50), J Maher for Lanigan (52), D Kennedy for Corbett (59), K O’Gorman for Ruth (60+3).

KILADANGAN:

B Hogan; J Quigley, H Flannery, F Hayes; D Sweeney, A Flynn, D Moran; J Horan, M Minehan; J Gallagher, W Connors, R Gleeson; T Gallagher, D Egan, P Flynn.

Subs:

J Loughnane for Minehan (24), E Kelly for Horan (45).

Referee:

J McCormack (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams).

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