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Thurles tyro McCormack helps Sars to Tipp title

Thurles Sarsfields 1-21 Drom & Inch 2-15
What do Drom & Inch have to do to overcome Thurles Sars in a Tipperary senior hurling final?

Twice denied by their big-town neighbours in the last seven years (2005 and 2009), Drom had finally shaken off the shackles last year and won their first title. Clonoulty-Rossmore were their victims however — the question yesterday was, could they do unto Thurles Sars what Sars had twice done unto them?

Well, now we know. In a game that never hit the heights but was, nonetheless, entertaining and always of a reasonable standard, Drom & Inch came oh so close but failed — just — to get it done. They started well and led 0-3 to 0-1 after only four minutes though playing into a big wind (two monster points from midfielder and captain Johnny Ryan), looked ripe and ready.

There’s real quality in this Sars team though, all through the pitch. Not just in their big names either. In truth, and though current county stars Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill and Michael Gleeson (intermediate) all played superbly, two of their big guns up front — Lar Corbett and to a lesser extent Pa Bourke — were both well contained. No matter, there were others to pick up the slack, none more so than corner-forward Aidan McCormack.

As Thurles worked their way into the game they were led by the flying 20-year-old. Four points he notched from play as Sars thundered into the lead but his rocket in the second minute of injury-time was the most significant score of all, helping Thurles to a commanding 1-11 to 0-7 lead.

"That goal was something we’ve been working on all year, creating a goal chances," McCormack explained. "It paid off there today."

Drom & Inch were in trouble, big trouble. What they needed to start the second half was an early point or two, that was the consensus — they did better. Within 15 seconds of the restart, corner-forward David Butler finally found the target, pounced on a long centre from brother Seamus to goal, and Drom & Inch were re-energised.

Driven on by captain Ryan from midfield, James Woodlock helping him sway matters their way, Drom now went toe-to-toe with Sars and for the next 15 minutes the sides traded points, Johnny Ryan (4) and Seamus Butler for Drom, Michael Gleeson, freetaker Pa Bourke (2) and corner-forwards McCormack and Michael O’Brien replying for Sars, leaving four points between them still in the 48th minute, 1-16 to 1-12.

Time for Seamus Callanan to show his class. Locked in a great battle all game with Michael Cahill, for once Seamus got away, timed his run into the square perfectly to deflect a high centre into the net. Two points then in two minutes (Woodlock and Callanan) and the game was transformed, Drom & Inch with a one-point lead, a strong wind at their backs, 10 minutes left.

That burst seemed to have drained them, however, and from there to the finish, it was Thurles Sars taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

Five points they rattled off, two long-range frees from Johnny Enright, two more from Pa Bourke (including his first from play), young Aidan McCormack putting the cap on it with the last point, after a perfect pass from sub Ger Redser O’Grady. Drom did have their chances, Seamus Callanan ghosting in behind the defence, then watching in agony as his flick went just the wrong side of the posts, then the same player having a 20m free well saved by Patrick McCormack, Johnny Ryan pointing the subsequent 65.

Time eventually ran out on them, however, leaving Ryan distraught but still proud (and rightly so) of his team’s efforts.

"We’re devastated, obviously. Their goal just before half-time was a real killer. We hadn’t been hurling that well in the first half but we were still in with a great chance, only four points behind into injury-time — next thing they got the goal. Seven points was a long way to come back and we were there with a good chance of winning it with only five minutes to go, they finished stronger.

"I thought we showed great character to fight back from seven points behind at half-time. We drew level, even went a point up and I thought then we’d drive on to win it but in fairness to Sars, they came back again. Seamus’s shot just scraped the outside of the post. Credit to them, they’re a great team."

That feeling was mutual, Aidan McCormack using exactly the same words to describe Drom & Inch. "I wouldn’t take anything from them. They won the county title last year and deservedly so, they proved themselves the best team in the county. They were a bit unlucky today, we were that bit hungrier today maybe and thankfully we came out with the win. We’ll celebrate this tonight, then get ready for Kilmallock in the Munster club."

Scorers for Thurles Sars: A McCormack 1-6; P Bourke 0-6 (5f); M Gleeson 0-2; M O’Brien 0-2; J Enright 0-2 (2f); P Maher, D Maher, J Corbett, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Drom & Inch: J Ryan 0-9 (2f, 1 65); S Callanan 1-3 (1f); D Butler 1-1; J Woodlock, S Butler, 0-1 each.

Thurles Sarsfields subs: J Maher (O’Brien 49); G O’Grady (J Corbett 49); R Ruth (Enright 57); J Lawlor (D Maher 60+3).

Drom & Inch subs: P Stapleton (E Costello 24); P Kennedy (J Lapton 30); J Moloney (Delaney 30); K Butler (P Lapton 53); D Collins (Moloney 60+2).

Referee: F Horgan (Knockavilla Kickhams).