A historic weekend for St Thomas’ — and that is before any bit of tin has been handed over.
[timgcap=St Thomas’ Cathal Burke. The club’s women contest their first ever Galway senior final today, while the men will do battle tomorrow, with countless siblings involved on one or other side. Picture: Inpho/Laszlo Geczo.]CathalBurkeGalwayGAANov2019_large.jpg[/timgcqap]
Tomorrow afternoon at Pearse Stadium (2.30pm), St Thomas’ face Liam Mellows in the Galway SHC final. And while it is Louis Mulqueen’s Mellows who enter the game as reigning champions, it is the men from St Thomas’ who have been the dominant club hurling team in Galway this past decade.
Kevin Lally’s charges are bidding to secure the club’s third county title in four years and fourth since 2012. Two All-Ireland club finals were also reached during this period, one of which ended with the Tommy Moore Cup finding residence in South Galway.
No question but these past few years have been the most successful in the club’s history. Indeed, finishing out the decade as county champions would perfectly cap this golden period of theirs.
But this weekend is not just about the hurlers from the parishes of Kilchreest and Peterswell. This afternoon at Loughrea (2.30), the camogie women of St Thomas’ contest the club’s first ever Galway senior final against 2018 All-Ireland club finalists Sarsfields.
Never before has any club in the county brought home the senior championship trophies for hurling and camogie in the same year. And as you’d expect of a small club, it is very much a family affair across the two teams in county final action 24 hours apart.
It is sisters and brothers who have achieved this rare first for St Thomas’ and it is they who now look to go one step further and ensure the homecoming of all homecomings at the Thomas’ clubhouse on Sunday evening.
All-Star and All-Ireland winner Heather Cooney is centre-back on the camogie side. Her brother, Shane, holds down the same position for the hurlers. Another brother, Donal, will also line out in the half-back line, while Galway senior Conor operates further up the field.
The Burkes are equally synonymous with the club and there are plenty with thatsurname who’ll step inside the whitewash in both Loughrea and Salthill.
Deirdre Burke, midfield on the camogie team, is an older sister to 2017 All-Ireland winning Galway captain David. He too lines out at midfield for the club. Fellow siblings Cathal and Darragh are also part of the hurling first 15, with Éanna introduced as a sub during the semi-final win over Turloughmore.
Their first cousin Fintan is ruled out because of the cruciate ligament injury he sustained during the St Patrick’s Day club final defeat to Ballyhale.
His sister, Fiona, however, will ensure family representation when taking up arms in the right corner-back position today. Also in the Thomas’ full-back line is Ailbhe Flannery, sister to Oisin, corner-forward for the hurlers.
The Skehills — Siobhan,Sinead, and Sean — are part of the respective defences, while siblings Marie and Brendan Farrell figure in either attack.
“There will be a lot of nervous houses this weekend,” says St Thomas’ chairman Colin Burke. Which Burke clan he hails from, we forgot to ask.
“It is a special weekend for us. It is a great achievement for our senior hurlers to be competing in their fourth county final since 2012. Butfor the camogie, who’ve been knocking on the door the last number of years, contesting numerous quarter and semi-finals, it is great to see them get through and secure a first county final appearance.
“When everyone is pulling and working together, it is fantastic what can happen. A lot of people have workedextremely hard to make this weekend happen. As a club, we are very proud of our hurlers and camogie players. We are from a very small area in the south of Galway and so we are blessed that a unique crop of players have come along together at the one time in both hurling and camogie.”
Logistically, planning for two county finals in oneweekend is not a walk in the park, but they wouldn’t dare complain.
“I am here at the pitch as we speak (Thursday afternoon) and there are three hurlers out taking shots. That’ll give you an idea of their dedication.”
Signing off, Burke remarked: “Our full intention is to have the two cups back here to our clubhouse on Sunday evening. Hopefully, that will come to fruition.”