Nenagh Éire Óg ended the four-year reign of Thurles Sarsfields in the Tipperary SHC yesterday with a 2-18 to 2-15 semi-final win at Semple Stadium.
Speaking on today’s Irish Examiner GAA podcast (16m), former Tipp All-Star Michael Cleary, who played in Nenagh’s only county title-winning side in 1995, paid tribute to the fallen kingpins who, he believes, have simply come to the end of a cycle.
“In fairness to Thurles, they’ve been remarkable champions. They’ll be disappointed themselves they didn’t put a club championship (with the four in a row of Tipp titles), that’s something they’ll probably have to live with at this stage.
“Thurles beat Nenagh in 2015 and their forward line that day included Billy McCarthy, who was injured this year, Denis Maher, who’s gone to full-back, Lar Corbett, who was in his pomp or coming to the end of his pomp, and Pa Bourke, who would have been probably the best club hurler in Tipperary at the time. Three of those four were not starting yesterday and Pa is coming to the twilight of his career.
“So you're dealing with a team missing the four main prongs of their attack from three years ago. That may be doable in a county environment, but for a club that’s a huge hit to take.
“I don’t think Thurles lost anything in defeat. It was obvious all year they are not the powerhouse they have been, for no other reason other than Father Time has caught up with some of them.
“Thurles have nothing to be ashamed of. Everything has a natural cycle. Thurles have come to the end of their cycle. That’s not to say they’re gone anywhere, but it’ll probably take a couple of years to put a team as formidable together again.”
Nenagh have endured a string of final disappointments since Cleary’s side lifted the Dan Breen Cup. So the former Tipp forward, who runs a toy shop and newsagent in the Nenagh, says nobody around the town is getting carried away.
“We lost in ‘99, we lost ‘07, we lost ‘13, we lost ‘15. I grew up in Nenagh, when it was Roscrea and Thurles were the powerhouses. Then it was Kilruane, and Roscrea and Borris-Ileigh here in the North and Nenagh were very much bridesmaids.
“It was our team of the 90s that stepped up to the top table and pretty much since 1990, Nenagh have been genuine contenders almost every single year. That’s almost 30 years.
“We’re won seven semi-finals and only one final.
“I got a couple of phone calls last night to see was I coming out and I said no, I’ve celebrated enough semi-finals. I met a couple of lads this morning, saying the same. They went home after a pint or two.
In yesterday’s other semi-final Clonoulty-Rossmore, who won the last of their three Tipp senior titles in 1997, overcame Toomevara 0-19 to 1-10.
“Clonoulty are a peculiar team,” Cleary says.
“You look at them and you never come away frightened or impressed. But they are a typical dogged country team, with a right good splattering of strong determined forceful hurlers.
“We’ve always struggled to beat them. They were clinically efficient yesterday, almost like a German soccer team. Wasted very little ball, didn’t look spectacular but got the job done.
“Nenagh will have to be as good if not better to beat Clonoulty.”