By John Fogarty
Thurles Sarsfields 1-18 Nenagh Éire Óg 3-11
Thurles Sarsfields, much like their semi-final, were made to work for this victory and successfully defend their Tipperary SHC title.
Ronan Maher was sublime as Sarsfields managed to keep Nenagh at bay at the end. All had looked in their control before their full-back line went missing in the 53rd minute and allowed Andrew Coffey in for an easy goal.
That levelled the game, 3-10 to 1-16, but a long range shot by Thurles midfielder Stephen Cahill put them in the driving seat once more and Lar Corbett was alert to punish a sloppy short puck-out with another point.
Daire Quinn, hero for Nenagh in their semi-final win over Drom-Inch, cut the deficit to one with three minutes remaining but Thurles succeeded in holding them out for the remainder.
Thurles were electric in the opening quarter and led 1-7 to 0-4 in the 14th minute. The direct play from the Maher brothers and Stephen Cahill was working wonderfully as the Thurles attack bamboozled the Nenagh defence with their movement and switches.
Corbett, not surprisingly, was at the centre of it all and it was his excellent catch which initiated Conor Lanigan's goal in the seventh minute. Corbett turned for a point upon fielding the ball but misconnected although Lanigan was able to touch it past Michael McNamara and into the net from the edge of the square.
By the 20th minute, Thurles were enjoying the freedom of the park and Denis Maher's second point put them nine up, 1-10 to 0-4. But what followed can only described as a nap for Thurles as Nenagh transformed the game.
Much of it had to do with Michael Heffernan's switch to full-forward. It was his pass which put Pearse Morris in space before he was fouled for a penalty. Barry Heffernan struck it home although he crossed the 20 metre line in hitting the ball.
Heffernan then caught and turned Michael Cahill inside out before placing the ball into the bottom left corner. He added a point to put the minimum between the teams although a Pa Bourke free gave Thurles some breathing space at half-time, 1-11 to 2-6.
Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields: C Lanigan (1-2); P Bourke (0-4, 3 frees, 1 65); Denis Maher (0-4); A McCormack (0-3); L Corbett (0-2); B McCarthy, J Maher, S Cahill (0-1 each).
Scorers for Nenagh Éire Óg: M Heffernan (1-4, 0-2 frees); A Coffey (1-1); Barry Heffernan (1-0, pen); P Morris, J Mackey (0-2 each); T Heffernan, D Quinn (0-1 each).
Subs for Thurles Sarsfields: R Ruth for C Lanigan (45); David Maher for K O'Gorman (47); T Doyle for T Ruth (inj 60+1).
Subs for Nenagh Éire Óg: J Mackey for S Hennessy (29); Billy Heffernan for K Gleeson (37); P Hickey for P Morris (57).
THURLES SARSFIELDS: P McCormack; S Maher, M Cahill, K O'Gorman; D Kennedy, P Maher, R Maher; S Cahill, J Maher; A McCormack, P Bourke, B McCarthy; D Maher, L Corbett, C Lanigan.
NENAGH ÉIRE ÓG: M McNamara; J Brennan, N Maloney, H Maloney; D Quinn, Barry Heffernan, M Flannery; C Ryan, M Heffernan; T Heffernan, P Murphy, A Coffey; K Gleeson, P Morris, S Hennessy.
Referee: F Horgan (Knockavilla Kickhams)