Thurles deserved their victory, but they were the first to admit that they were flattered to a degree by their winning margin at New Inn yesterday.
The victory gives them maximum points from three outings in the round robin series and, even with a game to play, they are likely to top their group and stay on course to make amends for last year’s final defeat by St Flannan’s.
Thurles fielded nine of last year’s defeated team, giving them a solid backbone. Defensively they were unbeatable, where full-back Padraig Maher, Pierce Stakelum, Kevin Moran and Michael Gleeson were commanding figures.
John Coughlan and Liam Dwan shared the midfield battle with Ballingarry’s James Hickey and Sean Lahert, but it was in attack that the real difference between these Tipperary schools enfolded.
Ballingarry had no one of the calibre of Pa Bourke, a county minor this year. He showed real class, scoring 1-5, and was ably assisted by JJ Bourke, Ciaran Cloghessy and Stephen Ryan.
Ballingarry’s problems were in attack, where they could make no impression on a solid Thurles defence.
And the fact that they could only manage one point from play for the hour - and that came in the second half - tells the story of this highly competitive derby clash.
All but one of their points came from frees by Tony Flanagan and had he shown a little more steadiness in his shooting, might have had at least four more.
Defensively, Ballingarry were excellent.
Goalkeeper Mathew O’Donnell couldn’t be faulted for the goals; Michael Fogarty did well at full-back while Tom McGrath gave a masterful display at centre-back.
With so much at stake, both sides were up for the victory from the throw-in.
After they exchanged points in the first minute, Ballingarry missed a great goal chance when the impressive McGrath set up Richard Gorey, but the corner-forward delayed his shot with only the ’keeper to beat.
It was a let-off for Thurles and they took advantage.
After the sides were level twice in the opening 20 minutes, a game with a lot of bite took a dramatic turn when the Ballingarry ’keeper failed to clear and Pa Bourke swept home JJ Bourke’s cross for an opportunist goal which helped his side to a 1-8 to 0-4 half-time lead.
Thurles had a chance to increase their lead seconds after the resumption when JJ Bourke’s shot came back off the upright, but Anthony Healy failed to get in his strike. Despite the lopsided scoreline, Ballingarry continued to win their share of possession, but the weakness in attack was obvious and it took them until the 48th minute to register their first score from play.
But it was only a token score and when JJ Bourke’s long delivery found the Ballingarry net there was only going to be one result.
: Thurles: P. Bourke 1-5 (0-5 frees); JJ Bourke 1-1; C. Cloghessy 0-2; L. Dwan 0-3 (0-1 free, 0-1 65); S. Ryan, J. Barry 0-1 each. Ballingarry: T. Flanagan 0-4 (frees); N. Bergin 0-1.
: T. Lowry; T. Quinn, P. Maher, P. Stakelum; M. Cahill, K. Mason, M. Gleeson; J. Coughlan, L. Dwan; J. Barry, JJ Bourke, S. Ryan; C. Cloghessy, P. Bourke, A. Healy.
: I. Maher for Cloghessy; J. O’Neill for Healy; J. Fogarty for Stakelum; P. Stapleton for Quinn.
: M. O’Donnell; J. Doheny, M. Fogarty, E. McCormack; B. Murphy, T. McGrath, P. Horan; J. Hickey, S. Lahert; N. Bergin, T.Butler, J. Logue; C. Shelley, R. Gorey, T. Flanagan.
: K. Murphy for Gorey; R. McCormack for Shelley; J. Maher for Murphy.
: J. Ryan (Cashel).