They had to work hard though. Thurles, without a title since 1956, made a massive effort to bridge that gap after Timmy Hammersly scrambled home a goal in the 50th minute to leave two points between them. However, the Ennis college upped the pace to finish three points clear - and deserving winners.
The victors were forced to line out without captain and centre-back James McInerney and in a rearranged defence Seamus Hickey took over the pivotal position with Conor Neylon slotting in at right half back. The moves worked handsomely for Flannans.
Indeed their entire defence, and in particular full back John Moloney, and the half back line of Neylon, Hickey and George Hannigan proved the foundation for this success, especially in the last quarter.
Colin Ryan was outstanding at midfield, ably assisted by Damien O’Halloran, and his accuracy from frees earned him five points along with one from play. Bernard Gaffney had his moments at full forward and he can be more than satisfied with his contribution of 1-1 while Colm Madden and Gerard Arthur also did well.
Flannan’s coach Jamesie O’Connor said his side got tough and uncompromising battle they expected:
“Harty Cup finals are usually dogfights. We said to the lads at half time if we could score something in the region of 13 points we would win.
“I knew our defence wasn’t going to concede too many scores, so it was a case of the forwards added seven or eight points to our first half tally, and fair play to them they came up trumps.”
For Thurles it was a case of so near and yet so far. Sadly they failed to reproduce the form displayed in previous rounds against Cashel CBS and St Colman’s and struggled against the Clare backline.
Like their opponents, Thurles’s strength was in defence where David Patterson, Padraig Maher, Michael Gleeson and Eoin Ryan worked hard. Up front Pa Bourke and Tomas Hassett were fighting a losing battle.
At the end of the opening quarter Flannan’s led 1-3 to nil, their goal scored by Bernard Gaffney after he brushed past a couple of defenders before rattling the net from 12 metres. An Ian Maher point after 24 minutes opened the Thurles account, before Colin Ryan’s accuracy from frees, put his team 1-5 to 0-2 ahead at the break and well on their way to back-to-back titles.
There was far more urgency in Thurles on the changeover, but the Flannan’s defence coped well with the increasing pressure. By the end of the third quarter, the Ennis side were five points to the good.
Then came Hammersly’s goal after Patrick Kelly made a great save to deny Brian Moran. Suddenly the game thundered into life as Thurles came in search of the matchwinning scores.
Ryan eased the pressure for Flannan’s with two points in a row, but back came Thurles for a brace of their own.
It was a time for cool heads and Flannans had many particularly in the shape of centreback Hickey and Ryan.
Inspired by that duo, the Ennis College weathered the Thurles fightback, knocking over three unanswered points to claim another Harty title.
: St. Flannan’s: C. Ryan 0-6 (0-5 frees); B. Gaffney 1-1; C. Madden 0-2; G. Arthur, N. Killeen 0-1 each. Thurles: T. Hammersly 1-0; B. Moran 0-2 (0-1 free); I. Maher, P. Bourke, J. Coughlan, D. Kirby 0-1 each.
: P. Kelly; C. O’Doherty, J. Moloney, M. O’Donnell; C. Neylon, S. Hickey, G. Hannigan; D. O’Halloran, C. Ryan; N. Killeen, J. Neylon, C. Madden; G. Arthur, B. Gaffney, C. Tierney. Sub. I. Collleran for Tierney.
: S. Grey; D. Patterson, P. Maher, M. Gleeson; K. Moran, E. Ryan, M. Cahill; J. Coughlan, P. Kelly; I. Maher, T. Hassett, P. Bourke; C. Cloghessy, B. Moran, T. Hammersly. Subs. D. Kirby for I. Maher; T. Ryan for Coughlan.
: M. Meade (Limerick).