Yes, champions St Colmans Fermoy are still on course for a hat-trick of Irish Examiner sponsored Dr Harty Cup triumphs. But forget the scoreline Thurles CBS gave them one hell of a contest in Ardfinnan, Co Tipperary, yesterday before crumbling in the final 10 minutes when the talented Andrew O'Shaughnessy finally got room to display his skill.
Two sendings off, two penalty misses and a hat-trick of goals from St Colmans corner-forward Fergus Browne made it a contest to light up a cold afternoon.
The dismissal of Thurles wing-back Thomas King in the 39th minute for a bad foul on O'Shaughnessy changed the complexion of the contest. There was only a goal between the sides at that stage, 2-8 to 0-11, and Thurles were all over St Colmans.
St. Colmans sub Padraig Hyland was also sent off late in the game by ref Jerry Hoey but although the game was far too unsavoury to be deemed outstanding, it was tight and competitive with plenty of action.
O'Shaughnessy and tidy Thurles full-forward Richard Ruth missed penalty chances but goals win games and that's why St Colmans will play De La Salle Waterford in the semis.
The opening half was tough and uncompromising with Thurles keeping a tight rein on the lively Colmans forwards. Pat Kirby put the champions into the lead with an early free but points from Richard O'Gorman and Patrick McCormack from a sideline cut put Thurles clear.
But St Colman's struck for a brace of goals to push them into a 2-2 to 0-4 lead and both came from Browne. The first arrived in the ninth minute after good work by Kirby and O'Shaughnessy and the second in the 14th minute, this time after Thurles keeper Barry O'Donovan had made a great save from Kirby. Ruth was proving the main man for Thurles but it was still St Colmans who led at the break, 2-7 to 0-8.
Thurles signalled their intentions after the re-start with quick points from McCormack, Ciaran Barrett and Ruth to trail by just two points but the sending off of King upset their rhythm no end and entering the final quarter St Colmans led 2-9 to 0-12.
It was in the closing 10 minutes that St. Colmans really began to ignite as O'Shaughnessy, Paul Kearney and Kirby put some daylight between the sides. A stirring goal from O'Shaughnessy in the 53rd minute followed by Browne's third, set up by O'Shaughnessy, and the game was all over.
St Colmans coach Denis Ring was not a happy camper after the game, being very critical of the referee, but a tough battle like this one can only be of benefit in their quest for the hat-trick of titles.
Scorers: St. Colmans: F. Browne 3-0, A. O'Shaughnessy 1-3, (0-1 free)P. Kirby 0-5, (all frees) P. Kearney 0-4, (1 free), M. Allen 0-2.
Thurles CBS: R. Ruth 0-7 (3 frees), P. McCormack 0-2, (1f, 1s) R. O'Gorman , E. Ryan, C. Barrett, J. Ryan 0-1 each.
ST. COLMANS: D. Fitzgerald, J. Dorgan, B. Lane, E. Condon, C. Griffin, J. O'Donnell, A. Kearney, S. Stack, K. O'Mahony, P. Kirby, P. Kearney, M. Cleary, a. O'Shaughnessy, M. Allen, f. Browne. Subs. C. Coakley for Cleary, P. Hyland for Stack, P. Cotter for O'Shaughnessy.
THURLES C.B.S. : B. O'Donovan, L. Devanne, P. Byrne, D. Patterson, J. Ryan, D. Patterson, T. King,
J. Dickson, C. Barrett, P. McCormack, D. Shepperd, wE. Ryan, D. Kirby , R. Ruth, r. O'Gorman. Sub. S. Lillis for Barrett, M. Butler for O'Gorman.
Ref. J. Hoey, Clare.