But at Clonmel yesterday they scored an emphatic victory over the Fermoy college to make it to the knockout stages after Christmas.
This eight-point win was no fluke. The Tipperary school, needing the points to stay on course, played a marvellous brand of skilful and passionate hurling and were never going to lose after scoring two goals in a minute early on.
A rock-solid defence featuring Brian White, David Patterson, Eoin Ryan and Michael Cahill never put a foot wrong and held the Colmans’ forwards in a vice-like grip, confining them to a single goal four minutes from time, far too late to make any difference.
However, it was in attack where Thurles held all the aces. Their inside line of Ciaran Cloghessy, Brian Moran and Pa Bourke were lethal. Moran’s 1-7 marked him out as a player of exceptional ability, while 16-year-old Bourke also has a bright future.
For the former champions this was a wake-up call, and they will have to improve greatly if they are to be serious championship contenders. Centre back Padraig Cotter was easily the best of their defenders, while Adrian Mannix, Padraig Lynch and Kevin Dineen posed a real threat in attack.
The superior skill of the Thurles school was reflected on the scoreboard after just seven minutes when Pa Bourke and Phil Kelly each slipped home a goal, and while Colman’s responded with a couple of points, the Tipp side were in no mood to surrender the comfortable eight-point lead they held after 20 minutes.
They stretched that lead to 11 points when Colmans’ ’keeper, who had earlier denied Brian Moran a goal with a superb save at the expense of a point, dropped Moran’s long range free into his net, and a 3-8 to 0-6 half time lead looked insurmountable for the Fermoy college.
Colman’s threw everything at Thurles in the second half, and Alan O’Connor was only inches away from a badly-needed goal seconds into the second half. That was the only goal chance they got and they had to be content with picking off their points. Five in a row, three by Adrian Mannix, raised their hopes, but this Thurles side were not going to be beaten, despite Mannix touching home a goal from Cotter’s free.
: Thurles CBS: B Moran 1-7 (1-3 frees, 0-1 65); P Bourke 1-1; P Kelly 1-0; C Cloghessy 0-3; D Kirby 0-2; T Hassett 0-1. St Colmans: A Mannix 1-5 (0-3 frees); P Lynch 0-5 (0-2 frees); J Kearney, P Cotter (free) 0-1 each.
: S Grey; D Patterson, B White, P Maher; M Cahill, E Ryan, K Moran; D Kirby, J Coughlan; I Maher, T Hassett, P Kelly; C Cloghessy, B Moran, P Bourke. Subs. S Ryan for Kelly; J Maher for I Maher.
: C O’Keeffe; M Barry, J O’Connor, J O’Sullivan; S Walsh, P Cotter, K Kearney; M O’Connor, S Cotter; A Mannix, K Dineen, J Kearney; P Lynch, P Hoye, A O’Connor. Sub. P Mahon for A O’Connor.
: N Cosgrove (Clonmel).