Cunningham lauds defence and O’Connor

NEWTOWNSHANDRUM can thank their magnificent defence and the exquisite long-range shooting of midfielder Jerry O’Connor for qualifying for the Munster Club SHC final at the second time of asking.

And victorious manager Ger Cunningham was the first to praise his herculean defenders and O’Connor, who hit two crucial points at the end of the third quarter, to see his side safely through.

“We went into the game without our team captain John McCarthy. That was a big physical and mental blow to us.

"But Alan G O’Brien, who came in at right corner back covered himself in glory, as did full back Brendan Mulcahy, and the other members of our great defence Gerard O’Mahony, Ian Kelleher, Pat Mulcahy and Philip Noonan.

“All six were terrifically resilient near the end when Toomevara threw everything they had got at them,” said the Newtown manager.

“To reach the Munster final is great for the parish, for the county, and particularly for the lads themselves.

“I was confident enough at half time when we led by two points after playing against a strong wind but I warned the lads at the break not to leave it behind them because, I knew, deep down, that Toomevara would come.

“Their record of eight Tipperary county championship titles in the last twelve years speaks for itself and I must admit that I was very worried for a long period in the second half.

“Our forwards lost their shape after Ben O’Connor got a little tired and the players around him suffered as a result. We also missed some good goalscoring opportunities and were made to fight every inch of the way for this victory.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking when Toomevara came within a point of us early on the change-over but thankfully Jerry O’Connor steadied the ship for us with two marvellous points.

“I don’t think Jerry gets the praise he deserves. His work-rate is colossal. One moment he is back in the full back line clearing the ball and the next he is up in an attacking position to pop over a point.”

Toomevara manager Michael Conneely summed it up in a nutshell from his side’s point of view. “Newtownshandrum played as a team and we didn’t.

"It’s as simple as that. We might have snatched a draw but they played for each other and they always had an extra man available if their player in possession found himself in trouble. That is the principle reason why they deserved to win,” said Conneely.

Looking ahead to the Munster final Ger Cunningham said, “Mount Sion are there to be toppled from their Munster championship pedestal, while Patrickswell are a very experienced side and have a number of outstanding individual players.

“This will be a huge game for us. We have three weeks in which to prepare for it. We have a lot of work to do. Unlike this occasion we will have to keep our shape for the full sixty minutes because from now on we will be meeting teams of real quality, who will punish every mistake we make.”

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