Thurles Sars advanced after Pa Bourke converted a controversial 20- yard free in the final minutes but the ire from that decision spilled over after the final whistle when a mass melee erupted in the middle of the field. One supporter was knocked to the ground and referee Seamus Roche was forced to intervene to keep several other individuals apart.
In a year in which so much glory has been gained by the county this incident didn’t reflect well on Tipperary hurling. Indeed the whole afternoon was a disappointment, neither this game, between two of the hot favourites for the title, nor the earlier semi-final, ever reaching the heights expected for this stage of the championship of Ireland’s champion county.
Favourites Sars started well and led 0-7 to 0-3 after the first quarter; free-taker Pa Bourke had three points, newly crowned hurler-of-the-year Lar Corbett hit two while Michael Gleeson and Aidan McCormack had one apiece.
For Toomevara it was midfielder Kenny Dunne doing all the scoring, and in fact that was to remain the case for the remainder of a very scrappy opening half. He added five more against a quick brace from Sars centre-forward Ger ‘Redser’ O’Grady, to leave his side one adrift at the interval (0-9 to 0-8). It was poor fare with the tie marred by a couple of skirmishes which resulted in several yellow cards from Roche.
Despite a Pa Bourke point for Sars within seconds of the restart, the second-half began well for Toomevara and by the 34th minute they had taken the lead, 0-11 to 0-9, courtesy of another two points from Ken Dunne and one from centre-forward Francis Devaney. Ironically, Dunne wouldn’t score again as he was forced into playing a much deeper role. But Toomevara soon had a new threat up front, big Eoin Brislane stamping his mark on this game with a point minutes after his introduction, and giving the north champions a real option with long and direct ball up the middle. It was from one such long ball, delivered by Ken Dunne, that Brislane scored Toomevara’s goal with a fine finish.
It arrived in the 48th minute after Sars had retaken the lead (0-15 to 0-13) with points from their own subs Richie Ruth and Stephen Lillis, plus a third from Redser O’Grady. Dunne was the provider and Brislane collected his long delivery before cooly finding the net. It put Toomevara back in front, but worse – from a Sars point of view – an off-the-ball incident before the ball was pucked out saw Redser receive a straight red. Despite that double set back the favourites regained their composure, and with Pa Bourke, Michael Gleeson, Michael Cahill and Padraic Maher driving things on, they levelled matters twice in the remaining minutes. With time running out, however, it was Toomevara’s own county star John O’Brien who produced the lead point in the 59th minute with Brislane landing another on the hour mark.
But then in the 63rd minute, just outside the 20m line, Sars young wing-forward Denis Maher was deemed by referee Roche (who had a fine game) to have been fouled. Perhaps, perhaps not, and perhaps the free was on the 20m line, perhaps not. Either way Bourke drilled a low shot to the corner to hand his side a one-point lead. Toome did have one final opportunity, a sideline from 55m left by Paddy O’Brien which was wonderfully struck, but Padraic Maher cleared the danger and the final whistle blew seconds later. So close, for Sars, but this wasn’t any kind of classic.
Scorers for Thurles Sars: P Bourke 1-6 (1-3 frees); G O’Grady 0-3; M Gleeson 0-3; L Corbett 0-2; A McCormack, S Lillis (free), R Ruth, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Toomevara: K Dunne 0-10 (0-6 frees); E Brislane 1-2; J O’Brien 0-2; F Devaney, D Young, 0-1 each.
THURLES SARSFIELDS: P McCormack (c); K O’Gorman, M Cahill, D Maher; B O’Dwyer, P Maher, D Kennedy; A Kennedy, M Gleeson; D Maher, P Bourke, G O’Grady; A McCormack, L Corbett, J Enright.
Subs: S Lillis for A Kennedy (35); R Ruth for A McCormack (39); M O’Brien for Enright (42).
TOOMEVARA: S Delaney; T Dunne, P Touhy, A Ryan; J McLoughney, B Dunne, D Delaney; D Young, K Dunne; P O’Brien, F Devaney, B McCormack; W Ryan, J O’Brien, M Bevans.
Subs: E Brislane for Ryan (33); D Nolan for Bevans (47); J Delaney for Devaney (52).
Referee: S Roche (Kilsheelan/Kilcash).