It was a result that didn’t look likely as they found themselves two points adrift at half-time after playing with the wind, but they drew on all their experience in the second half to see off the challenge of the Lismore school who didn’t have the know-how to win the game.
Blackwater went 26 minutes before scoring in the second half and were still in the hunt when Paudie Prendergast lined up a 20-metre free. He was told by the referee he had to score direct which would have been enough to reach the last eight on scoring average but his effort was blocked and the chance was gone.
The Tipperary school was grateful to Mike O’Brien, who again did the bulk of the scoring, Pat Ralph who dominated midfield and defenders John Ryan, John Meagher and Lorcan Egan kept a very tight rein on the Blackwater forwards, particularly in the second half.
The losers were best served by full back Shane Roche, centre back Paudie Prendergast and forwards Ray Barry and Jamie Barron but they failed to maintain their first-half dominance and paid the price.
With so much at stake, there was a nice bite to the game. Thurles had the advantage of the wind in the opening half and needed to build a sizeable lead, but Blackwater College threw down the gauntlet early on and with Ray Barry and Jamie Barron giving the Thurles defence a torrid time, they led 0-4 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.
The excellence of Paudie Prendergast at centre back and Shane Roche at full back meant the Thurles attack could make little impression, and Blackwater College went in at half time leading 0-7 to 0-5, Barron accounting for five of his side’s points.
A bit of a flare up on the way to the dressing room suggested a fiery second half but it never materialised as Thurles stepped up a couple of gears. Switches which saw John Ryan move over on Ray Barry and James Bourke on Jamie Barron removed the threat of the Blackwater duo, and as a result, their attack floundered.
Scores continued to be slow coming as both defences excelled, but the pressure on the Blackwater defence was incessant and they rattled over four points in a row to lead 0-13 to 0-10 entering the closing minutes.
In one last effort to turn the game around, the Waterford school moved Paudie Prendergast to full-forward and he won a 20-metre free which, if converted, would have been sufficient to knock out Thurles, but the effort was blocked by a wall of defenders and they were left to rue what might have been.
Scorers – Thurles CBS: M O’Brien 0-5 (0-3 frees); D Burke 0-2; C Hammersley, S Cahill, A McCormack, S Kennedy, S Maher, M Lanigan 0-1 each.
Blackwater: J Barron 0-5 (0-4 frees); R Barry 0-3; J Phelan, P Prendergast 0-1 each.
THURLES CBS: J Maher; L Egan, J Ryan, J Bourke; C Quirke, J Meagher, S Kennedy; D Corbett, S Cahill; S Maher, P Ralph, E Moriarty; M O’Brien, A McCormack, C Hammersley.
Subs: D Burke for Corbett (35); M Lanigan for Hammersley (40); K Slattery for Moriarty (55).
BLACKWATER CS: S Barry; M Fitzgerald, S Roche, J Hannon; PJ Curran, P Prendergast, T O’Brien; P Coleman, J Phelan; K Casey, S Ryan, P O’Keeffe; A Bennett, R Barry, J Barron.
Subs: A Pratt for Phelan (55); J Ring for Casey (55).
Referee: G. Hoey (Clare).